June 11, 2018
Walking in to the meat department can be an intimidating experience. With so many different types, styles, and cuts of meat, it’s easy to get lost in the myriad of choices.
BBQ season typically sees us bring out the steaks and the burgers, but how do you know which of the other cuts is the right one for the grill? To help take the mystery out of the meat, we’ve put together a bit of an encyclopedia of beef cuts, just in time for BBQ season. Of course, Co-op recently announced it was selling only Alberta beef, so you know you’re getting some of the best beef in the world, raised right here at home.
Know your ‘Primal Cuts’
Before being separated down into specific cuts, beef is split into primals.
There’s two groups: the front quarter and the hind quarter.
The front quarter is broken down into four primal cuts: chuck, rib, brisket, and fore shank.
The hind quarter consists of flank, long loin, hip, and sirloin tip.
Here’s where some of the more familiar cuts originate:
The chuck is where blade roasts and cross ribs come from.
Prime rib and ribeye steaks, as the names suggest, come from the rib.
The loin is the source of striploin, T-bone and tenderloin steaks, which are usually leaner and more tender cuts of meat.
A round cut comes from the hip and back leg regions of the animal (ever heard of a “rump roast?”).
After that’s narrowed down, Alberta beef is typically split into two distinct categories: steaks and roasts.
Know your steaks
Steaks are typically a flat cut of meat, between ¼ inch and 2 inches thick.
Grilling steaks are the most tender cuts of meat, allowing for quick preparation and faster cooking times.
Marinating steaks are typically less tender. They are still appropriate for grilling but require more preparation to tenderize them. With that in mind, you’ll want to whip up a marinade, ideally up to 24 hours in advance of cooking or grilling.
The last category of steak is the simmering steak, which is typically used in preparations that require low heat, like a hearty beef stew.
Know your roast
Roasts are larger cuts of beef that require longer cook times and are usually carved as they’re served.
Like steaks, there are three main categories of beef roast.
The oven roast is the typical roast that cooks over dry heat for a longer period and is carved when complete.
Pot roasts can be left cooking all day, typically in a crock pot or other type of slow cooker.
Finally, the rotisserie roast is cut for the BBQ since it can be grilled on indirect heat or rotisserie style, providing an even cook throughout.
Getting in-depth: Grilling Steaks
Grilling is certainly the most common way to prepare a delicious Only Alberta Beef steak. Grilling steaks are cut from the most tender portions. Just season to taste with salt and pepper or beef rub, and grill.
Grilling steaks are simple enough to even pan fry or broil if a BBQ isn’t available, or the weather turns poor.
Grilling beef is convenient, as even the thickest steaks only require about 15 minutes to cook to a medium temperature.
Common grilling steaks are:
To get the best from your steak, season it and lay it on the grill, and flip once halfway through the cook time. The steak can then be removed and set to rest for about five minutes, which allows the juices to settle into the steak, which will mean an even more tender and juicy meal.
A marinating steak, while not necessarily as juicy as a grilling steak cut, can be just as tender and flavourful.
Preparation requires a little more planning, since soaking it in a tasty, tangy marinade should begin the day prior to grilling or cooking. Once the steak has marinated, the grilling process is very similar to the grilling steak cuts.
Typical beef cuts that are perfect for marinating include:
The beauty of a marinating steak is that it is often cheaper than the grilling cuts and is often cut in a way that is perfect for serving a crowd or a family. One of the most important differences of marinating steaks is the way they are presented. Most marinating steaks are served sliced and the slices are made against the grain to create an easier chewing texture.
Simmering steaks are notable for their use in stew-like recipes. They are comparable to a pot roast, yet they are smaller and cook quicker. Simmering steaks require a lower cooking temperature and can be cooked on the stove or in the oven. Beef simmering steaks would include cross ribs, brisket, blade cuts and boneless short ribs.
As described earlier, roasts are thicker cuts of Canadian beef that require longer cooking times but provide more servings than steak cuts. The oven roast is cut to be slow cooked in the oven at low temperatures and sliced for a large portion of servings.
Oven roasts are typically cooked at a high temperature for a short period of time (think ten minutes) to create a sear on the outside of the roast and then reduced to cook slowly at a lower heat. Typical oven roasts include thick, round cuts of sirloin, rib, both inside and outside.
Aptly named, pot roasts are often cooked in a slow cooker or on the stovetop, simmered at low temperatures all day long. These roasts require a long duration of cooking to break them down into moist, tender, shredded pieces. These roasts are typically cut from blade cuts, rib cuts and briskets.
Pot roasts create their own juices so they’re best cooked with potatoes, onions and carrots which will absorb the juices and flavour. Often, pot roasts can be found cooking unattended all day to provide an easy meal that feeds the whole family.
The rotisserie roast is unique in that it can be placed on the BBQ, often using indirect heat . Indirect heat can be created on a gas grill by lighting one half of the grill and placing the meat over the unlit half. Charcoal can be driven to one side of the grill, allowing for the meat to be placed over the half that does not have hot coals.
Common rotisserie cuts are sirloin tip, inside and outside round, and cross rib cuts.
There is a very wide variety of cuts, styles and types of Co-op’s Only Alberta Beef to choose from. Choosing the right beef based on the number of guests you have, preferred cooking method, and overall available prep time is easy with the appropriate knowledge. A trip to the meat department now will have you armed with the right knowledge about which beef cut you’re looking for. If you still have questions, ask a member of your friendly and helpful meat department staff for guidance and recommendations.
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