Know Your Cuts and How to Cook Them

Thanks to America’s beef producers, there are beef choices to satisfy all tastes, schedules and budgets.  Don’t let choosing the right cut become confusing. This helpful chart can serve as your guide to find the best cut for your needs, whether it’s a weeknight family dinner or a special celebration. Above all, matching the correct beef cut to the appropriate cooking method is the key to moist, tender and flavorful beef.

Buying Beef

With all the choices available today in your local supermarket it is hard to know what cut of beef to buy. There are several factors to consider when you purchase beef:

  • Wholesomeness has to do with the safety of beef. Federal law requires that all meat sold must pass inspection to insure that the beef you buy is safe for distribution. 
  • Quality refers to the characteristics associated with tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. The USDA specialists grade beef according to these factors and it is a voluntary program. Common grades that you will see include:
    • Prime – beef which contains the highest degree of marbling (small flecks of fat distributed throughout the lean). Marbling adds juiciness and flavor.
    • Choice – beef grade preferred by consumers. Contains just the right amount of marbling for flavor and juiciness but is more economical than Prime.
    • Select – lower amount of marbling than Choice and is usually lower prices and leaner. However, it will be less juicy and flavorful.
  • Appearance 
    • The lean part of the beef should be cherry-red. Beef in a sealed package may have a darker color but should turn red when exposed to air.
  • Storage 
    • Most beef is prepackaged and should be stored wrapped as purchased. Look for packages that are cold and tightly wrapped. Store in the coldest part of your refrigerator for 1-4 days after purchase. 
  • Cost per Serving and Number of servings/you are serving 
    • To be a smart shopper, choose beef on the cost per serving, not the cost per pound. The number of servings per pound will depend on how much bone or fat is in the cut. 3 oz. of cooked lean beef is recommended as one serving. To determine approximate cost per serving, divide the price per pound by the number of servings per pound. To obtain a 3 oz. serving of lean beef, you will need to begin with 4 oz. of raw beef. Some moisture and fat is lost in the cooking process.
  • Cookery Method and Time Need for Preparation
    • Moist heat methods (braising, stewing) are best used with less expensive, less tender cuts such as the chuck and the round. These usually take more time for preparation. Dry heat methods (broiling, pan frying) are best for tender cuts from the rib and loin. For more information on cooking methods for various cuts visit

For More Info, check out the Confident Cooking with Beef brochure.

Six Ways to Save on Beef

Save Money, Eat Well

Evaluate purchases based on the cost per serving – not just the price per pound. The amount of beef to buy varies with the cut selected. Cooked yields per pound are related to the amount of bone, fat trim and cooking method.Match the cut with the cooking method. 

Matching the beef cut to the appropriate cooking method is the key to moist, tender, flavorful beef. Less-tender steak cuts from the chuck, round, plate and flank (shoulder steak, eye round steak, top round steak, skirt steak, and flank steak) are more affordable, but all require a tenderizing marinade before cooking using the grill, broiler or stove top. For many less-tender roasts and steaks, moist heat cooking methods, such as braising or using a slow cooker appliance, break down the strong muscle fibers, guaranteeing moist, flavorful results.

Plan ahead to cook once and dine twice. Preparing a little extra ahead of time is an easy way to create beef dishes that are ready to serve without breaking the bank. A grilled steak tonight easily becomes a key ingredient for tomorrow’s protein-packed salad. Or crumble leftover cooked burgers into chili, pizza or pasta dishes for a planned meal the next day.

Explore the versatility of ground beef. A perfect option for many recipe favorites is 95 percent lean ground beef, a convenient and economical way to add protein to a family meal. A traditional meatloaf is easily transformed into Southwest Meatloaf with the addition of a few flavorful, low cost ingredients.

Buy in bulk to realize cost savings. Instead of buying pre-cut meat for kabobs, stew and stir-fry, save money by buying steaks or roasts and cutting into meat cubes or strips. Another approach is to purchase boneless roasts to cut into steaks. Your local butcher may be happy to slice them for you without added cost. Plan ahead and freeze cut beef for 6 to 12 months.