BLACK APRON GUIDE TO... BEEF

 
 
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We have put together a guide to help you with the different cuts of beef available and what cooking method each cut is best suited to.

 
 

Joints & Uses of Hindquarter:

Shin: Soups and broths, Stewing

Topside: Braising, Stewing, Second Class Roasting

Silverside: Roasted

Thick Flank: Braising & Stewing

Rump: Grilling, Frying – as steaks, Braising in pieces or as a complete joint

Sirloin: Roasting, Grilling, Frying in steaks

Wing Ribs: Roasting, Grilling, & Frying in Steaks

Thin Flank: Stewing, Boiling, Sausages

Joints & Uses of Forequarter:

Fore Rib: Roasting & Braising

Middle Rib: Roasting & Braising

Chuck Rib: Stewing & Braising

Sticking Piece: Stewing & Sausages

Plate: Stewing & Sausages

Brisket: Boiled, Roasted, Pressed

Shank: Braising, Soups and broths

 
 

When and where to buy 

 

Beef is available all year round. The choice at supermarkets has improved, but usually you'll have to settle for what's on the shelf or at the meat counter (if there is one). Following the BSE ('mad cow disease') crisis in Britain stringent controls were brought into place in beef production and certain products were banned. With the decline of BSE in British herds, most traditional cuts of beef are once again available. However, there are now restrictions on the age of animals from which meat can come for certain products (such as T-bone steaks).

Butchers are likely to stock a greater variety of cuts than most supermarkets and should be able to give advice on preparing and cooking, and tell you where, and from which breeds, their meat came from - as should producers at farmers' markets. This sort of detail is also often available from mail-order companies specialising in meat.

For organically-raised beef - or beef from breeds noted for succulent meat, such as Aberdeen Angus - you should be prepared to pay more. Regardless, buying the best quality beef you can afford is always worthwhile.           

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Purchasing Tips

Colour is often cited as a means of determining quality of beef but can't be used as the main indicator of quality. For example, meat that has been matured traditionally - hung and exposed to the air after slaughter for up to several weeks, or 'dry-aged' - will tend to be deep burgundy in colour with creamy, yellowish fat and will develop a more concentrated, complex flavour as it ages. The ageing process, if done correctly, can increase the tenderness of meat. The characteristics of aged meat are highly rated by chefs, traditional butchers and many consumers.

On the other hand, meat that has been vacuum-packed shortly after slaughter will retain a bright red appearance with white fat for a much longer time. This meat can still be tender but may lack the complexity of flavour of traditionally dry-aged beef. Most of the meat sold in supermarkets will be vacuum-packed and is seldom dry-aged for any length of time. Some supermarkets are now selling dry-aged beef which is clearly labelled as such.

A good butcher will be able to tell you not only how and how long your beef has been aged for, but will also be able to tell you about its provenance.

Brown colouring indicates the meat has been open to the air for some time and shouldn't be taken as an indication of quality. Look for beef that's firm to the touch. Avoid wet, slimy meat and meat with a greenish-grey tinge and an 'off' smell. Always check the 'use by' dates on pre-packed meat. 

Many people prefer beef that's 'marbled' (flecked throughout) with fat. Marbled meat is considered to be more flavoursome and tender because the fat lubricates the meat during cooking and adds another layer of flavour. However leaner meat needn't be lacking in flavour if cooked properly.                                                                                              

 

 

 

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Breeds and Regions 

 

Beef breeds can actually be raised in a number of different systems in the UK.  One animal might stay on one farm for its life, or more usually it might experience different rearing methods and farms throughout its life.

Typically, there are three stages to beef production: 

Rearing – birth and raising of the calf until weaning (age varies depending on the system, usually around 5-8 weeks old if not suckling the mother)

Growing – a period of continuous growth, where the aim is to grow the animal’s frame/skeleton.

Fattening/finishing – often in specialised finishing units where the aim is to maximise “liveweight gain”, effectively growing muscle.  This can take place as early as 6-7 months (for veal) or by 16 months as bull beef (entire males) or finished slowly and slaughtered at 18-24 months or so as steers (castrated males).  Bulls are generally more efficient at gaining muscle and producing leaner meat, but they require specialised handling and more costly facilities, and can be pretty risky work.  Ferdinand, they are not!  Steers are generally better suited to more extensive systems. 

 

Rare breeds include:

Albion, The Chillingham Wild Cattle, Dairy Shorthorn,

Northern Dairy Shorthorn, Vaynol, Native Aberdeen Angus

Whitebred Shorthorn, Lincoln Red, Gloucester

Shetland, White Park, Irish Moiled

 Hereford, Britsh White

Common Breeds Include:

Black Hereford, Chillingham Cattle, Devon

English Longhorn, Polled Hereford, 

Red Poll, South Devon, Sussex

 Highland, Belted Galloway

Ayrshire, Welsh Black, Long Horn 

 

How these stages happens depends on the type of farm, and where it is.  Nearer to mountain, moorland and marshland, you might expect to see

extensive, grazing or grass-based systems

Cattle in these systems spend most of their time in fields, although they may have to be housed for part of the winter.  

We have a temperate climate here in the UK, and in my book, it’s hard to beat the bucolic image of cattle eating grass in a field in the sunshine.  However, it’s often not possible and indeed would be considered poor management and potentially cruel to keep cattle out all year round, when fields turn to mud.

Where there is better ground for growing crops and straw for feeding and bedding, you might expect to see more

Intensive, indoor systems

Cattle in these systems may be housed throughout all/most of their lives and fed straw and concentrates (a nutritionally balanced, pelleted feed designed for different stages to help encourage growth, and build muscle),or preserved grass (silage) and concentrates.

 

 

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Most Popular Cuts of Beef

 
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Brisket

Beef brisket comes from between the shoulders of the cow, which means it’s a working part of the animal and moves around quite a lot throughout its life. It also has a large amount of fat which is marbled throughout and adds a huge amount of flavour to the meat. Butchers usually sell it boned and rolled as a full joint, the high amount of fat and connective tissue means it needs to be slow-cooked to be at it's best.

Brisket is traditionally slow-cooked in the oven until the meat is tender enough to pull apart (cooked properly it is similar to pulled pork). In the States, brisket has always been associated with pit-smoking and barbecue, which has only increased brisket’s recent popularity. However, because of its fat content it is the most popular cut for making corned beef and pastrami, and can also be turned into mince as the fat prevents it from drying out during cooking.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

Brisket

Beef brisket comes from between the shoulders of the cow, which means it’s a working part of the animal and moves around quite a lot throughout its life. It also has a large amount of fat which is marbled throughout and adds a huge amount of flavour to the meat. Butchers usually sell it boned and rolled as a full joint, the high amount of fat and connective tissue means it needs to be slow-cooked to be at it's best.

Brisket is traditionally slow-cooked in the oven until the meat is tender enough to pull apart (cooked properly it is similar to pulled pork). In the States, brisket has always been associated with pit-smoking and barbecue, which has only increased brisket’s recent popularity. However, because of its fat content it is the most popular cut for making corned beef and pastrami, and can also be turned into mince as the fat prevents it from drying out during cooking.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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Brisket

Beef brisket comes from between the shoulders of the cow, which means it’s a working part of the animal and moves around quite a lot throughout its life. It also has a large amount of fat which is marbled throughout and adds a huge amount of flavour to the meat. Butchers usually sell it boned and rolled as a full joint, the high amount of fat and connective tissue means it needs to be slow-cooked to be at it's best.

Brisket is traditionally slow-cooked in the oven until the meat is tender enough to pull apart (cooked properly it is similar to pulled pork). In the States, brisket has always been associated with pit-smoking and barbecue, which has only increased brisket’s recent popularity. However, because of its fat content it is the most popular cut for making corned beef and pastrami, and can also be turned into mince as the fat prevents it from drying out during cooking.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

Fillet

Widely considered as the king of all steaks, fillet is a prime cut and tends to be associated with special occasions, due in part to its high price. It comes from the lower middle of the cow’s back and does the least work of all the beef cuts, making it considerably more tender than other cuts. It also contains very little fat, which means, it is best surved pink but has a tendancy to dry out if over cooked.

A fillet steak is best cooked over incredibly high heat as quickly as possible, to prevent the meat drying out. However, larger pieces of fillet are used to make dishes such as beef Wellington and chateaubriand, which are cooked in the oven for longer.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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T-bone steak

T-bones are one of the only traditional cuts of steak that is served on the bone, a 'T' shaped one hence the name. It consists a cut of sirloin onone side and on the other is a smaller piece of fillet. The fillet will always stay slightly rarer than the sirloin, the steak is seared and then finished off in the oven to ensure even cooking.

As the steak is served on the bone the flavour of a T-bone steak strong, This means it won’t get overpowered by sauces, which can often mask the flavour of the meat itself. Peppercorn, béarnaise or chimichurri complement the steak perfectly.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

T-bone steak

T-bones are one of the only traditional cuts of steak that is served on the bone, a 'T' shaped one hence the name. It consists a cut of sirloin onone side and on the other is a smaller piece of fillet. The fillet will always stay slightly rarer than the sirloin, the steak is seared and then finished off in the oven to ensure even cooking.

As the steak is served on the bone the flavour of a T-bone steak strong, This means it won’t get overpowered by sauces, which can often mask the flavour of the meat itself. Peppercorn, béarnaise or chimichurri complement the steak perfectly.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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Rib-eye steak

Rib-eye is one of the most popular steaks around thanks to its marbling and the 'eye' of fat which need to be rendered during cooking, rib-eyes are full of flavour. It is cut from just above the ribs, an area which does little work and makes the rib-eye steak exceptionally tender. While every person has their own preferences on how well done they like their steak, with rib-eye it is at its best med-rare or medium, as this gives the fat time to render down and baste the meat.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

 

Rib-eye steak

Rib-eye is one of the most popular steaks around thanks to its marbling and the 'eye' of fat which need to be rendered during cooking, rib-eyes are full of flavour. It is cut from just above the ribs, an area which does little work and makes the rib-eye steak exceptionally tender. While every person has their own preferences on how well done they like their steak, with rib-eye it is at its best med-rare or medium, as this gives the fat time to render down and baste the meat.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

 

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Rump

A traditional steak cut, rump is at the opposite end of the spectrum to fillet. What it lacks for in tenderness, however, it more than makes up for in flavour. Cut from the backside of the cow, it’s a muscle that’s used quite a bit during the animal’s life, which means it can be tougher than other ‘prime’ steaks. Rump steaks are still tender enough to be fried quickly and served on the  rarer side. Rumps are a great option when making shish kebabs, as it takes on marinades and can hold its own against stronger flavours.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

Rump

A traditional steak cut, rump is at the opposite end of the spectrum to fillet. What it lacks for in tenderness, however, it more than makes up for in flavour. Cut from the backside of the cow, it’s a muscle that’s used quite a bit during the animal’s life, which means it can be tougher than other ‘prime’ steaks. Rump steaks are still tender enough to be fried quickly and served on the  rarer side. Rumps are a great option when making shish kebabs, as it takes on marinades and can hold its own against stronger flavours.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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Topside

Topside comes from the inner thigh of the cow. It is sold as a roasting joint and almost always has a layer of fat straped to it which will keep the joint moist while cooking. Because of the lack of marbling, topside can be roasted and served rare and still remain tender. it is easy to carve, topside is incredibly simple to cook and serve. It also doesn’t require low and slow cooking, a perfect choice for Sunday dinner when you haven’t got time to spend all day in the kitchen.

Available from Cauldwells of Davenport

Topside

Topside comes from the inner thigh of the cow. It is sold as a roasting joint and almost always has a layer of fat straped to it which will keep the joint moist while cooking. Because of the lack of marbling, topside can be roasted and served rare and still remain tender. it is easy to carve, topside is incredibly simple to cook and serve. It also doesn’t require low and slow cooking, a perfect choice for Sunday dinner when you haven’t got time to spend all day in the kitchen.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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Onglet

Sometimes called hanger steak, onglet has become a fairly new phenomenon in the UK, it has long been the best kept secret of butchers. Taken from the cow’s lower belly, it has a glorious chewy texture and intense meaty flavour. It has been a favourite in France for years. It is also possible that onglet wasn’t popular in the past as it becomes very tough if not cooked correctly, it either needs to be seared and served quite rare or slow-cooked for a long time. It takes on marinades very well and is particularly suited to barbecuing.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

Onglet

Sometimes called hanger steak, onglet has become a fairly new phenomenon in the UK, it has long been the best kept secret of butchers. Taken from the cow’s lower belly, it has a glorious chewy texture and intense meaty flavour. It has been a favourite in France for years. It is also possible that onglet wasn’t popular in the past as it becomes very tough if not cooked correctly, it either needs to be seared and served quite rare or slow-cooked for a long time. It takes on marinades very well and is particularly suited to barbecuing.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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Chuck steak

 Chuck comes from around the shoulders and is most often sold diced and is perfect for use in stews and casseroles. The shoulders are one of the hardest working parts of the animal, so chuck can be quite tough if not cooked correctly. This also makes it one of the most economical, widely available cuts out there.

Chuck steak needs to be slow cooked at a low temperature in order to break down its good fat and tissue content, it is at it's best when cooked for a couple of hours. When using chuck steak for stews, casseroles and pies, the sauce takes on the flavours of the beef during cooking, while ensuring the meat doesn’t dry out during the cooking process.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

Chuck steak

 Chuck comes from around the shoulders and is most often sold diced and is perfect for use in stews and casseroles. The shoulders are one of the hardest working parts of the animal, so chuck can be quite tough if not cooked correctly. This also makes it one of the most economical, widely available cuts out there.

Chuck steak needs to be slow cooked at a low temperature in order to break down its good fat and tissue content, it is at it's best when cooked for a couple of hours. When using chuck steak for stews, casseroles and pies, the sauce takes on the flavours of the beef during cooking, while ensuring the meat doesn’t dry out during the cooking process.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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Sirloin steak

A steak cut that is between rump and fillet in terms of flavour, sirloin steak has a great balance in terms of fat and tenderness. It is cut from between the fillet and the rib, and is also sometimes sold as a whole roasting joint. Sirloin steaks are cooked in a similar way to a rib-eye, rendering the fat to melt into the meat and to prevent any chewy gristle. when roasting make sure there is a decent amount of fat on top of the meat this help prevent the roasting joint drying out.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

 

Sirloin steak

A steak cut that is between rump and fillet in terms of flavour, sirloin steak has a great balance in terms of fat and tenderness. It is cut from between the fillet and the rib, and is also sometimes sold as a whole roasting joint. Sirloin steaks are cooked in a similar way to a rib-eye, rendering the fat to melt into the meat and to prevent any chewy gristle. when roasting make sure there is a decent amount of fat on top of the meat this help prevent the roasting joint drying out.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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Shin

Shin comes from as the name suggests the foreleg of the cow. it is usually one of the cheapest cuts you can buy. it has traditionally been solds as stewing steak. However we now  have a understanding of how to make the most of the cut. It requires long, slow braising, to break down the connective tissue and fat, when these have broken down the meat melts in the mouth. Shin is perfect for stews, the bone and the marrow helps create an incredibly flavourful sauce from the braising liqueur.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

Shin

Shin comes from as the name suggests the foreleg of the cow. it is usually one of the cheapest cuts you can buy. it has traditionally been solds as stewing steak. However we now  have a understanding of how to make the most of the cut. It requires long, slow braising, to break down the connective tissue and fat, when these have broken down the meat melts in the mouth. Shin is perfect for stews, the bone and the marrow helps create an incredibly flavourful sauce from the braising liqueur.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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Silverside

Silverside is a cut from just above the leg, it gets it's name from the silvery tissue covering one side of the cut. Often used to make salt beef or corned beef, or like topside it is roasted as a whole joint in the oven. It has very little in the way of fat running through the joint so is quite a lean cut. it is sometimes sold with added fat straped to the top to prevent it from drying out whilst roasting whole, silverside should be regularly basted or partly-submerged in liquid to prevent it drying out.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

Silverside

Silverside is a cut from just above the leg, it gets it's name from the silvery tissue covering one side of the cut. Often used to make salt beef or corned beef, or like topside it is roasted as a whole joint in the oven. It has very little in the way of fat running through the joint so is quite a lean cut. it is sometimes sold with added fat straped to the top to prevent it from drying out whilst roasting whole, silverside should be regularly basted or partly-submerged in liquid to prevent it drying out.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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Skirt

Skirt steak like onglet can be found by the lower belly and ribs. It is full of flavour but can quite tough, so needs to be cooked properly. It is a relatively thin steak covered in a tough membrane, which needs to be removed before cooking. Like onglet it needs be cooked very quickly in a pan or slow-cooked in a braising liquid. Skirt steaks is famous for being widely used in Mexico cuisine, the can take on potent marinade flavours such as vinegars and chilli. They are also traditionally used in Cornish pasties, as they make a fantastic gravy, when skirt steaks are to be served seared at a high heat and sliced against the grain.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

Skirt

Skirt steak like onglet can be found by the lower belly and ribs. It is full of flavour but can quite tough, so needs to be cooked properly. It is a relatively thin steak covered in a tough membrane, which needs to be removed before cooking. Like onglet it needs be cooked very quickly in a pan or slow-cooked in a braising liquid. Skirt steaks is famous for being widely used in Mexico cuisine, the can take on potent marinade flavours such as vinegars and chilli. They are also traditionally used in Cornish pasties, as they make a fantastic gravy, when skirt steaks are to be served seared at a high heat and sliced against the grain.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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