Moran's Butchers & Delicatessan
Beef cuts explainedThe cow is the largest animal supplying meat for the everyday meal. It provides a great range of different cuts, varying in tenderness and flavour.
NeckThe neck end yields reasonably lean meat that is generally sold cubed up as stewing steak or as mince. In chunks, it is good in slow-cooked casseroles and stews cooked in rich stock with plenty of herbs.
ChuckThe forequarter, or shoulder, of the animal is known as the chuck or blade. This meat is often sold as braising steak, and is excellent for long cooking because it is usually well-marbled with fat, which helps to moisten and flavour it as it braises. It is a good choice for traditional French boeuf bourguignonne.
Fore ribThe area behind the blade bone is the first of the cuts traditionally prepared for roasting. It may either be sold on the bone, or quite often boned and rolled, and is generally both tender and flavourful.
Sirloin and FilletThe centre of the back is where everybody's favourite steaks – sirloin and fillet – come from. Because these are cut from an area of the animal where the muscles do less work, the meat is correspondingly marked by its great tenderness. A long piece of sirloin, or a round slice of fillet, are best briefly grilled under high heat. Sirloin may also be sold as a whole piece, either boned and rolled or filleted, which makes an incomparable joint for roasting.
RumpThe rump is not, contrary to popular belief, the buttock, but the area just in front of it – the small of the back, as it were. Rump, usually sold sliced into steaks, is nowhere near as tough as many might imagine (it is, after all, next to the sirloin), and has a positive beefy depth of flavour. Like the other steaks, it is best grilled.
Topside and SilversideThese cuts come from the back end of the cow, the topside from the top of the inside leg, the silverside from the outside of the thigh. Although they are traditionally roasted, they are both fairly dry cuts, and may be better braised or pot-roasted in stock and/or wine to keep them moist.
OxtailThe tail, which may be bought in lateral sections, makes superb, gelatinous meat when slow-cooked, and is also the basis for an abidingly popular soup.
Leg and ShinThe leg joint comes from the hind leg, with the shin from the foreleg. These are cuts that demand slow cooking, when their gelatinous nature helps to thicken the cooking liquor. Shin of veal is the joint used in the traditional Italian dish, osso buco.
Thick flankThe joint from the front of the thigh is relatively lean and dry and, like the topside and silverside, is better braised than roasted.
Thin flankThe area beneath the sirloin is much more sinewy and fatty than the sirloin itself. It is mainly sold as minced beef, although a fair amount of it ends up being salted and boiled up for corned beef.
BrisketThe brisket comes from the lower part of the animal’s front end, effectively the breast (although this term is never used). It can be sold rolled as a roasting joint, but is also often cured with salt and/or spices. It forms the basis of traditional pastrami, sold cold and sliced as a delicatessen meat for sandwiches.
ShoulderThe shoulder cut comes from below the neck, and is perfect for long, slow cooking. Its connective tissue eventually dissolves, leaving a soft meat that then shreds very easily under a fork.
OffalAs well as these cuts of beef, some of the offal, or organ meat, remains popular. Calf’s liver is the tenderest of all livers, much more so than lamb’s or pig’s livers. Kidneys famously turn up in pies with chopped steak, while the tongue is sold cured and pressed.
Nobody much favours tripe these days, which is the cow’s stomach lining, but the chip-shops of the north of England once did a roaring trade in it. Served boiled and spattered in malt vinegar, it may not delight the tastebuds, but chopped in a spicy, tomatoey stew in the Spanish fashion, it becomes a considerably more appetising proposition.