Primal Cuts

  1. Chuck
  2. Rib
  3. Loin
  4. Round
  5. Brisket
  6. Plate
  7. Flank
  8. Shank

Click on any of the 8 primal cuts listed above to see detailed descriptions of the steaks and roasts portioned from each.

Please Note

Friends, the beef cuts guide is going through some updates, and as a result some of the links above may not work. Sorry for any inconvenience. I hope to have it fully functional soon. Thanks, Dave.

The meat case at your local supermarket, with its near-dizzying array of beef cuts, can be a confusing place. While most of us are familiar with popular cuts like a porterhouse, ribeye, sirloin, filet or brisket, few of us can keep track of the more than 60 different cuts commonly merchandised today.

Some of this confusion is only natural. Cattle are large animals, and there is more than one way to cut a steer, and how beef is merchandised determines how it’s broken down. Beef intended for restaurant use is cut, or fabricated, somewhat differently than beef intended for retail.  To further complicate matters, most cuts can be marketed under several different names. A knuckle, sirloin tip, and ball steak are all essentially the same thing.

Beef cuts are also constantly evolving. Producers and marketers are always looking for new ways to fabricate beef in order to improve profitability. It’s fair to say there are several cuts of beef sold today that your parents never heard of when they were your age. In the past 10 years alone, the industry has introduced more than a dozen cuts through a program known as the Muscle Profiling Study.  New cuts are often in response to changes in tastes and dietary requirements. Several leaner cuts, for example, have been developed to meet the heart healthy requirements established by the American Heart Association.

Wouldn’t it be nice to enter a butcher shop or supermarket meat department with a strong understanding of beef cuts? To understand the unique characteristics of each cut and how best to prepare it?

This interactive guide was designed to help you navigate the world of beef cuts with greater confidence.  Nothing can beat the expertise of a good butcher, but with this tool, you’ll be able to speak the same language and make better choices.

How to Use this Guide

Beef is first cut down the middle into two sides. Each side are then divided into 8 pieces known as primal cuts—the chuck, ribs, loin, round, plate, flank, plank and brisket—from which steaks, roasts and ribs will be portioned. To see a list of these sub-cuts–including detailed descriptions, full color images, recommended cooking methods, and alternative names–click on any of the primal cuts listed to the right of the diagram above.

The Beef Checkoff Family of Sites. Web. 24 Feb.2016. Certified Angus Beef LLC. Web 24 Feb. 2016.
Green, Aliza (2015-04-28). Field Guide to Meat: How to Identify, Select, and Prepare Virtually Every Meat, Poultry, and Game Cut. Quirk Books. Kindle Edition.
LaFrieda, Pat; Carreño, Carolynn (2014-09-02). MEAT: Everything You Need to Know. Atria Books. Kindle Edition.
North American Meat Processors Association.The Meat Buyers Guide. New Jersey: Wiley, 2007. Print
Underly, Kari (2012-07-31). The Art of Beef Cutting: A Meat Professional’s Guide to Butchering and Merchandising. Wiley. Kindle Edition.