How to Butcher a Side of Beef

A side of beef will provide eight Porterhouse steaks, eight T-bones, eight Sirloins, ten Rib eyes, other cuts such as round steaks, as well as typically around fifty pounds of meat for minced meat and ten to fifteen pounds of stew meat. Meat for roasts include chuck and shoulder roasts. Brisket cuts of beef from the chest region can be used to make corned beef or smoked meat. The fresh bones can be used for soup stock. A side of beef will provide a wide range meal items.

Place the diagram of beef cuts within easy sight. Place all cutting implements within easy reach of the table. Put the side of beef on the table.

Using the diagram as a guide, cut the side into two "quarters" with the meat saw by cutting at a right angle to the backbone between the twelfth and thirteenth ribs. This results in a forequarter (the front end of the animal) and a hindquarter. The hindquarter can be temporarily set aside to allow room to cut up the forequarter.

Begin breaking up the forequarter by cutting between the fifth and sixth ribs with the butcher knife, counting from the neck back. By cutting parallel with the ribs, you will get a crosscut chuck consisting of a square-cut chuck, foreshank and brisket.

Cut through the first soft segment of the breastbone to remove the foreshank and brisket. The foreshank is cut from the brisket by following the natural connective tissue seam between the muscles. Use the boning knife to remove the bones from the foreshank and brisket.

Break up the remaining forequarter into the arm and block with the butcher knife. Bone the arm, trim excess fat and roll the meat for a pot roast. Turn over the block and cut parallel with the ribs, producing blade steaks and roasts. The neck can be saved for making soup stock.

Place the hindquarter on the table. First, using the butcher knife, remove the kidney fat, the tough membrane around it and the flank steak. Next is the round, including the rump, round cushion, outside round and hind shank. Cut out the rump by slicing just below the exposed pelvic bone.

Cut up the loin beginning at the large end. Sirloin steaks are cut first, the last one is cut where the hip-bone is separated from the spinal column. Continue cutting through the porterhouse, T-bone and club portions. Remove the remaining heel of round by cutting close to the bone and tearing away as much meat as possible from the backside.

Use the boning knife to remove the rest of the meat, which can be used for minced meat or stew meat.


A side of beef will fill almost an entire stand-alone freezer. Before purchasing the beef, ensure that you have enough freezer and refrigerator capacity to store it.


Use sharp knives and meat saws to prevent slippage. Cut away from your body, not toward yourself. Beginners can easily purchase braided stainless steel butchers' gloves and heavyweight butchers' aprons for protection.

Things You'll Need

  • Side of beef
  • Diagram of beef cuts
  • Meat saw, hand or electric
  • Butcher knife
  • Boning knife
  • Solid wooden table, sanitised
  • Clean food containers
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About the Author

Brian Burhoe has been writing professionally since 1971. His stories have appeared in "World of If Magazine," "Fantastic Stories" and "Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year." He cooks in Atlantic Coast restaurants and he is a graduate of the Holland College Culinary Course and holds a Canadian Culinary Federation chef's certificate.