Market-form beef originates from two forequarters and two hindquarters, which butchers fabricate into nine primal cuts. These nine primal cuts -- chuck, rib, fore shank, brisket, short plate, short loin, round, sirloin and flank -- are further broken down into the beef sub-primal, such as the rib, eye of round and brisket. The sub-primal cuts yield retail steaks such as Porterhouse, fillet and strip.
The upper portion of beef forequarter consists of the chuck and rib primal cuts. As a highly-exercised muscle group, meat from the chuck tends to have high proportions of seam fat, connective tissue and muscle density. Retail cuts from the chuck include boneless chuck eye roast, chuck short ribs, cross-rib pot roast, shoulder pot roast, blade roast and arm pot roast. These cuts respond best to braising, a moist heat cooking method that facilitates the breakdown of connective tissue. Beef stew meat and minced meat also originate from the chuck. Rib roast, commonly referred to as prime rib, and ribeye steak comprise the sub-primal cuts from the beef rib.
The fore shank, brisket and short plate make up the primal cuts of the forequarter. Similar to the chuck, sub-primal cuts from the lower forequarter need a moist-heat cooking method for tenderness. The short plate yields short ribs, skirt steak, stew meat and minced meat. The fore shank provides shank crosscuts and stew meat. Shank crosscuts are often utilised for their high collagen content, which adds body and viscosity to stocks and broths.
The upper beef hindquarter yields the short loin, round and sirloin primal cuts. Several popular retail cuts emerge from the short loin, such as T-bone steak, Porterhouse, tenderloin and boneless top loin steak, or strip. This muscle group provides support along the spine, and does not experience much exercise. Therefore, sub-primal cuts from this group tend to have high degrees of tenderness, and, in the case of the strip, Porterhouse and T-bone, marbling. The primary difference between Porterhouse and T-bone is weight -- Porterhouse has a larger portion of fillet than T-bone. In addition to sirloin steaks, the sirloin primal cut provides pin bone sirloin steak, wedge bone sirloin steak and flat bone sirloin steak. The beef round commonly provides most market forms of pot roast. Sub-primal cuts from the round include boneless rump roast, eye of round, top round steak, round steak, heel of round and bottom flat. Like the chuck primal, these cuts need hours of cooking in a moist-heat environment.
The lower hindquarter yields the flank primal, whose retail cuts include flank steak and flank steak rolls. The lower hindquarter also provides tip cuts from the upper hindquarter, such as tip roast, tip steak and ball tip, or tip kebabs. The most common preparation for flank steak is London broil, a marinated preparation roasted and cut against the grain for tenderness.
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