what are the primal cuts of beef

Here we take a look at each individual primal cuts of beef which are: Shank, Brisket, Rib, Short Plate, Flank, Round, Chuck, and Loin. Each of these primal cuts is then broken down into sub-primal cuts which are what is sold to the consumer.

The beef animal is broken down into sides. A side is one-half of a that has been split lengthwise from the neck to the tail. The side can then be split into the front quarter and hind quarter. This cut is made between the 12th and 13th ribs counting from the front of the animal. The beef front quarter is heavily exercised, resulting in an abundance of connective tissue. Moist heat cooking is required on the majority of the sub-primals from the front quarter, with the major exception being the 7-bone rib (prime rib). The hind quarter of beef contains mostly sub-primals that can be prepared using dry heat.

Beef Front Quarter: The beef front quarter contains four primal cuts, the brisket, foreshank, rib, and chuck (square chuck). The chuck is separated by first cutting across the carcass between the 5th and 6th ribs, which separates the chuck, brisket, and shank from the rib and plate. The second cut passes at a point slightly above the elbow joint and through the cartilage below the first (1st) rib and sternum, and separates the chuck from the brisket and shank. The brisket is further separated from the shank by following the natural contour of the elbow bone. The rib is separated from the plate by a straight cut passing across the ribs at right angles to the first cut at a point slightly below the centre of the rib cage.

The primals are then processed into sub-primals by following the cutting lines as shown in Figure 18 and Table 24.

Beef Hind Quarter: The beef hind quarter is broken down into four primal cuts, the flank, the long loin, the hip, and the sirloin tip. The flank is separated by a straight cut passing approximately parallel to the lumbar backbone (lumbar vertebrae), beginning in close proximity to or through the flank lymph node (prefemoral), and from the plate by a cut passing between the 12th and 13th ribs and cartilage. The hip is separated from the long loin by a straight cut that passes in front of the rump knuckle bone, thereby cutting the pelvic bone into approximately two equal parts. The sirloin tip is then separated from the hip by a “V-shaped” cut beginning approximately at the knee cap, following the full length of the leg bone up to the rump knuckle bone, then towards the flank lymph node.

From the sub-primals, secondary or portion cuts are obtained. In most cases, there are a number of different secondary cuts that can be obtained from each sub-primal. In addition, there are often different names for the same cut used in the retail, wholesale, or restaurant industry. Table 26 shows the retail and restaurant cuts that come from each of the beef sub-primals.

The Beef Information Centre provides a poster (Figure 19) that outlines the cuts of beef. It can be downloaded from their resource page.

The CFIA meat cuts manual is an additional resource that shows each beef cut and location in great detail. It can be accessed on the CFIA website. Table 26 shows the cooking potential for cuts from the different beef primals. Generally, the cuts from the same primal are suited for similar cooking methods. Exceptions have been noted.

Muscle or flesh of a veal carcass ranges in colour from pink (or lighter) to red. To be classified as veal by CFIA standards, the dressed carcass must weigh less than 180 kg (396 lb). Veal is most commonly sold in vacuum-packed sub-primals. It is seldom dry aged due to the lack of fat cover on the animal. Figure 20 shows the CFIA veal cuts.

There are six primal cuts from a side of veal, the leg, flank, loin, breast, shoulder, and front shank. The front, containing the shoulder, breast, and front shank, is separated from the whole loin and flank by cutting between the 6th and 7th ribs. The breast and shank are further separated by a cut that goes from just above the joint of the arm bone perpendicular to the ribs. The shank is then separated by following the natural separation of the arm bone. The leg is separated from the whole loin and flank by a straight cut that passes in front of the pin bone. The flank is then separated from the whole loin by a straight cut approximately parallel to the backbone, passing at a point slightly above the cartilage of the 12th rib.

The primals are further broken down into sub-primals as shown in Figure 21 and Table 28. Note that there are two ways of cutting the leg into sub-primals accepted by CFIA.

The Veal Farmers of Ontario provide a comprehensive veal cut chart (Figure 22) for download.

The CFIA meat cuts manual is an additional resource that shows each veal cut and location in great detail. It can be accessed on the CFIA website.

The 8 Primal Cuts of Beef

  • Chuck
  • Rib
  • Loin
  • Round
  • Flank
  • Short Plate
  • Shank
  • Brisket

Location: Chuck primal cut is located at the front chest and top of a cow including shoulder and neck parts.

Sub-primal cuts: Neck, shoulders, top blade, bottom blade, ground beef, chuck steak, chuck filet.

The Best Cooking Methods When Cooking Sub-Primal Cuts

  • The shoulder and neck are best when cooked in a conventional oven with low temperature.
  • Beef Ribs should be smoked over an indirect heat smoker with low temperature. Blade cut is best when you grill it with direct heat.
  • Chuck Steak & Chuck Filet can be cooked over a conventional oven, skillet, direct heat grill. They need to be tenderized with a meat mallet before cooking since the thinner the better.
  • Chuck and round make up a majority of the meat in the US because they’re cheaper.

Location: The ribs are located in the center back of the cow. The rib is quite a flavorful part of the cow. That’s why it’s one of the most expensive cuts.

Sub-primal cuts: Rib steak, ribeye steak, prime rib, short rib, back ribs.

The Best Cooking Methods When Cooking Sub-Primal Cuts

  • Prime Rib is best when cooked at a very high temperature for a short time in a conventional oven or a direct heat smoker.
  • Ribeye Steak should be cooked over a direct heat grill. Any fuel type should be fine but charcoal is better to add some flavor to the meat.
  • Back Ribs are best when cooked in an offset smoker with a low temperature and long time. In other words, indirect heat is needed.
  • Short Ribs are very popular in Korean BBQ. They’re great when braised and rubbed with bbq sauce, then off to the grill. Cooked in a direct heat grill is the best way to enjoy these.

Location: It is located in the lower back of the cow. This part of the meat is very soft and tender, that’s why loin cuts are great for juicy steaks.

Sub-primal cuts: T-bone, club steak, filet mignon (tenderloin), New York strip, sirloin cap, sirloin steak, tri-tip, Chateaubriand, Porterhouse.

The Best Cooking Methods When Cooking Sub-Primal Cuts

  • Porterhouse, club steak, and T-bone are usually best when cooked at medium-rare temperature. Both open flame or direct heat grill could work for mouthwatering steaks. Its worth mentioning that these three sub-primal cuts are very pricey.
  • Filet mignon (tenderloin), tri-tip, and Chateaubriand are known as pricey cuts of meat. The tri-tip is the cheapest you can get among them but it still isn’t that cheap compared to other sub-primal cuts. They are best when cooked medium-rare. You can use a conventional oven, open flame or direct heat grill to get the best results.
  • Sirloin steak and New York strip are considered as an everyday type of steak. Same as the other loin sub-primal cuts, they are also best medium-rare and you can cook on an open flame or direct heat grill.

Location: It is located in the rear part of the cow, the butt. Round cut contains a lot less fat content so this makes the round meat a tough cut, which also means that it’s a very cheap meat cut.

Sub-primal cuts: Top Round, Eye of Round, Heel of Round, Sirloin Tip and Bottom Round.

The Best Cooking Methods When Cooking Sub-Primal Cuts All types of round sub-primal cuts are not the best for BBQing. Cooked in an oven with low and slow temperature is the recommended cooking method.

Location: This primal meat cut is from the belly – underside part of the cow.

Sub-primal cuts: Ground Beef, London Broil, and Flank Steak.

The Best Cooking Method When Cooking Sub-Primal Cuts Flank steak, for example, needs to be marinated for a long time, maybe even overnight, and then should be cooked on an open flame or direct heat grill. The flank steak tastes best when cooked to medium.

Location: Short plate cut is located below the rib cut, in other words, the center belly of the cow.

Sub-primal cuts: Hanger Steak, Ground Beef, Brisket, Skirt Steak.

The Best Cooking Methods When Cooking Sub-Primal Cuts

  • Hanger Steak is best when cooked on a grill to medium-rare temperature. You can use an open flame or a direct heat type of grill. It can be very tender when cooked properly.
  • Skirt Steak is usually marinated for a while and then grilled on direct heat. It’s important that the marinade process lasts 12 hours.

Location: It’s in the lower abdomen, the chest part of the cow. Due to the muscles, its quite tough meat.

Sub-primal cuts: Fore Shank, Hind Shank, and Ground Beef.

The Best Cooking Methods When Cooking Sub-Primal Cuts All shank sub-primal cuts contain very little fat and so it’s quite tough. Shank cuts must be cooked for a long time at low temperatures in crockpots or at higher temperatures in an oven. As for ground beef, it can be cooked on direct heat.

Location: It’s located at the cow’s breast, the lower chest area. Brisket cut is low in fat content, it’s one of the cow’s most used muscles.

Sub-primal cuts: Brisket Point and Brisket Plate.

The Best Cooking Methods When Cooking Sub-Primal Cuts Brisket cuts require a low and slow type of cooking method. As we know, brisket is a very tough part and needs a longer time in order to be cooked properly. An indirect heat smoker is the best option for smoking brisket.You can refer to our Hassle-free Texas Style Beef Brisket Recipe to find out more about how to cook your brisket to perfection!

The MeatStick is here to help you cook the perfect meat for all your dishes, including that brisket. You’ll be able to keep an eye on your brisket’s temperature during that low and slow cook!

The Smart Wireless Meat Thermometer for Every Cook

The CFIA meat cuts manual is an additional resource that shows each veal cut and location in great detail. It can be accessed on the CFIA website.

The primals are then processed into sub-primals by following the cutting lines as shown in Figure 18 and Table 24.

The beef animal is broken down into sides. A side is one-half of a that has been split lengthwise from the neck to the tail. The side can then be split into the front quarter and hind quarter. This cut is made between the 12th and 13th ribs counting from the front of the animal. The beef front quarter is heavily exercised, resulting in an abundance of connective tissue. Moist heat cooking is required on the majority of the sub-primals from the front quarter, with the major exception being the 7-bone rib (prime rib). The hind quarter of beef contains mostly sub-primals that can be prepared using dry heat.

Beef Front Quarter: The beef front quarter contains four primal cuts, the brisket, foreshank, rib, and chuck (square chuck). The chuck is separated by first cutting across the carcass between the 5th and 6th ribs, which separates the chuck, brisket, and shank from the rib and plate. The second cut passes at a point slightly above the elbow joint and through the cartilage below the first (1st) rib and sternum, and separates the chuck from the brisket and shank. The brisket is further separated from the shank by following the natural contour of the elbow bone. The rib is separated from the plate by a straight cut passing across the ribs at right angles to the first cut at a point slightly below the centre of the rib cage.

There are six primal cuts from a side of veal, the leg, flank, loin, breast, shoulder, and front shank. The front, containing the shoulder, breast, and front shank, is separated from the whole loin and flank by cutting between the 6th and 7th ribs. The breast and shank are further separated by a cut that goes from just above the joint of the arm bone perpendicular to the ribs. The shank is then separated by following the natural separation of the arm bone. The leg is separated from the whole loin and flank by a straight cut that passes in front of the pin bone. The flank is then separated from the whole loin by a straight cut approximately parallel to the backbone, passing at a point slightly above the cartilage of the 12th rib.

So, what’s a primal cut?

First things first, “Primal Cut” and “Prime Cut” are not the same thing! Simply put, “Prime Cut” is used for high-quality meats.

Primal Cut refers to the first piece of meat to be separated from the carcass of an animal during the butchering process. That is why it is called “Primal Cut”.

After the Primal Cut has been done, the next cuts are called “Sub-Primal Cuts”, or the secondary & tertiary cuts of meat. The meats we see and buy in grocery shops are sub-primal cuts like steak, ground beef, and more.

Here we take a look at each individual primal cuts of beef which are: Shank, Brisket, Rib, Short Plate, Flank, Round, Chuck, and Loin. Each of these primal cuts is then broken down into sub-primal cuts which are what is sold to the consumer.

FAQ

What are the 9 primal cuts of beef?

The primal cuts of beef are the chuck, brisket and shank, rib, short plate, short loin, sirloin, flank and round. It is important to know the location of bones when cutting or working with meats.

How many beef primals are there?

There are 8 main primal cuts of beef: chuck, rib, loin (consisting of the short loin and the sirloin), round, flank, plate, brisket, and shank. Divided by groups of muscles, the meat from each primal has its own unique flavor, texture, and level of fat and marbling due to how hard the muscles were worked.

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