#3. Learn your cuts of beef and look for "value" cuts.
Going hand in hand with choosing the right steak is learning the different parts of the cow and how to distinguish between primal cuts so you can ask your butcher knowledgeable questions and understand their responses. It’s a good idea to know that the chuck is the shoulder area at the front of the cow, the rump is at the back, and the rib and loin areas are in the middle.
As you can imagine, the chuck and round are locomotion muscles that do a lot more work than the loin and rib muscles, thus making them tougher cuts of meat, meaning they are better for braising and stewing. The more tender cuts come from muscles that don’t work as hard. This includes the short loin and tenderloin muscles.
Then there are in-between parts of the cow that can include tender cuts and tougher cuts depending on where they sit. For example, in the rib section, you have tender rib-eyes steaks perfect for grilling, but short ribs must be slow-cooked to make them tender.
Head to the back of the cow, and you have a section called the sirloin, but it would be good to know the difference between the top sirloin and the bottom sirloin. The top sirloin is more tender than the bottom sirloin but has less flavor.
Top sirloin is leaner than bottom sirloin and, if prepared and cooked correctly, can be a less expensive alternative to the more expensive short loin steaks. The bottom sirloin includes the tri-tip steak, a flavorful triangle cut weighing around two pounds.
Once a cheap piece of steak to buy, but because of its popularity, it has gone up in price and is also more difficult to find.
As you can see, the more you know about the various cuts of beef associated with the different beef primal sections, the easier it will be for you to identify bargains at the market.
If you are interested in really seeing where these cuts come from on the cow, I recommend you check out my post called Beef Fabrication Video, where you can see Ph.D. butcher Dr. Gregg Renfrow fabricate a beef carcass in its entirety.