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“There are many ways to leave your lover but many more ways to cook all the different cuts of beef…and all that even before you’ve paired it with other ingredients to create your amazing dish. One of the secrets to cooking beef perfectly is knowing your cuts and the section of cow that your beef comes from that has a strong impact on its flavor, texture and cooking method.

How many primal cuts are there in a cow? 

There are 8 primal meat cuts in a cow: the brisket, shank, rib, chunk, loin, round, flank, and short plate. On their turn, the primal cuts are then broken down into sub-primal cuts, including specific steaks and chops such as flank steak, flat iron steak, filet mignon, rib eye, Tbone, porterhouse, etc. 

However, In order to have a better understanding of different cuts of meat you need to understand where in the animal a certain piece of meat comes from.

So, whereabouts in the animal do certain pieces of the animal come from? 

Meat means muscle, so one of the most important aspects to remember while learning about meat is that muscles that are utilized more frequently become tougher than muscles that are used less. The shoulder, neck, and legs, for instance, include muscles that work the hardest during life. The sections of the animal that work less are found in its rear part, particularly in the small of the back. 
Although, the muscles that don’t get used much will be tender, at the same time they lack the richness of cuts that are marbled with fat or that contain a lot of connective tissue, which breaks down with long braising or stewing. Fat adds flavor, and so do the surrounding organs, which may lend a stronger flavor to cuts. In fact, the tenderloin, while exceedingly tender, is the least flavorful cut of meat on the animal. Cuts like the shank and neck take hours to tenderize but are richly flavored. Muscles that work build flavor.

An interesting fact is that the rule above applies to all the types of meat we consume, from different mammals and birds. For instance, the chicken breast meat is very tender, much more tender than the legs and thighs that work more. This makes them full of flavor, but tougher.

What are the 8 primal meat cuts?

The Brisket 

Founds in the chest area between the shoulders of the cow, which means it’s a working part of the animal so it moves quite a lot during its lifetime, so the brisket has a large amount of fat which is marbled throughout and adds lots of flavour to the meat. 

Traditionally, brisket is slow-roasted in the oven until the meat is falling apart and meltingly tender. However, it is also the most popular cut for making corned beef and pastrami, and can also be turned into mince as the fat prevents it from drying out during cooking.


This cut comes from beneath the brisket. Because this area is full of connective tissue, the part is known to be one of the toughest of all 8 cuts and requires a lot of preparation to tenderize. It is typically cut into cross sections called Shank Cross-Cuts which are braised to make flavorful, fork-tender dishes such as OssoBuco. The usual shank cuts are usually cooked for extended periods allowing the meat to tenderize as much as possible.


These cuts are obtained from the cow’s backbone and ribs: to be more specific, only the last 6 to 12 of the 13 pairs of ribs; the chuck cut takes the remaining ribs. Because this muscle doesn’t get much exercise, it yields some of the tenderest meat and can develop excellent marbling which imparts moisture and flavor to the meat. The high amount of marbling in these cuts is one of the main reasons behind their rich flavor. The beef rib primal cut offers some of the most tender, flavorful, and generally desirable steaks and roasts, so the rib primal cuts are the best for grilling and roasting and not for slow cooking. 


Comes from around the shoulders, it’s a rich flavored cut that can be used to prepare delicious roasts that are ideal for cooking low and slow as well as very succulent grill steaks. It is also home to short ribs. The shoulders are one of the hardest working parts of the animal, so chuck can be quite tough if not cooked properly. This is due to its high fat and tissue content. During the cooking process, the sauce absorbs the flavors of the beef while preventing the meat from drying out.


The loin is located at the top of the cow, just behind the ribs. The tenderest and most expensive cuts of beef come from the loin and are usually divided into two parts: sirloin and short-loin. the short loin is where we find the most desirable cuts of meat. These include T-bone and porterhouse steaks, as well as the strip loin. The muscles in this part of the cow are not overworked, the meat is quite tender. While sirloin is slightly tougher than short-loin, it is thought to be the more flavorful of the two.


The round is a large primal cut consisting mainly of the rear leg and the rump of the cow.  While this primal cut of beef tends to be lean, it is also tougher as the muscles around this part of the steer are usually worked hard on a regular basis. The round cut is among the most inexpensive beef cuts you can get that are every bit as nourishing as beef tenderloin or ribeye steak which makes the beef round a very economical way to feed a family or any other group of hungry people.


The flank cut, which is just below the loin, is one of the tastiest but in the same toughest cuts of meat, you’ll ever eat. There are no bones in this flavorful cut and needs loving care and proper cooking technique to bring out all the good flavor in it. It used to be known as one of the cheapest cuts however its low-fat content, has elevated its status as one of the most sought after, and thus increased its price. There are two opposite cooking choices with a flank. You either cook it hot and fast, or long and slow by braising. The purpose is to break down the connective tissues by cutting thin slices or by heat and moisture.

Short plate: 

The short plate primal is found in the cow’s abdomen, sits below the rib, and the meat from this part of the animal is rich in flavor and well-marbled. Plate cuts have a tighter grain structure and are fatter than rib cuts, so they have a great quality-price ratio.

As you can read in the article above, the 8 primal meat cuts have varying levels of flavor, tenderness, and fat. Knowing the various cuts of meat will not only help you choose the best cuts for different cooking methods and meals, but it will also help you reduce the amount of time you spend simply thinking of great recipes you would like to prepare.

This article was written in collaboration with Maison del gusto, a high-end food selector and Monaco’s premiere purveyor of gourmet food. Driven by the desire to offer you the most flavorsome, tender, succulent, and consistent meat– without compromise. Please ask for our catalog and choose your cut among the best beef in the world. You can choose among our Galician beef selection, Australian and the American Black Angus beef, or the Kagoshima or Waygu Japanese beef.

To find out how to make fresh produce, including the 8 primal meat cuts last the crossing, Click here. 

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