Knowing the different cuts of beef is an important culinary skill that will help you make better decisions in the kitchen. Do you know the difference between flank (kamto) and rump (tapadera) and round (kabilugan)? Which of the following is the tenderest cut of beef: the front limb (paypay at kenchi sa unahan) or the loin (tagiliran)? What part should you use when cooking kaldereta or bistek? A brief review of the primal cuts of beef will certainly lead you to the right answers.
Why Is It Important to Know the Primal Cuts of Beef?
Beef is a mainstay in the Filipino kitchen. While many associate it with cow, the Bureau of Philippine Standards clarifies that the term refers to any "fresh, chilled, aged, or frozen meat, excluding offal, derived from mature cattle." It is a great source of protein, alongside pork, chicken, and fish. Plus, many cuisines, from North to South of the archipelago, highlight different cuts of beef in their recipes.
Beef in the market is typically tagged not by cut but by dish. You may see labels, such as "pang-sigang" or "pang-tapa." This overly specific nomenclature can leave the buyer confused and clueless about which parts to purchase. If you want to be creative in the kitchen, you must have a basic comprehension of beef cuts.
Specific cuts of beef require particular methods of preparation, cooking, and serving. This way, you can get the most out of the flavor and texture of that specific beef part. For sure, you’ve seen expensive beef cuts sold in specialty shops. If you decide to purchase some, you wouldn’t want to waste it just because you improperly prepared and cooked it, right?
Choosing among the many cuts of beef is also a practical process as it can help you save money. Apart from cooking the cut to its full potential, you'll also realize that you don’t need to splurge on the most luxurious parts if you know how to cook them properly.
What are the primary cuts of beef?
Primal cuts are the “basic major cuts that result from cutting the cattle and sides into smaller portions.” The beef carcass is first cut into two equal sides and then quarters. These quarters are identified either as a forequarter or the anterior portion and the hindquarter or the posterior portion.
The primal beef cuts from the forequarter are as follows:
1. Front limb (paypay at kenchi sa unahan)
The shoulder blade, arm, and front shank bones, muscles, and other tissues compose this primal cut. The tender chuck (paypay) takes its name from the tenderloin as both share the same look. Though it is not as soft as its namesake, it is still a versatile and affordable cut ideal for stews. Another part of the front limb is the shin (kenchi), considered the boneless version of the beef shank. It is a lean cut made of dark meat, lending intense beefy flavor to soups and braised dishes.
2. Neck (leeg)
Neck bones, muscles, and other tissues make up this beef cut. It is not as popular as other cuts of beef. However, it is an affordable alternative to the oxtail as it also features tendons and tender meat sans the excess fat. It requires a lengthier cooking time to become more tender. The neck can be transformed into braised dishes or simmered and reduced to make filling for tacos or lasagna.
3. Chuck (kadera sa unahan)
The cattle’s first five backbones, first five ribs, muscles, and other tissues feature in the chuck. Tough yet flavorful, the chuck is a versatile yet affordable cut. The presence of connective tissues in this area means the chuck requires a longer cooking time. However, you can cut and prepare it in many ways: cubes for stews, ground for burgers, and short ribs for roasts. One of the most famous cuts taken from the chuck is the blade clod (kalitiran) or flat-iron steaks, a typical choice for cooking kaldereta or mechado.
4. Brisket (punta y pecho)
Taken from the chest of cattle, the brisket is composed of the sternum, five ribs, muscles, and other tissues in the area. Although quite a firm beef cut, it is popular for its distinct flavor and ample marbling. The brisket takes well to slow-cooking methods, like roasting and stewing, that can help tenderize the meat and bring out its beefy flavor. Use it when making barbecues, corned beef, or morcon.
5. Rib set (kadera sa hulihan)
The cattle’s last seven backbones, seven ribs, muscles, and other tissues in the area make up the rib set. The meat from this area is tender and quite fatty, with abundant marbling that lends a distinct flavor. These cuts more expensive, so handle them with care – through proper grilling, slow-cooking, or roasting. Beloved cuts like rib-eye, prime rib, and beef short ribs come from this part.
6. Plate (tadyang)
The plate is taken from the cattle’s last seven ribs, navel end brisket, muscles, and other tissues located near the belly area. Because of this, it is considered a firm and fatty cut that is sold cheaply. From this primal cut comes short ribs, hanger steak, skirt steak, and bacon.