After the steer is slaughtered, the carcass is split lengthwise down the backbone into two “sides” and hung by the hind legs. Beef is shipped in this form to the retailer (or middleman), who divides the sides into the various cuts of beef. The style and name for cuts varies by country as well as by region. See Boston cut and New York cut.
Pastured cattle graze on grass, clover and other field greens. In cold weather months, organic-raised and other premium animals are fed silage, a mixture of cut and fermented legumes, to supplement the lack of pasture grass. Other cattle are fed lesser mixtures of feed year-round. Mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or B.S.E.) has been traced to an infectious protein in cow feed that contained meat and bone meal from infected cattle. Now, the U.S. and Canada ban the use of cattle tissues in feed intended for cattle.
SIRLOIN CAP STEAK
See culotte steak.
These cuts are a little less tender than those from the loin and rib, but they are very flavorful and popular. Cuts from the bottom sirloin, ball tip and flap steaks are less well-known, but at least they have non-confusing names! The cuts from the top of the sirloin include sirloin, boneless top sirloin (or top butt), top sirloin cap steak (or culotte steak); and from the bottom sirloin, the sirloin tri tip. Sirloin steaks can vary considerably: the best cuts come from the top portion of the sirloin and have a mid-sized pin bone (the long, flat part of the hip bone). These are known as top sirloin steak (and also top butt steak, hip sirloin, and center cut sirloin). In general, other sirloin configurations with a flat bone are less tender than the top sirloin, but more tender than cuts with a round bone (always choose sirloin steaks with a flat bone). Boneless top sirloin, also known as butt steak, is more chewy than the other sirloin steaks, but has perhaps the best flavor of the loin steaks. The top sirloin cap steak is a smaller steak, popular for grilling or pan frying. The sirloin tri tip, also known as sirloin triangle tip, triangle steak and triangle roast, comes from the bottom sirloin (also called the sirloin butt or bottom butt). It has less marbling than a top sirloin, but has a good flavor.
Previously, it was the cut that the butcher kept for himself. On cattle drives, the trail bosses had first priority on the skirts. It is the cut of choice for making fajitas (which means “little belts” or “sash” in Spanish), grilled strips of meat rolled into a tortilla. Skirts can also be used for London broil. Skirt steaks are usually marinated and grilled over high heat. As with tougher cuts, skirt steak should be sliced across the grain.
See Swiss steak.
A method of tagging animals adopted by better producers, that allows the entire history of the cut of beef to be identified, from the birth of the animal, including its pedigree, to the time it is prepared, packaged and sold. This enables tracking in case of any concern, e.g. an animal-related disease or processing problem. Also called Complete Source Verification.
See rib-eye steak.
Not a cut but a method of preparation, beginning with rolling or pounding, and then braising. The name does not refer to Switzerland, but to the process of “swissing” fabric through rollers in order to soften it. Swiss steak is typically made from relatively tough cuts of meat, such as the round, which have been pounded with a tenderizing hammer, or run through a set of bladed rollers to produce cube steak (minute steak). The meat is then typically coated with flour and other seasonings and served with a thick gravy that can include onions, carrots and tomatoes. The dish is called smothered steak in England.