Beef is meat obtained from a bull, steer (castrated bull), or cow. Beef is one of the more common meats used in European and North American cuisine. Beef is an important part of Tex-Mex cuisine. Beef is also important in Argentina.
Beef is considered a red meat. Fat can be distributed outside the beef cuts, as well as within the muscle. Intramuscular fat distribution is called marbling, and it yields more tender beef after cooking.
The USDA beef rating system encourages beef with high amounts of intramuscular fat by giving high scores to highly-marbled beef. From least marbled to most marbled, the grades are: standard, select, choice, and prime. For example, the lean part of a 3 oz roasted eye of round with ¼ inch trim will have 3 g of fat if it is USDA Select, but 5 g of fat if it is USDA Choice. Subdivisions have recently been added; a "-" indicates a a cut with less marbling while a "+" indicates a more marbling. The letter grades refer to age of the animal, with "A" being for the youngest animals.
There are two primary beef production methods. In some parts of the world (e.g. Australia and South America), the beef cattle self-feed on grass and weeds while roaming around. This produces beef with the fat deposits on the outsides of the beef cuts where they can be removed before cooking.
In the USA and some other countries, 'feedlot' beef is much more common. These animals are confined to a small stockyard and fed primarily on grain. Feedlot animals produce beef which is tender, mild flavored, and marbled with large amounts of fat.
There is a special kind of beef produced in Japan called Kobe beef, which goes a step beyond feedlot production. Beef cattle of the Wagyu breed are hand-raised, fed on a diet of beer and the "highest" quality grain, and given regular massages. This produces super-tender beef. Kobe beef sells at a premium price because of the higher costs of feed and production. The meat has lots of fat, containing more unsaturated fat than most beef.
Cuts of BeefEdit
Beef is carved into several sections, called cuts, which can be further divided into steaks, pot roasts, short ribs, and ground into hamburger. Beef heart is somewhat springy. Other beef variety meats include the tongue, tripe from the stomach, various glands—particularly the pancreas and thyroid—referred to as sweetbreads, the brain, the liver, the kidneys, and the tender testicles of the bull commonly known as "calf fries", "prairie oysters", or "Rocky Mountain oysters."
Brisket is a tough cut from the chest of the animal. It is fatty and flavorful, and it is best suited for long slow cooking.
Chuck is derived from the shoulder. It is somewhat fatty and tough. Some smaller cuts from the chuck are flat-iron steak, stew meat, chuck roast, chuck short ribs, and top blade steaks. It is also often used for ground beef.
Flank cuts are tough with a low fat content. It is suitable for braising. Cuts from the flank include flank steak and london broil. It is often recommended to cut flank across the grain to avoid excess chewiness.
The loin is a very tender cut of beef near the rear of the animal. The short loin is the most tender, and yields smaller cuts including tenderloin, filet mignon, strip steak and roast, T-bone steak, and porterhouse steak. The sirloin is slightly less tender than the loin and yields sirloin steak, tri-tip, ball tip, and sirloin flap, among others.
The plate comes from the abdomen. Its smaller cuts include skirt steak and short ribs.
Rib cuts are generally tender cuts from the middle of the animal, which often feature marbling. They include short ribs, rib-eye steak, rib-eye roast, cowboy steak, and back ribs.
The round is generally lean, tough, and inexpensive. It yields various roasts and some round steaks.
The shank comes from the leg of the animal. It is very tough and requires slow cooking.
Several Asian and European nationalities include the blood in their cuisine -- the British use it to make "black pudding", and Filipinos use it to make a stew called dinuguan. Other beef foods include the tongue, which is usually sliced for sandwiches; tripe from the stomach; the thymus glands of calves known as sweetbread; the tender testicles of the bull, commonly known as beef balls; the brain, used in the fried brain sandwich; the liver, used in liver and onions; and so on.