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We get a lot of questions about which cut is the best and why is this one more expensive than that one. So, what does makes one cut of beef special or more desirable than another? Is it the level of fat? The overall flavour profiles? The rarity of it?
What if I said “All of the above!”? Different cuts of beef are special for all of these reasons and some of the cuts have one of these and some have all three. Some cuts are more tender and don’t require a marinade to soften or improve the flavours in them. Some are less expensive but are best marinated. Then there are some cuts that make it into steak that, in our opinion, should never be used as steak. But there are also some very interesting cuts of beef that are much lesser known and are absolutely incredible in their own right!
One rule I was always taught was “the farthest point from the nose, tail and hooves is the best and most tender cuts of beef.” And I feel like this rings true in most cases. So, lets highlight a few!
This interactive beef diagram is courtesy of our friends at Canada Beef and can be found on their website at https://canadabeef.ca/carcass-connect/
The full muscle group is called a “Prime Cut” or “Primal”. But we’re going to drill down to a couple of the most common cuts that people enjoy from each primal. We can’t cover them all today but we’ll talk a little bit about the Rib, Loin and Flank and we’ll cover a few more in another Blog.
Rib – Our most common cuts from the Rib section are Bone-in Ribeye, Boneless Ribeye, Back Ribs and Prime Rib Roast. This cut is in the mid-section of the beef and is known for its robust flavour and great tenderness. This is why Prime Rib Roast and Rib Steaks are typically cooked to a Medium level.
At Craft Beef Co, we cut our Rib section into Boneless Ribeye. The Back Ribs are the bones that are cut off before the steak is sliced into its portion sizes. These are great in the smoker or BBQ due to the amount of intercostal meat between the bones. We also carry these in sections of about 3-4 bones, called “Prime Rib Bones”.
Our Wagyu Back Ribs are available as full racks. They have a good amount of beef on them and are not usually an easy product to find. Check out this video from The Canadian Beef Center Of Excellence to learn more about the Back Ribs!
The Boneless Ribeye steak is our top selling steak and it’s not a mystery why. These are excellent steaks. Personally, we like to BBQ them with a good layer of Himalayan pink salt. When we’re feeling fancy, we add a little pepper or garlic salt but they carry enough goodness all on their own that you don’t need to go crazy. You’ll have a great steak experience every time!
Because we have the steaks cut, we are be default choosing not to have Prime Rib Roast available. This is a bit of a sacrifice but many people looking for a roast that they can cook to approximately Medium also enjoy the Sirloin Tip Roast. It may also depend more on the time of year, as most people prefer the steaks to the roasts during the Summer and Fall. So, if you’re looking for a Prime Rib Roast, you may have trouble finding one in the Summer season.
Loin – Also called the “Strip loin”. Common cuts from this piece are the T-Bone Steak, New York Striploin Steak and Tenderloin Medallions.
A T-Bone steak is actually a Strip loin on one side and tenderloin on the other, with the “T” shaped bone running through the top and center. They are easily recognisable and one of our all-time favorites. The Tenderloin component can vary from steak to steak as the tenderloin tapers, so they aren’t always the same.
The New York Striploin is another top seller and easily recognizable by the white fat line that runs along its edge. This fat is easily cut off for those who don’t want to eat it. We also find that some folks don’t enjoy a Ribeye as much because of the fat content but they still want a great grilling steak with minimal work to do in advance of placing it on the BBQ. The New York Strip Steak is a fantastic option. They carry a lot of flavour and tenderness and never disappoint.
The Tenderloin is a relatively small part of the Primal and there is only one per animal. Also called the “Filet Mignon” it is commonly thought to be the most tender and valuable piece available. When cut into medallions, they are small but mighty! You also have no waste from a tenderloin as there is no tough material or heavy fat lines running through it. This muscle gets very little use on a beef animal, so it doesn’t develop much in the way of sinew or tough materials. It is usually known to flake apart when you pull at it with your fork and knife.
Steaks from the Loin are also typically cooked to a Medium level.
Flank– The Flank Primal includes both the Flank Steak and Skirt Steaks. These are much lesser known cuts but they have so many flexible cooking options that they have quickly become some of our favorite pieces! A nice bonus here is that despite the great quality, they are less expensive and we often feed 4 adults with a single Flank steak. Our Skirt steaks are cut into pieces that easily feed 2. If you’re looking to experiment or get a little creative in the kitchen, this is a cool place to start.
Flank Steak is a large, flatter piece that is oval in shape and typically tapers from being thicker on one end to a bit narrower on the other. Not to worry though! This also means that if you have people over with differing opinions of how well a steak should be done, the Flank is actually great! For example, if your temperature probe/thermometer reads the thick end as Medium or Medium Well, the thinner end will be well-done, appeasing both people. We love these for at-home Tapas Night! We simply remove it from the BBQ, let it rest and then slice against the grain on a cutting board. The cutting board is then set in the middle of the table to everyone to share. They are also great when sliced thinly and used for Fajitas or Stir-fry.
The Flank does have a coarse grain to it, so trim any silvery fat that you can, clean up the edges a bit and then score it on top in a diamond shape pattern. This will help a marinade to soak in and will contribute to a more tender texture and an overall better flavour.
Another idea is to flatten with a mallet at home (put a piece of plastic wrap over top to avoid splattering), add a stuffing of your choice, roll it and tie it up with butcher’s string or netting. The string will hold the pieces in place when you cut the roll into medallions. You can also leave it as a stuffed roast and cook it in your oven or pressure cooker. Either way, any of these techniques will make you look like a pro and variety is the spice of life, so make this cut fun and get creative!
The Skirt Steak is wonderful. It can be used in many of the same ways as the Flank Steak. It also has a coarse grain to it that makes it perfect for marinating. The full Skirt is approximately 2 lbs, so we have ours cut into a more usable size and they typically suit 2 people sharing. We have found the Skirt to be slightly more tender than the Flank but the difference is small since they are located right next to each other.
Hopefully, this adds some insight to a few of our most popular cuts. We will have another session covering more Primals soon, so stay tuned!
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From all of us at The Craft Beef Co, thanks for reading!
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