Here is a quick rundown of various cuts of popular barbecue beef and a great, simple guide to help you spend less time trying to understand what you should be buying and more time in front of your grill, flipping away.
This comes from the back leg. It is the least tender but marinating the top round before cooking helps somewhat. Slow or moist cooking methods such as stewing and braising are well represented by using top round. the term 'low and slow' are quite appropriate for this cut of meat
This is a tender cut from the lower torso and hip. In order of tenderness, the best-known sirloin steaks are; pin bone, flat bone, round bone and wedge bone. Quick cooking methods, such as grilling and broiling, as best suited for this cut.
This comes from the rib section and is very tender and naturally moist. As sirloins above, quick cooking is the best way of cooking. Try placing a peeled onion in the center of a large square of tin foil. Pour a mixture of 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1 teaspoon minced garlic in oil and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper over the top. Crease well and grill in your outdoor grill for 20 minutes over indirect heat. Carefully open and pour contents over your Rib-Eye.
This comes from center of the short loin, just behind the ribs. Very tender and flavorful with a distinctive T-shaped bone which separates the small tenderloin from the larger top loin. Treat as you would a sirloin when cooking.
This comes from the short loin behind the ribs and contains meat from both the tenderloin and top loin. Also contains a T-shaped bone but more tenderloin meat than the T-bone steak. One of the best-tasting and most expensive steaks on the market. Treat as you would a sirloin when cooking. My favorite way of serving porterhouse is simply broiling, or grilling, with blackened, grilled vegetables served with it. Plain and simple!
This oblong-shaped cut spans the shot loin and the sirloin and is found beneath the ribs, next to the backbone. From the butt end to the tail, this cut does very little work, therefore it is the most tender part of the beef. Cut into filet mignons, roasts and steaks, they are expensive but worth that special gift to oneself.
For those of you who want to know just a little more and want to cook like a true barbecue aficionado, here is some more info to get you going this summer.
The brisket comes from the breast or lower chest area of the cow. It is considered one of the primal cuts. The brisket supports more than 60 percent of the entire weight of the cow which, in turn, produces more connective tissue. This results in meat that must be cooked 'low and slow and over indirect heat. During this type of cooking, the collagen(the connective tissue)gelatinizes, resulting in superior meat that everyone raves about in all barbecues.
Short ribs is very popular among BBQ enthusiasts as well. They are larger and packs more meat than its' cousin, Pork Spare Ribs. A full slab of short ribs is about 10-12 inches in length and about 3-5 inches thick. With about 4-5 ribs, thicker on one end and gradually thinning to the opposite end, I prefer to cut the ribs separately in order to cook consistently tender ribs. Country-Style short ribs is a cheaper version, which I prefer. They are actually a cut from the chuck eye roll, so not technically 'short ribs', but none-the-less, a great alternative to true Short Ribs.
Spare ribs come in both beef and pork. They are the most inexpensive of cuts and and found in the lower portion, around the belly and breastbone. They have a meat covering on top as well as in between. They are more meatier than Back Ribs.
Beef Back Ribs are basically the bones removed from the prime rib and are found as the next day specials in restaurants who have had a prime rib special the previous night. They are delicious but very little meat for the price. The term 'baby' indicates that the cuts are from market-ready hogs(roughly 250-pounds) rather than adult 500-pound hogs. The two most popular cuts of spare ribs are the St. Louis style, which has the sternum bone, cartilage and rib tips removed. Kansas City style ribs are meatier, but fattier, than the St. Louis cut and also have the bone removed. I honestly believe, however, that the terms St. Louis and Kansas City predominantly refer to the cooking methods and barbecue sauce flavors involved in the actual cooking.
I need to address one question that seems to be asked over and over again. Do you remove the skin. barbecue experts the world over have their own way of addressing this question, with the outcome being about 50/50. I believe that removing the skin helps the smoke flavor penetrate evenly throughout any rib, but some barbecue champs say that this makes the rib fall apart too easily. Well, my answer to that is quite simple! that is exactly what i want. Certainly they fall apart more readily BUT they don't fall apart to the point that are unmanageable and they seldom separate while cooking. To skin your ribs, simply loosen one corner of it from the meat with a slender utensil(even a flat-head screwdriver men) and grab a hold of it with a paper towel. Yank it and peel it off in one continuous pull. Use a clean pair of pliers if it is too slippery. If you don't want to deal with this skin, any butcher in any supermarket will remove it for you.
A brief telling of grades.
A Prime grade designation is such that a particular cut of meat is from young, well-fed cattle and has a lot of marbling. This marbling ensures great tenderness and flavor.
A Choice grade is high quality as well but has less marbling than the Prime designation. These cuts are best braised, which is roasted in a small amount of liquid in a closed pan in a 'slow' oven.
The Select grade is much leaner than the previous two grades. Generally tender in its own right, but because of even less marbling it lacks the punch of flavor of Prime and Choice. Marinating is perfect for this grade before cooking.
Let me tell you something that I do quite frequently. Because I am a thrifty Yankee, I often purchase select grades of meat to cook outside. I just cook these steaks over indirect heat, low and slow. Once cooked through(this works only if you want your steaks well done)I move it over to the direct heat to give it that charred effect and taste.
Find some great outdoor recipes on my site, theyankeechef.com.