Chef Karen V. Davison's Guide to Beef Cuts

Texas Chef Karen Davison learned beef in the heart of meat country. In Texas, beef is one of the most important ingredients in a “well-balanced” meal. And while there are a million amazing ways to cut, cook, and eat all things beef, there are also ways to get it wrong.

To help professionals and amateurs alike, Davison breaks down all the key beef cuts, including those delectable parts of the cow that many overlook.


If the beef cut includes “loin” in the name, it’s usually a good cut, and most people have heard of it. There’s a reason for that — loin cuts are juicy and delicious.

Still, not every loin cut is the same, notes Karen V. Davison. Sirloin, for example, stands alone as a steak-lover’s favorite. It lies on the upper buttocks or lower back, depending upon how one defines their anatomy terms. The more prestigious sirloin cut is the top sirloin and this cut is the one that most expect when ordering sirloin from a respectable steakhouse.

But even the bottom sirloin is great when cooked well. The bottom cut is more commonly referred to as tri-tip and while it is in some ways the “poor man’s” sirloin, one can’t go wrong grilling it like flank steak.


According to Karen Davison, the cow’s chest serves some of the finest slow-cooked meat in North America. Brisket lies between the chuck and plate (hanger, skirt, etc.) and is a tough part of the cow until one smokes or slow cooks it.

Tenderloin and Short Loin

Another loin cut is the tenderloin, a small sliver of prime meat hugging the top sirloin. As the name implies, this cut is tender and highly sought after by big spenders. Tenderloin is also home to the filet mignon.

Not far behind in tenderness and popularity is the short loin, says Karen Davison. It’s from the short loin that steakhouses create some of the most delicious T-bone, Delmonico, and Porterhouse steaks.

Prime Rib

Rib cuts from the upper back contain high fat content, but the fat cooks nicely for a richer flavor and chewy texture. Ribeye steaks are among the more famous byproducts of prime rib meat.


Possibly the most well-known and universal beef cut is chuck. Beef enthusiasts get chuck from the shoulders and upper back of the cow. This muscle is best served as ground beef or pot roast.

Hanger Steak

Also known as the “butcher’s cut,” hanger steak is a small area of meat in the center of the cow. Butchers used to keep this part of the cow for themselves with the secret knowledge that it is one of the tastiest cuts. This cut is best for the grill and is generally low cost compared to many of the other primal cuts.

Final Thoughts from Karen V. Davison

Whether grilling, braising, or slow cooking beef, choosing a cut with the right fat content and quality is key. Examining texture and marbling can also help chefs know for sure that they are getting the right cut.