A Crash-Course in Beef Terminology

From dry-aging to deciphering from Chuck and Angus, here's our guide on beef buzzwords.


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So, you eat a lot of burgers. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make you an expert. Do you really know what dry-aging is? What about those Chuck, Prime, and Angus stickers on your ground-beef package? Don’t have cow; let us help! We asked Matt Campbell, owner and butcher at Campbell Meats in Dobbs Ferry, to give us a crash-course in the patois of patties.

80/20

The most common ratio of lean-to-fat for burgers and usually the “fattiest” blend available at grocery stores. Some consider a higher-fat ratio (70/30) ideal. Ask your butcher!

 

Angus

A Scottish breed introduced to the US in the late 1800s. Angus and Angus-Cross have become the most popular breed of beef cattle in the country, due mostly to their fast maturation, marbling, and yield.

 

Blend

Refers to the different cuts used in the ground beef and their relative proportions. The specific blend will affect the final flavor, texture, and fat content.

 

Dry-aged

Refers to beef allowed to age (usually 21 to 60 days) uncovered in a refrigerated room with good air circulation. Not to be confused with wet-aging or meats stored in a vacuum-sealed bag. Dry-aged meat will be more tender and intensely flavored.

 

Grass-fed

Means that the animal was allowed to graze year-round and fed supplemental hay in the winter months (its natural diet). Also important is that the animal was “grass-finished.” Some farmers feed the animals grain during the final week or so before slaughter to fatten them up. True grass-fed and finished beef is leaner than its grain-fed counterpart, but the meat is more flavorful.

 

Prime 

The highest (No. 1 of 8 possible USDA designations) for beef quality based on flavor and marbling. This grading process is done for beef carcasses sold on a large scale at auction. Most small farms will be ungraded (but still USDA-inspected for safety) due to the prohibitively high cost.

 

Wagyu

A Japanese breed known for its intense marbling. Not to be confused with American Wagyu, which is a cross of Wagyu and Angus. Its high-fat content makes it great for burgers, but it can be expensive.

 

 

Chuck

Is one of the 8 primal cuts of beef — basically the shoulder of the animal. Most ground beef sold comes from this cut because of its lean-to-fat ratio and relatively tough meat, which is unsuitable for sale as steaks. Cuts in the chuck include: flanken ribs, Denver steak, ranch steak, flatiron, blade steak, and petite filet.

 

Brisket

A cut located in the chuck primal, just above the front leg. Has an ideal ratio of lean-to-fat, making for a good burger.

 

Short Rib 

A cut usually used for braising located just below the rib-eye, very well marbled and flavorful.

 

Sirloin

Is a sub-primal located at the rear of the animal — basically the hip of the cow. Meat from this area is flavorful and relatively tender. Alone, it is too lean for burgers, so it is usually blended with fattier cuts. Steaks in the sirloin include: top sirloin, culotte, and tri-tip.

 

 

 

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