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There’s no doubt that one of the key factors in a deliciously tender steak is the level of fat marbling throughout it. And if you are looking for one of the highest levels of marbling that you can get, Japanese Wagyu beef is definitely a great option.

As we’ve detailed in our in-depth article on Wagyu beef, cuts from these premium cattle are often found in Michelin Star-quality restaurants or in the smokers of some of the top BBQ pitmasters in the game. Fans of Wagyu beef rave that it is the best-tasting and most tender cut of beef you’ll ever taste.

In discussions about Wagyu beef, you may have also heard or seen the terms “Kobe beef” or “Ozaki beef”. These terms are often used interchangeably (especially Wagyu and Kobe) and, understandably, can cause some confusion. So, in this article, we’ve broken down Wagyu beef vs Kobe vs Ozaki beef to explain the differences and try to clear things up.  

 

What Japanese Wagyu Beef Is

In comparing these three types of beef, we’ll start by quickly summarizing what Wagyu beef is exactly. True Japanese Wagyu comes from a specific breed of Japanese cattle that have special genetic features. Due to a genetic predisposition, these cattle metabolize fat internally, so the fat integrates with the muscle tissue itself. This leads to an extremely high level of fat marbling and a finer meat texture. Specific breeding conditions and a special diet also aid in the characteristic marbling that Wagyu beef is so known for.

So, true Japanese Wagyu beef offers a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and an unmatched taste exploding with umami. No other type of livestock does this the way these specific cattle do. So, even if they are raised in the same conditions as Wagyu cattle by award-winning Wagyu cattle farmers, no other breed of cattle will produce Wagyu beef.

 

Wagyu vs Kobe Beef

wagyu beef vs kobe beef | kobe beef vs wagyu | what is kobe beef

 

The next common question is what is Kobe beef versus Wagyu beef? Kobe is actually one specific type of Japanese Wagyu beef. It originates from the Tajima strain of Japanese Black cattle, raised in the capital city of Japan's Hyōgo Prefecture, Kobe. So, all Kobe beef is Japanese Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe. There are a few other stipulations for the meat to be considered actual Kobe beef. 

First, the cattle must meet strict grading requirements and are fed to a minimum of 26 months. Furthermore, 499.9 kilograms of beef production cannot be exceeded per one individual Tajima cow. Also, the meat has to be rated an A4 or A5 on the Wagyu Beef Grading Scale

Finally, everyone who has a hand in the production of the meat, from the farm to the restaurant it is being served in, has to be licensed and/or certified by the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association. When you are purchasing Kobe beef to cook yourself, genuine Kobe Beef will always have a Japanese Chrysanthemum logo on the branding and packaging.

If you are in a restaurant and see American Kobe on the menu, don’t fall for the marketing gimmick! As you can see now, true Kobe is not able to be produced in the U.S. So, American Kobe beef does not actually exist. 

There are currently only 37 restaurants in the US that are certified and sell imported, authentic Japanese Kobe beef.

 

Kobe Beef Taste and Texture Characteristics:

While Kobe beef definitely has the tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture that regular Japanese A5 Wagyu does, it does have a deliciously unique flavor profile. More specifically, Kobe has a creamier taste and texture in the mouth compared to “regular” A5 Japanese Wagyu. 

As far as the exterior appearance, Kobe usually has extremely wide veins of intermuscular fat (aka marbling) running through the meat. Many people agree that Kobe beef takes Japanese Wagyu to an even higher and more delicious level.

 

So Then What is Ozaki Beef?

ozaki beef vs kobe beef | kobe beef vs ozaki beef | what is ozaki beef

 

Similarly to Kobe beef, Ozaki beef is a specific type of Japanese Wagyu beef. But, it does have its differences compared to Kobe beef.

Considered the premium upgrade on regular Wagyu, Ozaki beef comes from the Kuroge Washu genotype of Japanese Black cattle that are located on one single farm in Japan’s Miyazaki prefecture that is run by Mr. Muhenaru Ozaki. He is the only Japanese cattle farmer that is allowed to use his own name when marketing his beef.

This unique beef has acquired the nickname “the phantom of Wagyu”, largely due to the fact that Mr. Ozaki only produces 30 cattle a month (very low compared to the average Japanese Wagyu farm). 

Much of the secret of the premier qualities of the meat lies in the cattle’s diet, which Mr. Ozaki perfected over almost two decades. The cattle feed production process is a labor-intensive two hour process that happens daily. The feed contains up to 15 different ingredients, including seaweed and algae, and is free of antibiotics or preservatives. Several of the ingredients help stimulate more blood circulation in the cattle. 

Apart from the diet, the Ozaki cattle are matured 4 to 8 months longer than regular Japanese Wagyu cattle, allowing them to age to between 29 and 36 months. Mr. Ozaki believes that the flavor of the meat in these cattle only gets better with age.

As the nickname implies, compared to other types of Japanese Wagyu, Ozaki beef is harder to find but extremely worth the hunt for it.

 

Ozaki Beef Taste and Texture Characteristics:

The flavor profile of Ozaki is savory and complex, while offering the perfect level of umami that Japanese Wagyu is famous for. But what sets Ozaki beef apart is what happens during the aftertaste. You’ll enjoy subtle hints of sweetness as the meat’s flavor evolves in your mouth. Don’t worry though, it’s not an overpowering sweetness and offers just a gentle hint that gives Ozaki beef an extra layer on an already outstanding flavor profile.

Regarding the texture, you can expect a fantastic melt-in-your-mouth feel just like regular A5 Japanese Wagyu. But Ozaki takes it to another level. The fat melts in your mouth quickly and is easily digested. Allowing you to eat a whole cut of the beef without being overpowered by richness.

 

Discover Your Favorite Type of Japanese Wagyu Beef Today!

Choosing the best between these three options for Japanese beef will really come down to your personal tasting preferences. As you can see, all three are going to offer a delicious, tender bite. So, if you have the opportunity, try regular Japanese A5 Wagyu, Kobe beef, and Ozaki separately and discover which one is your favorite.

If you want to give it a go with cooking this delectable beef yourself, there are some great high-quality online wholesalers you can order from. Specifically, The Wagyu Shop, Holy Grail Steak Co., and Crowd Cow. Then you can enjoy authentic Japanese Wagyu beef that is shipped straight to your front door.

Have you recently tried Wagyu beef for the first time? Do you have a favorite type of Wagyu beef? Leave a comment below and tell us about it, we want to hear from you!

 

If you’re ready to grill a Kobe steak or smoke a Wagyu brisket like the pros, check out the one-of-a-kind online grilling classes and online BBQ pitmaster classes taught by Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. You’ll learn everything you need to know to cook a perfect cut of Wagyu beef.

Make sure to also subscribe to our BBQ Champs Academy  YouTube channel to stay on top of all the latest insider tips and BBQ info straight from the pros.

Even though you may have never tasted it before now, bison meat has been a big part of North Americans’ diets since before European settlement. After going nearly extinct in the 1890s due to overhunting, bison meat has been steadily making a comeback over the last several decades. This is due to the efforts of forward-thinking and health-conscious ranchers and farmers.

If you are considering trying bison out on your grill or smoker, you absolutely should! But, you may have questions about this meat. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Here is everything you need to know about bison meat including its taste, health benefits, and tips on how to cook it properly.

 

Are Bison and Buffalo the Same Thing?

If you are asking yourself this, you are definitely not alone. This is a very common question. Bison meat and buffalo meat are frequently confused for each other and referred to as the same thing, but NO, technically it is not the same.

The North American bison that today’s meat comes from is a totally different animal from a true buffalo. Both are part of the Bovidae family of animals, but bison are native to North America and Europe, while true buffalo (Cape buffalo and water buffalo) are native to Africa and Asia.

 

What Does Bison Taste Like?

As another type of red meat, bison does have some similarities to good quality beef in its taste, texture, and the most commonly used methods to prepare and cook it.

But, bison is leaner, darker in coloring, and has a richer flavor profile compared to beef. Unlike other exotic animals, the naturally-flavorful bison meat does not have a strong "gamey" or wild taste to it. It is actually often considered to have a slightly sweeter flavor profile compared to beef.

As a very tender and naturally flavorful meat, bison is interchangeable in just about any red meat recipe.

 

bison steak | bison meat | how to cook bison

 

Health Benefits of Bison Meat

Compared to other options, bison is one of the healthiest meats you can eat. It is a fantastic source of protein while also being low in saturated fat and relatively low in calories. Thus, making it a great option for those on a heart-healthy diet or who are looking to follow a more primal way of eating.

As recapped by Healthline, bison meat is also an excellent source of iron, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and zinc. 

Here’s a more in-depth breakdown to put the health benefits of bison meat in perspective. A 4-oz serving of bison has:

  • 124 calories
  • 17 grams of protein
  • Less than 1 gram of carbohydrates
  • 6 grams of fat
  • 2.5 grams of saturated fat

 

That 4-oz serving also includes:

  • 13% of the Daily Value (DV) of Iron
  • 68% of the DV of Vitamin B12
  • 19% of the DV of Vitamin B6
  • 28% of the DV of Niacin (vitamin B3)
  • 31% of the DV of Selenium
  • 35% of the DV of Zinc

 

The Differences Between Bison and Beef

The biggest difference between bison and beef is that bison is significantly leaner. With less fat marbling running throughout bison meat, it does make it healthier and lower in calories, but that also means that it will be slightly harder to cook with. Bison takes a little bit more care and attention than beef does to ensure that it does not overcook.

Another difference is in the price of the meat. Bison will be more expensive than beef due to the difference in supply and demand, with not as many bison as cattle. Farmed beef is less expensive due to the amount of large-scale cattle farming across the country. In many cases, grass-fed bison is going to be more costly than grass-fed beef, though this can vary based on demographic area.

Compared to bison, beef is also more easily available for purchase. Not all grocery stores will sell bison. But, there are still plenty of places you can buy good-quality bison, it might just take a little more conscious effort than you are used to for beef. (See more on buying bison below.) 

Even though bison meat may cost more and take a little more effort, the taste and health benefits of the meat are worth it.

 

bison vs beef | bison meat | differences between bison and beef

 

Tips For Cooking Bison Perfectly on the Grill

    • Let the meat sit at cool room temperature first: For best results, you don’t want to immediately pull the meat out of the fridge and put it on the grill. Take the meat out of the refrigerator and let it sit out at cool room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes before cooking it.

 

    • Bison will cook faster than beef: As a leaner meat, you can expect bison to cook roughly 1/3 faster than beef. So, it is critical to keep an eye on it and monitor the internal meat temperature with a digital thermometer to avoid overcooking it.

 

    • Use plenty of oil on the grill grates: Lean meats do tend to stick to the grill grates more easily. So make sure that your grates have a good layer of high-heat cooking oil before the meat goes on.

 

    • Keep the seasoning simple: One of the best things about bison meat is its flavor. So don’t go crazy with the seasoning you use and overpower the natural flavor.

 

    • Choose the right flavors for marinades and sauces: If you decide to use a marinade for your thinner cuts of bison, or if you want to serve it with a sauce on the side, choose stronger flavors that will stand up to the robustness of the meat. For example, ones with wine (especially port wine), garlic, mushroom, or even whiskey will complement the flavor of bison nicely. Bison also naturally pairs well with red berries. So those can be incorporated into a sauce as well.

 

    • Cook over medium heat for bison burgers: To avoid overcooking ground bison burgers, grill them over medium heat versus medium-high like you would for ground beef burgers.

 

bison burgers | bison meat | how to cook bison
Source: Beck & Bulow

 

    • Cook bison roasts and steaks low and slow: Your smoker or grill should be at 250°F and if you are using a charcoal grill, it should be set up for two-zone indirect cooking. You want to slow cook/smoke bison roasts or thick-cut steaks until they reach 120-130°F internal, about 10° below your desired temperature. Then, they’ll come off the cooker to rest. For steaks, you can also use a reverse sear method. With this, you slow cook them until they are at about 120°F internal temperature and then quickly sear the exterior over high heat before pulling them off to rest.

 

    • Medium-rare internal temperature is best: Because bison is such a lean meat, you’ll get the best results when it is cooked to medium-rare (130 to 135°F). You could go to medium temperature (135 to 140°F) if you really want to, but when it is cooked beyond that it will quickly become dry and chewy.

 

    • Pull the meat off the cooker slightly before it reaches the desired temperature: Remember, the meat will still rise in internal temperature a few more degrees while it rests. So, make sure to pull the bison off of the heat when it is about 10 degrees below your desired temp to accommodate for this.

 

    • Let the meat rest before serving: Letting the meat rest before you cut and serve it will give the internal juices a chance to reabsorb back into the fibers of the meat. Keeping it more tender and juicy. After the bison comes off your grill, cover it with butcher paper or foil. Let steaks and thick burgers rest for 10 minutes and roasts rest for 20 minutes. For roasts, it is also helpful to not only wrap it in butcher paper but also a kitchen towel and place it in a dry cooler to keep it warm while resting.

 

Where to Buy Bison Meat

Ideally, the best place to try and buy bison meat is in your area at your local butcher shop. If for some reason you don’t see bison in the cold case, don’t be afraid to ask the butcher. They will be happy to help and will more than likely have a good local source they can get bison meat from. In these cases, you will be supporting local ranchers, farmers, and butchers with your purchase— as well as reducing the environmental impact of your food choices.

 

buying bison meat at butcher | bison meat | where to buy bison

 

If you don’t have any local options or would prefer to buy meat online, there are plenty of good options. The internet has given ranchers and farmers a wide-reaching platform to sell their high-quality bison products.

Here are a few good options to check out:

  • The Honest Bison - This conscious company only sources and provides naturally raised and minimally processed meats. They also have a wide range of different cuts of bison available. The Honest Bison is a great choice if you are looking for total transparency in all of their practices as well as their grazing partners.
  • Crowd Cow - Crowd Cow is one of the top online meat suppliers for all kinds of different meats, including bison, at excellent prices. They work directly with farmers and ranchers that they have a personal relationship with to provide humanely raised meat that has exceptional quality and taste.
  • Fossil Farms - Along with a wide range of other exotic meats, Fossil Farms offers a huge array of cuts and preparations for top-quality bison meat. They guarantee that their pasture-raised bison are never administered steroids, hormones, or antibiotics.
  • North Star Bison - If you want to go all in on trying bison, check out this huge sampler pack from North Star Bison. This is an easy and entertaining way to familiarize yourself with bison meat and the different cuts available. The box comes with 8 different cuts of bison and is an affordable way to try bison in place of beef in a bunch of your favorite recipes.

 

Try Bison Meat on Your Grill or Smoker Today!

Bison makes for a delicious and healthy alternative to fattier beef cuts for your grill or smoker. Find your source for high-quality bison today and try a couple of different cuts to pinpoint your favorite. By following the tips we covered above, you’ll be well on your way to cooking it perfectly every time!

Have you recently tried bison for the first time? Or do you know of some other good tips to add to what we covered above? Leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!

 

If you want to level up your backyard cooking skills like never before and learn how to cook a variety of different things perfectly, join the BBQ Champs Academy Championship Backyard Cooking Classes today! Taught by Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters, these in-depth online BBQ cooking classes will show you step-by-step how to cook 20 delicious grilled or smoked recipes!

And if you want to dive into the world of competition-caliber smoking and grilling, make sure to grab the BBQ Champs Academy All-Access pass today! These online BBQ classes, taught by the Champion Grillmasters and BBQ Pitmasters, are unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else and will show you exactly how to master four different cuts of meat in your smoker or grill. You’ll also get all the insider cooking secrets and tips straight from the pros.

Make sure to also subscribe to the BBQ Champs YouTube channel today! You don’t want to miss out on any of the insider info or latest competition BBQ news!

On average, a full-sized steer will yield approximately 490 pounds of “retail” cuts. When you think about it, that’s a whole lot of meat. And that meat will be cut into a variety of different cuts, all dramatically different from each other. 

Chances are, you can probably think of the names of a bunch of beef cuts off the top of your head. But, two things that aren’t as widely known are the primal cuts of beef and the sub primal cuts. More specifically, exactly what they are.

Ready for quick beef cuts 101? In this guide, we’ve broken down exactly what the primal and sub primal cuts of beef are:

 

The Beef Primal Cuts

The term “primal cut” refers to a piece of meat that is one of the first to be removed from the carcass of an animal during the process of butchering it. These cuts of meat are very large compared to what we’re used to seeing sold in the store. 

When it comes to a cow, there are 8 primal cuts of beef. Starting from the front and working to the back, these cuts are:

Chuck

The chuck comes from the forequarter of the cow, which consists of the front chest area up through the shoulder and part of the neck.

 

Brisket

The brisket cut is taken from the front breastbone part of the cow, below the chuck. This is the only primal cut that is often sold as the whole cut, which is known as a full packer brisket. Though you can still buy it in its smaller sub primal cuts as well (see below).

 

Rib

The rib primal cut consists of the upper part of the 6th through 12th ribs, located at the central back area of the cow.

 

Plate

Also known as the short plate, the plate cut is located on the underbelly of the cow directly below the rib cut and in front of the flank cut. 

 

Loin

The loin cut also comes from the top of the cow but more towards the lower back area, just behind the rib cut. The meat in this area is extremely tender and marbled and is where some of the highest-quality sub primal cuts of beef come from.

 

Flank

The flank primal cut is a boneless cut of meat located at the underbelly of the cow, below the loin.

 

Round

Taken from the back end of the cow, the round cut consists of the rump and upper part of the hind legs.

 

Shank

The shank cut is the upper part of the cow’s legs. So, four total shanks come from a cow: two taken from the front legs below the brisket and two taken from the back legs below the round.

 

The Beef Sub Primal Cuts

When the large primal cuts are then cut into smaller pieces, these are what are known as sub primal cuts, aka secondary cuts. So, those 8 primal cuts from above become many more different cuts.

 

sub primal cuts of beef | beef sub primal cuts | beef cuts

 

Most of the cuts of meat you buy at the grocery store or your local butcher shop are going to be sub primal cuts of beef. They may even be sub primal cuts that are cut down into smaller individual portioned cuts.

The sub primal cuts that come from each primal cut are:

Chuck Sub Primal Cuts

  • Top blade
  • Bottom blade (aka under blade)
  • Chuck steak
  • Chuck eye roast (aka chuck roll)
  • Shoulder clod roast

 

Brisket Sub Primal Cuts

  • Brisket flat
  • Brisket point

 

Rib Sub Primal Cuts

 

Plate Sub Primal Cuts

 

Loin Sub Primal Cuts

  • Tenderloin
  • Filet mignon
  • Chateaubriand
  • Porterhouse
  • Strip loin
  • New York strip
  • Sirloin cap
  • Strip petite roast
  • Strip steak
  • Tri-tip
  • Short loin
  • T-bone steak

 

Flank Sub Primal Cuts

  • Flank steak (aka London broil, jiffy steak, or plank steak)

 

Round Sub Primal Cuts

  • Bottom round
  • Top round (aka inside round)
  • Eye of round
  • Heel of round
  • Sirloin Tip roast (aka knuckle)

 

Shank Sub Primal Cuts

  • Shank cross-cut

 

Ground beef can come from a variety of different prime cuts, with the most popular being ground chuck. But other sources that are often available include the plate, flank, and shank.

As you can see, there is a huge array of different cuts of beef. But it all starts with the primal cuts. Even though all of these beef cuts come from the same cow, they can differ dramatically in their fat content, leanness, bones (or not), etc. Hopefully, this article has helped make the terms “primal cuts” and “sub primal cuts” more clear and you have at least a little better understanding of the dizzying variety of cuts available at the store. 

Make sure to also check out our article on how to buy great beef to know exactly what to look for when selecting your cuts.

What primal section do most of your favorite beef cuts come from? Have you broken down a whole primal cut yourself? Leave a comment below and tell us about it!

 

Do you want to elevate your backyard cooking skills and learn how to perfectly cook a variety of different things including prime rib, tri-tip, and beef ribs? Grab your access to the BBQ Champs Academy Championship Backyard Cooking Classes today! Taught by Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters, these video classes will show you step-by-step exactly how to cook 20 delicious smoked or grilled recipes!

And if you want to take it up a notch into BBQ competition-level smoking and grilling, make sure to grab your All-Access pass today! These in-depth online BBQ classes, taught by the Champion Grillmasters and BBQ Pitmasters, will show you exactly how to master several different cuts of meat in your smoker or grill. You’ll get all the insider cooking secrets like nowhere else!

Also, make sure to subscribe to the BBQ Champs YouTube channel today so you don’t miss any of the latest competition BBQ news and insider info, straight from the pros!

If you are looking for a cut of beef that is easy to cook quickly (compared to other cuts), is a lean cut, is an economical choice, and is still large enough to feed a few people, flank steak checks all those boxes. This cut offers a big flavor that will make for a delicious option on your grill. 

In this article, we’ve broken down what you need to know about flank steak, including what exactly it is, how it’s different from another similar cut, the best way to cook it, and some tips on how to cook it perfectly. 

 

What is Flank Steak Exactly?

Chances are, you’ve probably eaten flank steak before, and you may not have even known that you did. So, if you are wondering, where does flank steak come from, you are definitely not alone.

Flank steak, sometimes also referred to as London broil or jiffy steak, is an abdominal cut that comes from the lower stomach part of the steer, directly below the loin. Because of its location, it contains a lot of strong muscle fibers and is a very lean cut compared to other steak cuts. If not prepared properly it can end up being a very tough piece of meat. But, when it’s cooked and sliced right, it can still be very tender and is an extremely flavorful cut exploding with delicious beefiness.

 

Flank Steak vs Skirt Steak: The Differences

flank steak | what is flank steak | flank steak vs skirt steak

 

One common misconception is that flank steak and skirt steak is the same thing. Yes, they are both flat, long cuts that come from the underside of the steer. And they are also often used interchangeably in recipes. But, they are two different cuts and have several differences that impact their proper preparation. These differences include:

  • The main difference between flank steak and skirt steak is exactly which part of the cow they come from. As we mentioned above, the flank comes from just below the loin, while the skirt steak comes from closer to the front in the diaphragm area of the cow.
  • The flank steak is a wider, thicker, and heavier cut compared to a skirt steak. In fact, the flank is often sold as one whole muscle and can weigh up to 2 lbs. This makes it a great option to feed a larger crowd.
  • Because it is a thicker cut, a flank steak does take a little bit longer to cook than a skirt steak does.
  • Flank steak has less fat marbling compared to a skirt steak, so it can’t be slow-cooked and braised like a skirt steak can.
  • Both cuts contain a good amount of tough muscle fibers. But the grain structure in a flank steak is more tightly woven compared to the skirt steak, which has a more fibrous but less dense grain structure.
  • Those coarser muscle fibers in the skirt steak do give it an even stronger, beefier flavor compared to a flank steak. Though the flank steak still has a richer flavor than other beef cuts.

 

Best Way to Cook Flank Steak on the Grill

Low and slow cooking with indirect heat is not recommended for cooking a flank steak on the grill. Because a flank steak is a leaner cut of meat with a tougher exterior and lots of muscle fibers, it is best cooked quickly over medium-high heat (400° to 450°F) on your grill. You can cook it directly on the grates to get some beautiful grill marks or it can be cooked and seared in a cast-iron skillet on the grill.

flank steak on grill | what is flank steak | best way to cook flank steak

 

A flank steak should only be cooked to medium-rare to prevent it from overcooking and becoming tough and dry. Make sure to keep a close eye on it as you’re cooking and have your digital meat thermometer on hand so you know when the internal temperature of the meat has reached 130°F. This is just below the temperature of medium-rare, which it will reach as it is resting.

When you are ready to serve the steak, it should also be sliced against the grain into pencil-thin strips to maximize tenderness.

 

Pro Tips on Cooking a Flank Steak Perfectly:

Yes, in general, grilling a flank steak is pretty straightforward. But, there are some pro tips you can follow to ensure you end up with a great result every time:

  • When you are ready to cook, take the cold steak straight from the refrigerator and put it on the hot grill. Doing this will help ensure that the inside of your steak stays medium-rare while the outside cooks faster.
  • A flank steak only needs to be grilled at high heat for about 5 minutes per side to reach medium-rare internal temperature. (Unless it is stuffed and rolled–see more on this below.)
  • Marinating can help tenderize the steak. For the best result with a flank steak, it should soak in a marinade for up to six hours but not longer than overnight. But if you are in a hurry, using a high acidic marinade for an hour or two can still make a good difference.
  • Once the steak is done cooking and you’ve removed it from the grill, let it rest for 5-10 minutes before you slice it. This allows for carryover cooking to get the steak up a couple more degrees to medium-rare (130°F). It also allows the internal juices to soak back into the meat, helping to make it juicy and tender.

 

Marinade for Flank Steak

flank steak | marinade for flank steak | flank steak on grill
Source: Weber Grills

 

Flank steak takes well to marinades because of its thinness. Acidic marinades can also help ensure you end up with a tender final result when the steak is done cooking. Of course, there are a variety of different flavors/ingredients that you could combine into a marinade to help enhance the flavor of your flank steak. But, if you are looking for a place to start, check out this flank steak marinade recipe from Weber Grills:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves minced or pushed through a press
  • 1½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

Place the above marinade ingredients in a small bowl and whisk them together to mix thoroughly. Then simply place the steak in a large baking dish and pour the marinade over it, flipping the steak to thoroughly coat it. Then let it marinate for at least 1 hour, turning once or twice during that time. The flavors in this marinade pair very well with caramelized shallots topping the steak.

 

Try a Stuffed Flank Steak

Another great way to prepare/cook a flank steak on the grill is to stuff it and roll it. This method has been growing in popularity, with a huge variety of creative stuffing ideas that help accentuate the delicious beefy flavor of the meat.

Check out this recipe from Traeger grills which uses a delicious combination of prosciutto, rich goat cheese, and roasted red peppers stuffed into a perfectly seasoned flank steak.

 

You Can Cook a Great Flank Steak Today!

Flank steak is one of the lesser known and lesser used cuts compared to other steaks. But, if you haven’t tried it before, you are definitely missing out. This cut makes for a great lean and affordable option that is packed with delicious beefy flavor. Follow the tips we covered above and you can cook a great flank steak today!

Are you going to cook a flank steak for the first time? Or do you have experience with flank steaks and have a favorite recipe or marinade? Leave a comment below and tell us about it. We want to hear from you!

 

Are you ready to really elevate your backyard cooking skills? Join the BBQ Champs Academy Championship Backyard Cooking Classes today! These step-by-step classes, taught by Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters, will show you exactly how to cook 20 delicious smoked or grilled recipes!

And if you want to really dig into competition-caliber smoking and grilling, make sure to grab your BBQ cooking school All-Access pass today! In these tell-all online BBQ classes, you’ll learn straight from the Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters exactly how to master several different cuts of meat in your smoker or grill. You’ll get all the in-depth insider cooking secrets like nowhere else!

Also, if you want to stay on top of all the latest competition BBQ news and insider info, straight from the pros, make sure to subscribe to the BBQ Champs YouTube channel today!

As we’ve mentioned before, starting with a good cut of meat is a critical part of ensuring a delicious final result. Knowing exactly how to pick out your meat is just as important as knowing how to properly cook it. Now when we say “good”, that can mean a variety of things (good quality, good marbling, etc.), especially depending on the specific type of meat.

So, if you are going to smoke a pork butt, there are some specific things you should look for when it comes to pork butt selection. We’ve put them all together in this handy article that breaks down exactly how to pick a good pork butt cut.

 

First, What is the Pork Butt Cut Exactly?

Before you start looking at selecting your pork butt, it’s important to understand exactly what a pork butt cut is. Contrary to what its name implies, pork butt actually does not come from the hog’s rear—it is one of the two sub-primal cuts from the shoulder. The pork butt is taken from the upper portion of the hog’s front shoulder and sits above the pork shoulder cut.

The word “butt” in “pork butt” refers to the containers that cheap pork cuts were packed in for shipment or storage in the 1700s.

A whole pork butt weighs between 6 and 10 pounds and is a rectangular-shaped roast cut. It is available bone-in (with the shoulder joint bone) or boneless. When sold boneless, the whole pork butt roast is often cut into half portions.

Pork butt does have several alternate names that you may hear, including:

  • Boston butt
  • Boston roast
  • Boston shoulder roast
  • Shoulder butt
  • Shoulder blade roast

When buying a pork butt from a big box store, you may even see a combination of several of the above names on the label.

Check out our article on the differences between a pork butt and pork shoulder for more information on this particular cut and how it differs from the pork shoulder cut.

Now that you know where exactly on the hog a pork butt comes from, let’s dive into tips on how to pick a good pork butt to ensure you buy a good one for your cooking session.

 

pork butt | How to pick a good pork butt cut | Pork butt selection

 

Pork Butt Selection - What to Look For: 

 

Appearance (Specifically the Fat Marbling)

When picking out a pork butt, you want to make sure that the meat is bright red-pink and has a coarse grain. It should also have a firm, smooth, and bright white fat cap on the exterior. Avoid meat that has a pale color and/or dark spots in the fat. This indicates not-so-fresh meat.

A good pork butt will also have a good balance between muscle fibers and fat throughout the meat (aka “marbling”). You ideally want to get a pork butt that has a good amount of fat marbling in the muscle area farthest from the bone (known as “the money muscle” in this cut). But, steer clear of ones that have a ton of extra fat that will need to be trimmed off.

Also, if the pork butt has come sealed in Cryovac wrapping, it should be nice and tight on the meat. If it is loose and/or has air pockets, that means the meat has been sitting there for a while, has been exposed to air, and will not have as good a flavor.

 

Avoid Enhanced Pork Butt

Lots of supermarket pork butts are injected with an artificial solution of water, salt, sodium phosphate, and other ingredients to make the meat more moist. This is called enhanced meat. Enhanced meat can be identified by reading the fine print on the product label. Look for a phrase that tells the percentage of solution added to the meat and the what the solution ingredients are.

For a better flavor of the meat, you want to get non-enhanced pork. The label will sometimes say “all-natural” and/or “no added ingredients”. Keep in mind that some non-enhanced pork won’t say that on the label. But, if the meat IS enhanced, pork suppliers are required to state that on the label. 

If you want the best pork flavor, go for all-natural pork from smaller farms. This meat will usually be found at smaller, specialty grocery stores, your local butcher shop, or a high-quality online meat supplier.

If you have no choice but to buy enhanced meat, because the meat has been injected with a fair amount of salt, reduce the amount of salt that is in your rub so you don’t end up with an overly salty pork butt.

 

The Fresher the Better

This may be obvious, but fresher is always better when it comes to meat selection. So, you want to avoid a pork butt that’s been frozen for a while. You’ll get the best results from pork that has been recently cut. (Another reason to opt for your local butcher shop!)

 

Determine How Big a Pork Butt You Need

Whole, untrimmed pork butts can range from 6 to 10 pounds in size. The 6 to 8-pound range is usually what you’ll find pre-packaged in the store. But, there’s nothing wrong with going for a 10-pound butt if that is what you need based on the number of people you’ll be feeding. A 10-pound one will cook just as fine as a 6-pound one as long as it’s done properly and you are cooking to desired internal temperature.

When trying to determine how much pork butt per person you are feeding, generally speaking, for one serving you’ll need ⅔ lb of raw pork per adult and ½ lb per child. (FYI: Cooked pork weighs half as much as raw.)

 

How much pork butt per person | How to pick a good pork butt cut | Pork butt selection

 

Bone-In vs Boneless

You can smoke a good pork butt both ways, but if you can, you ideally want to get a pork butt that still has the shoulder bone in it. This may be harder to find unless you go to your local butcher’s shop. 

Leaving the bone in the pork chop will help hold the meat together nicely. Plus, the bone acts as a built-in meat thermometer. With a slight twist, the bone will easily slide out of the meat when it is done. You should still use a digital meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the meat though. 

Of course, you can still cook a delicious pork butt without the bone but, depending on the size, it may need to be tied with butcher’s twine to hold it together.

 

Where to Buy a Good Pork Butt

Short answer: Opt for your local butcher versus a big box store for better quality meat with more fat marbling.

In most cases, you can find pork butt (frequently labeled as Boston Butt) in your local grocery store or large wholesale/warehouse store. At the grocery store, it will usually be packaged as half of a whole pork butt and already come pre-trimmed with the entire fat cap removed. If you don’t want to bother with trimming the fat cap, then this is fine. But, when smoking a pork butt, you’ll usually get the best results if the fat cap is not totally removed but trimmed down to just ¼”.

At the warehouse stores, you’ll usually find pork butts vacuum sealed and sold two to a pack (with one slightly smaller than the other). They’ll also often have the fat cap still intact so you can trim it as desired at home.

But, with the grocery store and warehouse store pork butts that are Cryovac-wrapped, you don’t have a lot of opportunity to be selective in how fresh a cut you are getting, the level of marbling, etc. 

That is just one of the reasons that the best place to buy a great pork butt cut is from your local butcher shop. There, you’ll have the opportunity to talk to the butcher and find out exactly how long ago the pork was cut, where it came from, and more. The pork available at the butcher shop will also usually be more humanely raised and have a higher fat content, which equals more flavor. 

Don’t be afraid to ask the butcher for help. They’ll be happy to help ensure you get the best cut that fits your needs and budget.

 

pork butt selection at the butcher | how to pick a good pork butt cut

 

Start With a Good Pork Butt Cut to Get the Best Results Today!

As you can see, when it comes to how to pick a good pork butt, there are some specific things to keep in mind to ensure you have a head start on ending up with a delicious final result. It’s important to know exactly what to look for in pork butt selection so you walk out of the store with good-quality, fresh pork meat. The quality of the meat will make a huge difference in the taste of your smoked pork butt. 

With the information we covered above, you’ll be able to buy the best pork butt to cook today. And remember, don’t be afraid to talk to your local butcher. They’ll be happy to help and can point you to the best quality pork that meets all the criteria above.

Do you know of something else to look for when it comes to pork butt selection that we left out? Plan on smoking a pork butt this week? Leave a comment below and tell us about it. We want to hear from you!

 

Want to learn everything you need to know about how to smoke pork butt perfectly just like the professional competition pitmasters? In the online classes here at BBQ Champs Academy, you’ll learn the techniques step-by-step, along with the Pitmasters’ insider secrets, all in stunning high-def video.

Check out the individual pork butt class from your favorite Pitmaster or grab your All-Access Pass to learn how to cook four different cuts of meat (brisket, chicken, pork butt, and ribs)!

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There’s no doubt about it, beef roasts make some of the best cuts of meat to smoke low and slow. If you’re somewhat familiar with BBQ and smoking meat, the first beef cut that probably comes to mind is a brisket. This is one of the most popular beef cuts to smoke, especially when it comes to competition barbecue. Another popular option for holiday meals is prime rib. But, there are quite a few other delicious types of beef roasts as well. And some are much more affordable than you may think. 

With so many different beef roast cuts, it can be easy to get confused with the different options and where they’re cut from, etc. Plus, some cuts can go by several different names, making it even more confusing. But, we’ve got you covered!

In this article, we break down everything you need to know about the different kinds of beef roasts that are available, going from the front of the steer to the back. Plus, where the best place is to buy different types of beef roasts.

 

Beef Roast Cuts 101:

In general, roasts are cut from the steer's shoulder (aka chuck), chest, rib and loin areas, and butt and back leg (aka round).

Starting from the front of the steer and going to the rear, here is a breakdown of 12 of the different beef roast cuts you can find:

 

Clod Roast

(aka Arm Roast or Pot Roast) 

The clod roast (also commonly referred to as the arm roast) is cut from the front arm of the steer. It is leaner and usually a little less expensive than the more commonly known chuck roast. Because it is a tougher cut that comes from a more exercised part of the steer, this cut is best when slow-braised/smoked.

 

clod roast | types of beef roasts | beef roast cuts

 

Chuck Roast 

(aka Pot Roast or Chuck Roll) 

This affordable cut is taken from the shoulder, above the clod roast. Between those two cuts, the chuck roast will have a higher amount of fat marbling throughout it. This cut is often the ideal choice for cooking pot roast, whether that is in a slow-cooker or on your grill. (Yes, pot roast can be cooked on the grill!)

 

Brisket

(“Whole Packer Brisket” = The Whole Cut, Including the Flat & Point)

One of the most widely-known beef cuts, the brisket is a favorite for meat-smoking enthusiasts and those wanting to splurge on holidays for the family. The whole brisket is a primal cut, taken from the breast or lower chest of the steer, and includes the fatty point (aka the deckle) and the lean flat. As another heavily-exercised part of the animal, the brisket is best cooked slowly at lower temperatures.

When buying a brisket, make sure you specify if you want the whole packer. If you don’t, you may just end up with the flat.

 

Rib Roast 

(aka Prime Rib or Standing Rib Roast) 

More commonly referred to as the prime rib, the beef rib roast is arguably one of the kings of beef cuts. This cut is made up of the middle seven rib section of the steer and includes a delicious amount of fat marbling, making it a more tender option for beef roasts. 

The large end of the rib roast, which sits closer to the chuck is fattier, while the end of the rib roast closer to the steer’s back end (which connects to the strip loin) is leaner. Usually, one rib for every two people is enough meat, so when buying your rib roast, let your butcher know how many people you are wanting to feed and which end of the roast you prefer.

 

Strip Loin Roast

(aka Top Loin Roast)

Not to be confused with a top sirloin roast, the strip loin roast is the leaner cut taken from the same muscle as the rib roast but toward the steer’s rear end. Sometimes referred to as a top loin roast (hence the confusion), this is where bone-in Kansas City strip steaks and boneless New York strip steaks are cut from. But, when the strip loin roast is left whole, some argue it is the next best thing to a standing rib roast.

 

Tenderloin

Consisting of parts of the filet mignon, chateaubriand, porterhouse steaks, and T-bone steaks, the whole tenderloin is the most tender beef roast available. Cut from under the spine, along the animal's ribcage, it is tapered in shape with the middle being referred to as the "center cut." This roast, consisting of little-worked muscle, produces mild and extremely tender flavors. The labor that goes into trimming and tying a tenderloin, as well as the waste produced, is what also makes it one of the most expensive types of beef roasts.

 

tenderloin roast | types of beef roasts | different beef roast cuts
Source: Taste of Artisan

 

Top Sirloin Roast

(aka Top Butt) 

The top sirloin roast is a lean but flavorful cut taken from the hip bone. With a fair amount of fat marbling, it would not be considered an “economical” cut but is still more affordable than a tenderloin. This roast is extremely versatile and can be slow-roasted whole, cut into steaks and grilled, cooked in a stew, or stir-fried.

 

Tri-Tip Roast 

(aka Triangle Roast or Bottom Sirloin Roast)

This small triangular roast is taken from the bottom of the sirloin subprimal cut. With hearty beef flavor and a good amount of tender marbling, this roast started as a popular cut in the West and is growing in broader popularity. This cut is great for smoking, grilling, or roasting.

 

Top Round Roast

(aka Inside Round)

An economical cut that is taken from the inside of the animal's back leg, the top round roast is similar in fat and flavor to the top sirloin. This cut is what's typically used for deli roast beef, sliced thin against the grain. It is also a good option for braising in a slow cooker as a pot roast.

 

Bottom Round Roast

(aka Rolled Rump Roast)

The bottom round roast, another economical cut compared to other options, is cut from the outside muscles of the back leg (aka the “rump” area). This roast will have quite a bit more marbling compared to the top round. It is another good option to cook in a slow-cooker or as a pot roast on the grill. The bottom round can also be roasted, but if roasted for too long it can become chewy and tough.

 

bottom round roast | types of beef roasts | kinds of beef roast cuts
Source: ButcherBox

 

Eye of Round Roast

The eye of round is a circular, very lean roast cut from the elongated muscle located in the center of the bottom round section. Like other rump roast options, this cut offers the best results when roasted and thinly sliced.

 

Sirloin Tip Roast

(aka Round Tip Roast or Knuckle)

A budget cut that is taken from the steer’s front end of the rear leg, adjacent to the sirloin, the sirloin tip roast is very similar to the top sirloin roast. This roast is lean but flavorful. Like most lean beef cuts, it should be braised, stewed, or slowly roasted to break down any toughness of the meat. The sirloin tip roast can also be a great option for kebabs on the grill.

For reference in general, the more fat-marbled roasts will come from the parts of the steer that move the least (think tenderloin and rib roast). While the tougher roasts that take best to braising and slow-roasting will come from the areas that get the most exercise (like the round). These tougher cuts may not normally be considered “special-occasion” cuts but they can still be very delicious, while also being much more affordable.

 

Best Place to Find a Good Variety of Beef Roasts

You’ll usually be able to find several of the above beef roast cuts at your local supermarket, especially specialty markets. But, for the largest variety of options and the highest quality meat, head to your local butcher shop. Any good butcher shop will happily cut meat to order. Then you can specify exactly what roast you want, how big you want it, etc. And just by asking the butcher questions, you may even discover other options you never knew existed.

Keep in mind that you should bring your roast(s) home no more than 3-4 days before you plan on cooking it.

Do you have a favorite beef roast cut? Plan on cooking one of these cuts soon? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it. We want to hear from you!

 

Want to take your smoking and grilling skills (including with a beef brisket) to a whole new level? If so, join the Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy in their in-depth, step-by-step virtual barbecue cooking classes like you won’t find anywhere else! These first-of-their-kind classes will teach you competition-level barbecue cooking methods, give you insider tips, and much more. Grab your All-Access pass today and perfect your barbecue cooking in no time!

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Pork shoulder and pork butt are two different cuts of meat that are very commonly confused. Especially if you are not really familiar with the huge variety of available meat cuts. It also doesn’t help that “pork butt” is somewhat misleading in the name.

When it comes to pork shoulder vs pork butt, there are a lot of differences between the two. It’s important to understand what these are to ensure you get the cut that will give you the result you are looking for. 

In this article, we’ve broken down what exactly each of the cuts is, as well as the variety of differences between pork shoulder and pork butt.

 

What Is Pork Shoulder Exactly?

Both the pork shoulder and the pork butt come from the shoulder of the pig, but they are two different cuts entirely. Pork shoulder, sometimes also called a “picnic shoulder” or “picnic roast”, is the part of the primal cut that is taken from the lower shoulder, above the foreleg. The National Pork Board refers to this cut as “the top portion of the front leg of the hog.”

The meat of a pork shoulder cut, since this is a hardworking region of muscle, is fairly tough due to the high amounts of connective tissue. It is also somewhat dark in color due to a large amount of oxygen-storing myoglobin within this area. Even though this section is somewhat lean, it does have more fat compared to leaner cuts, like pork chops. So, when cooked properly, it can be a very delicious piece of meat.

 

What Is Pork Butt Exactly?

 

illustration of cuts | pork shoulder vs pork butt | pork shoulder vs boston butt
Source: Cook’s Illustrated

 

The term “pork butt” is somewhat deceiving since this cut isn’t from the rear of the pig at all. A pork butt, also sometimes referred to as a “Boston butt”, is cut from the upper portion of the pig’s front shoulder, above the pork shoulder cut. This is the cut that is used most often for barbecue pulled pork.

Pork butt is usually one of the relatively inexpensive cuts of meat and is one of the top options for slow smoking. This is because the pork butt contains a lot of connective tissue that needs to be broken down through smoking or braising at lower temperatures for an extended period. But it’s also an extremely fatty cut with lots of delicious fat marbling throughout, making it less prone to drying out compared to other cuts.

 

The Major Differences Between Pork Shoulder and Pork Butt

The pork shoulder and pork butt are sub-primal cuts that come from the whole front shoulder primal cut. But, these two cuts have very distinct differences.

It’s good to understand exactly what these differences in pork shoulder vs pork butt are. Then you can confidently buy the meat you need for the type of cooking you are doing, the texture and taste you are going for, and how you are wanting to serve it. 

Here is a breakdown of the key differences between pork shoulder and pork butt:

 

Shape of the Cut

Usually, butchers will cut a pork shoulder in a tapered, triangular shape and sell it with the skin still attached. If you get a boneless pork shoulder, it will typically be sold with  netting around it to hold it together. When you remove this netting, the meat will "unfold" into an uneven layer. 

Alternatively, a pork butt will be a uniform, rectangular-shaped piece of meat with the skin off. You can buy a pork butt either bone-in or without and it is often sold with the fat cap still intact.

Don’t be afraid to ask the butcher for exactly what you want/need (bone-in, deboned, fat cap trimmed away, etc.)

 

pork shoulder vs pork butt | pork shoulder vs boston butt | differences

 

Amount of Fat

Since it comes from more of the working muscle of the lower shoulder, pork shoulder usually has less fat and may be chewy or tough. Pork butt, on the other hand, is well-marbled with more intramuscular fat running throughout, yielding more tender and soft meat. 

 

Cost

In general, pork shoulder will usually be cheaper in comparison to pork butt. This is because pork butt is often a larger piece of meat. But, both cuts are considered economical cuts of meat compared to others.

If you’re not sure which cut you want to cook with between pork shoulder and pork butt, it can be helpful to consider how many people you are feeding and then factor in the price that way.

 

Cooking It / When to Use It

With pork butt, you’ll get the best results by either slowly smoking it or cooking it in a slow cooker. This allows the fat and connective tissues to break down and give you that deliciously moist and tender meat you’re going for. Pork butt is most often smoked and then used to make pulled pork dishes. But it is also very good when cooked in a slow-cooker to make things like Mexican-style carnitas dishes. 

 

cooking pork butt | pork shoulder vs pork butt | pork shoulder vs boston butt

 

Pork shoulder usually does better when cooked at slightly higher temperatures in less time. It is often roasted on the grill to enhance its natural flavors. Also, this cut is commonly cooked with the skin on to achieve a nice crispy exterior and then sliced when it’s done.

 

Taste

Fat equals flavor. So, due to pork butt having a higher fat content throughout, it often tends to be more flavorful than a pork shoulder. But, like with any meat, the flavor also largely depends on how you cook it. Different cooking methods and techniques can be used that all have a different effect on the flavor.

 

Storing the Meat

How you cook your pork shoulder or pork butt and what is done to it after it is cooked will determine how long it can be stored. There are big differences in this aspect when it comes to pork shoulder vs pork butt.

If you smoke the meat and leave it whole, it lasts a couple of days if stored properly in an airtight container and be fine. This prevents any moisture from getting in and ruining the meat’s structure.

But, if you plan on using your smoked pork butt for pulled pork, which means “pulling it” right after it is done cooking, then it is recommended to eat it within a day or so for best results. Pulled pork can become tasteless and dry very quickly if left out. If you are going to store some, make sure it is in an airtight container.

It is also important with either of these cuts, after they are done cooking, to make sure that they are completely cooled down before putting any of it in the fridge.

 

Either Choice in Pork Cuts Can Give You a Delicious Result

There’s no doubt that these two cuts are two of the most popular cuts of pork, can be used for a variety of different things, and are very often confused for each other. But now that you know the differences between pork shoulder and pork butt, you can make an informed decision on which piece is best for the cooking method you want to do and the result you want to achieve.

If you want to slow smoke a piece of pork and enjoy deliciously tender meat, go for the pork butt. If you want pork with crispy skin and a slightly tougher texture, grab a pork shoulder. Either way, when cooked properly, you can end up with a final result that you’ll be proud to show off.

Do you have a favorite between pork shoulder and pork butt? Have you recently cooked one or the other for the first time? Leave a comment below and tell us about it. We want to hear from you!

 

Want to learn how to smoke a perfect pork butt and other cuts of meat straight from Champion Pitmasters? Or learn how to grill a perfect thick-cut steak with the best Grillmasters? If so, check out our in-depth, first-of-their-kind virtual BBQ classes. You can learn all the competition-level smoking and grilling techniques as well as insider tips that’ll have you quickly showing off competitor-caliber barbecue. Grab your All-Access pass today!

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We’ve said it multiple times before, the fresher the meat you start with, the better the taste. This, of course, applies to chicken and other poultry as well. If you are headed to the store, knowing what to look for when buying chicken meat will help ensure you end up with fresh chicken and a great tasting final result. No matter if you are grilling chicken wings or smoking whole chicken.

But, it’s easy to start getting confused when you see labels that say cage-free, free-range, organic, etc. We’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know, straight from the BBQ pros:

 

How to Select Quality Chicken Meat:

Appearance & Lack of an Aroma

One immediate way to pinpoint fresh chicken is its appearance. Fresh chicken will have a yellow tint to the skin and the meat will have a pinkish color. You also want to avoid meat that has any bruising, tears in the skin, or other cosmetic damages, all of which can affect the quality and freshness. Fresh chicken meat will also be plump. If you press against it, the meat should be resilient and resume its shape after a couple of seconds.

When it comes to the smell of it, fresh chicken will not have a scent. If the meat has an odor, it is not good and should be avoided.

 

Fresh Versus Frozen 

Buying frozen chicken in larger quantities may be more convenient, but that’s not going to give you the best tasting meat. To achieve that, you want to go with chicken meat that is fresh and has never been frozen. 

If the meat is labeled as fresh, then the internal temperature has never gone below 26 degrees Fahrenheit, the freezing temperature for poultry. Thawing frozen chicken can change the texture of the meat, which can greatly affect its taste after it is cooked.

 

buying chicken | how do you know quality chicken meat | fresh chicken drumsticks

 

Avoid Excess Package Liquid

If you are selecting chicken from the packaged meat in the grocery store, avoid packages that have excess liquid pooling in them. Liquid like this happens when the meat purges fluids picked up from a water immersion process sometimes used to cool chicken to a safe temperature. This excess liquid can cause a soggy texture to the meat and dilute the flavor.

 

“Grade A” Meat

The USDA allocates three letter grades to poultry meat: A, B, and C. So, when you’re shopping for quality chicken, you want to get Grade A meat. This meat will not have any deformities, be well-fleshed, have a generous layer of fat, and won’t have any hairs or feathers still attached to the outside. There also won’t be any tears or cuts in the skin or meat, discolored portions, or broken bones.

 

Consider the Processing & Trimming

It’s important to know that the way the chicken has been processed does affect the quality and taste. Ideally, you want to get chicken that has been cut by a knife and not mechanically separated. Mechanical separation is a high-pressure way of separating meat from the bone and can often result in unwanted items mixing into a paste-like texture.

Buying a whole chicken and processing it and trimming it yourself is an even better move. Doing this will give you more for your money and result in better portion sizes. Breaking down a whole bird is actually easier than you may think.

Keep in mind that processing chicken yourself at home requires diligence in food safety. Be careful not to cross-contaminate kitchen surfaces and utensils. 

 

Raised Without Antibiotics

When looking at the labels for chicken, you may see either “antibiotic-free” or “raised without antibiotics”. You want to go with chicken that is raised without antibiotics. This means that the chickens were never given antibiotics at any point. If the chicken is labeled antibiotic-free, that means that it could have previously been given antibiotics but, according to the USDA, the producer has to follow a withdrawal or waiting period to ensure the antibiotics are not present when it is processed/butchered.

 

free range chicken | buying chicken | how do you know quality chicken meat
Source: Backyard Poultry Magazine

 

Free-Range Chickens

According to the USDA, chicken is labeled as "free-range" if the producer has proven that the chickens are given access to the outdoors. When a chicken is raised and butchered in a more humane environment like this, the less stress they endure and the healthier they will be. This means better quality meat. Plus, in many cases, free-range chickens will also be fed a good diet.

 

Grass-Fed/Vegetable-Fed

Speaking of a good diet, you want to look for chicken that has been grass-fed and/or vegetable-fed versus grain-fed. As mentioned above, these chickens will be healthier, resulting in better-tasting meat. 

If the label for the meat says grass-fed or vegetable-fed, it means that the chicken was raised on a diet that never included any animal by-products. Sometimes, producers who are trying to cut costs and speed up growth rates supplement their chickens’ diet with animal by-products.

 

Certified Organic 

It is highly debated among chefs and nutritionists whether there is a difference in the taste between organic and non-organic chicken. The USDA’s National Organic Program, the provider of organic certification, requires producers to implement and follow strict ongoing compliance with standards and practices that are much cleaner and environmentally friendly. 

Many of the best organic producers also go a step further and get the HFAC (Humane Farm Animal Care) certification. This enforces guidelines for humane handling at every step. In theory, if they have this certification, this would mean that the chickens are being fed a healthier diet and raised in a more stress-free environment. Which, as we mentioned above, often results in better tasting meat.

 

Non-GMO Certified

If the chicken is labeled organic, chances are it will also be non-GMO certified. For chicken to have this seal, it has to be raised and fed on a certified organic, non-GMO diet that meets the Non-GMO Project standards. The Non-GMO Project is a third-party non-profit that provides verification and labeling for non-GMO products.

 

Not Enhanced

Another important factor to keep in mind is that you should avoid chicken that has been enhanced. Enhanced chicken has either been injected with or soaked in a solution during its processing. This solution can include enhancements like saltwater, chicken broth, nitrates and nitrites, and MSG. All of these things can significantly raise the sodium level of the meat and take away from its natural flavor.

 

Talk to the Butcher

We’ve mentioned it before, but if you want the best quality meat and the best deals, you should make friends with the butcher at your local meat store. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s what they are there for. Your butcher can tell you more about the chicken, like if it’s ever been frozen, or if it’s free-range, organic, all-natural, etc. They can even give you more info about the farm it came from. 

When you shop at small, local butcher shops, you’ll get access to the close relationships that the butchers have with the farmers and you can help buy responsibly while also supporting small businesses.

 

local butcher shop | buying chicken | how do you know quality chicken meat

 

When Buying Chicken, Start With Good Fresh Meat For Best Results 

We’ve previously covered how to select quality beef, but, as you can see, there are also some poultry-specific things you also need to know. It’s important to know what to look for when buying chicken to ensure you walk out of the store with good-quality, fresh meat. It can make a huge difference in the taste of the final result, no matter if you’re grilling or smoking chicken. 

The things we covered above will help you buy the best chicken to cook today. And don’t be afraid to talk to your local butcher. They’ll be able to point you to the best quality chicken that checks all the boxes above.

Know of something else to look for when it comes to buying chicken that we left out? Plan on cooking chicken this week? Let us know about it and leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!

 

 

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There’s one thing that most people will agree on...beef is delicious. And, in general, it can be very good for you as well. A 3 oz. serving of cooked beef (equivalent to the size of a deck of playing cards) will give your body just over 50% of the recommended daily value of protein and 10 essential nutrients, including iron and vitamin B-12. But, if you are grilling and eating beef frequently, something you may be wanting to keep an eye on is the fat content you’re consuming.

In that case, welcome to the world of lean beef. Just because a cut of meat is lean doesn’t mean it has to be lacking in flavor. There are some delicious lean beef options that you can opt for when you are wanting to reduce the amount of fat you are consuming with your protein. Chances are, a few of your favorite cuts of beef are actually lean and you may not have known it.

In this article, we’ll break down what lean beef is and give you some examples of lean beef options that are still very enjoyable.

 

What is Lean Beef? What Makes it Lean?

According to the USDA, for a cut of beef to be considered “lean”, it needs to contain

fewer than 10 grams of total fat, less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and fewer than 95 mg of cholesterol per 3.5 ounces (100 grams). Then, for it to be “extra lean” it needs to contain less than 5 grams of total fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).

A quick trick to zero-in on cuts of lean beef in your local butcher shop or supermarket is to look for the words “round”, “loin”, or “chuck” in the name.

Opting for lean beef cuts doesn’t mean you have to totally sacrifice quality in the grade of beef you choose. Many lean cuts will be available in USDA Choice, which is still high quality and will have some delicious marbling, though less than Prime. With USDA Prime having the highest amount of fat marbling, you usually won’t find many lean cuts in that range.

 

USDA grades | lean beef options | examples of lean beef
Source: USDA

 

Examples of Lean Beef Options:

It’s a good bet that you recognize several of the lean cuts we cover below and may have recently eaten one out at a restaurant. There is a great variety of options to choose from no matter if you are wanting to grill or smoke the meat

Here are some of the lean beef options available:

 

Flat-Half Brisket

The beef brisket, cut from the lower chest of the steer, is a favorite cut when it comes to slow-smoking meat. The flat half of the brisket, also known as the “first cut”, is a great, leaner option to go for. This delicious meat can be sliced, cubed, or shredded.

 

Tri-Tip Roast

This fairly tender and extremely flavorful boneless roast is a triangular muscle cut from the bottom of the sirloin subprimal cut. This cut can be smoked, roasted, or grilled and then sliced across the grain.

 

Chateaubriand Tenderloin Roast

Also known as the filet mignon roast or beef tenderloin, this cut is taken from the tenderloin sub-primal cut. This lean cut is also the most tender and succulent roast with a fine texture that is easy to carve when it comes off the grill.

 

Eye of Round Roast

One of the leanest beef options on the list, this cut is from the long center muscle of the rear Round section of the steer. This roast, often used for sliced roast beef, is still very flavorful and can be smoked and slow-roasted. It can also be cut into Eye of Round steaks.

 

lean beef options | eye of round roast | examples of lean beef
Source: Central Market

 

Tenderloin Ribeye Steak

Another cut from the short loin subprimal section, the tenderloin steak, aka filet mignon, is going to be one of the most tender steak options. With its delicate beef flavor and balanced marbling, it can be surprising that this cut is, in fact, considered a lean beef option.

 

Boneless Strip Ribeye Steak (Top Loin Ribeye Steak)

Also known as a New York Strip or Kansas City Ribeye Steak, this cut is taken from the short loin sub-primal cut at the top of the steer just behind the ribs. This is a common lean steak cut that you’ll find in many restaurants. It has a great beefy taste and is a very versatile cut that can be eaten whole or cut into strips.

 

Top Sirloin Ribeye Steak

This cut of steak is taken from the sirloin subprimal cut, which is just further back from the short loin cut. Top sirloin is a naturally lean cut since it’s from an area of the steer that gets more exercise but will still be slightly tender with delicious flavor. This cut can be grilled whole, cubed for kabobs, or even cut into strips for stir-fry.

 

Sirloin Tip Ribeye Steak

Though the name may suggest otherwise, this cut is taken from the lean Round primal cut on the top front end of the rear leg. This cut will be very lean compared to other steak cuts but still holds great flavor.

 

lean beef options | sirloin tip center steak | examples of lean beef
Source: Beef It’s What’s For Dinner

 

Top Round Ribeye Steak

This steak, taken from the inside hip section of the Round primal cut, is the most tender and flavorful steak from the Round section. But, these steaks will be slightly leaner, tougher, and less marbled than cuts from the sirloin subprimal section. Extremely versatile cut that can be grilled, broiled, or slow-cooked.

 

Bottom Round Ribeye Steak

Another steak from the Round section, the bottom round steak is cut from the outer part of this well-exercised section of the animal. Also known as the Western Griller steak, this cut can be tough but grilling after marinating will result in a flavorful steak.

 

Flank Ribeye Steak

This lean and boneless cut is taken from the rear lower abdominal flank section of the steer. Flank steak is an inexpensive cut that is flavorful and extremely versatile. You can grill it whole, slice it thin and saute it, or even slow smoke it whole.

 

93% Lean Ground Beef

If you’re wanting to cook burgers, a grill favorite, opting for USDA Choice ground beef that is 93% lean (or even leaner) will give you great flavor with much less fat.

 

lean beef options | lean ground beef | examples of lean beef
Source: EatThisMuch

 

Opt For a Lean Beef Cut Today!

As you can see, there is a big variety of great lean beef options you can choose from without sacrificing tenderness and flavor. If you are looking to cut back on fat in your outdoor cooking food options, go for one of these cuts today on your grill or in your smoker.

Do you have a favorite from our list above? Have another lean beef go-to that we didn’t list above? Leave a comment below! We want to hear from you.

 

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Ribs have long been a favorite option when it comes to BBQ. You can cook them in a variety of different ways, flavored by a wide range of different things. But, not all ribs are created equal. There are a variety of different types available, each having its own characteristics and differences from the others. 

A common mental rabbit hole that people fall down when thinking about options of meat to smoke (or grill) is beef ribs vs pork ribs. Of course, there’s more to it than the fact that they come from two different animals. Frequently asked questions often include things like “what is the difference in size between the two?”, “which is cheaper”, “which tastes better?”, etc.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we break down the differences that you need to know between pork ribs and beef ribs. Let’s take a look:

 

Quick Breakdown of the Different Rib Cuts

In this article, we’ll cover the differences between beef and pork ribs in a generalized sense. But, as you may know, both types of ribs are usually available in a variety of different cuts at your local butcher shop. Here is a quick breakdown of the different rib cuts, as some of the specific cuts are referenced throughout the rest of this article.

Beef:

  • Plate short ribs - Cut from the lower portion of the steer’s rib cage from what is known as the short plate.
  • Chuck short ribs - Cut from a little higher up and more towards the front of the steer, just below the chuck.
  • Back ribs - Cut from higher up the steer at the top dorsal area just behind the shoulders.

Check out our in-depth beef rib cuts article for more information on the different beef rib cuts available. 

Pork:

  • Baby back ribs - Cut from the upper loin area, near the spine, at the highest point on the pig’s rib cage.
  • Spareribs - Cut from further down the side of the pig’s belly and run to the breastbone.
  • St. Louis ribs - A rack of spareribs that have been trimmed down and squared off.
  • Kansas City ribs - Similar to St. Louis ribs but still have the cartilage attached.
  • Rib tips - The ends that are leftover from trimming spareribs into St. Louis ribs.

For more info on these different types of pork ribs, check out our in-depth beef rib cuts article.

 

pork ribs | beef ribs vs pork ribs | pork ribs vs beef ribs

Source: SunPork Fresh Foods

 

Size Difference

The process of smoking pork ribs and beef ribs will be very similar. But, one of the first differences you may notice when it comes to beef ribs vs pork ribs is their size. In general, beef ribs will be bigger. All of the beef rib cuts will be longer than pork rib cuts and, in the case of beef short ribs in particular, will have more meat on them.

Many times, beef ribs will be 8 to 12 inches long and be weighed in pounds, while pork ribs will usually be 3 to 6 inches long and weighed in ounces. Sometimes, because of their size, you may hear beef ribs referred to as “dinosaur ribs”. In most cases, these are going to be plate short ribs in particular. There are some instances where butchers will cut a rack of beef ribs in half along the full length of the rack. So, in this case, the beef rib bones would be very similar in length to a rack of pork ribs.

Also, because beef ribs are usually larger, they will often take longer to cook compared to pork ribs in general.

 

Ratio of Meat to Fat

Of course, the amount of meat and the fat content on ribs will vary from animal to animal depending on size, breed, and the specific cut. But, there are some general differences in the fat content between beef ribs and pork ribs.

For most cuts of pork ribs, they will be reasonably lean (more meat than fat) and moderately meaty when compared to beef. As you go lower down the rib cage of a pig, the fat content will increase, with rib tips being mainly fat with bone. For baby back, spare, and St. Louis-style pork ribs, you’ll usually get quite a lot of bone and the amount of bone will be pretty consistent across the three types of cuts. 

Even though pigs may seem like a chunkier animal, beef ribs will have a much higher fat content and will be closer to even portions of fat and meat. You’ll get a lot more meat on top of the bones of beef ribs and the meat is more marbled with gelatinous fat. This fat spider webs throughout the meat, helping to tenderize it and create a deeper flavor.

The meat on beef ribs does also have more connective tissue compared to pork ribs so they will need more active attention while cooking them to ensure they are cooked to a delicious and tender finish.

 

beef short ribs | beef ribs vs pork ribs | pork ribs vs beef ribs

Source: Charmate NZ

 

Nutritional Differences

The difference of fat between beef ribs and pork ribs, as well as the amount of meat in general, does affect the nutritional content between the two as well. 

Beef ribs will be more filling because they do have a higher calorie count, a higher amount of protein, and a higher amount of iron compared to pork ribs. 

 

Difference in Cost

Ribs, both beef and pork, are great options when you are looking for more affordable cuts of meat. Prices will, of course, fluctuate based on location, quality of the meat, and the specific cut of ribs. 

For example, a rack of ribs from the big-box grocery store case will be less expensive than a rack at your local butcher shop that is sourced from a local organic farm.

But, when comparing the two types, generally speaking, pork ribs will cost less than beef ribs. There will usually be about a $1.50 per pound difference between the two.

 

Which Tastes Better, Pork or Beef Ribs?

The true answer to this question will be very subjective. Some people prefer the taste and mouthfeel of pork ribs over beef ribs. While others feel the opposite. It all comes down to the type of taste you and those you are cooking for prefer.

Compared to pork ribs, beef ribs, like all good cuts of beef, have a strong distinctive flavor that doesn’t need much additional seasoning other than salt and pepper (and sometimes garlic). Many say beef has an umami-based taste. 

Umami is the 5th flavor profile that our tongues can taste and is sometimes grouped in with “salty”. But, umami combines salty with hearty and earthy. Beef is high in all of the elements and acids that make up the umami flavor profile (check out this article for more on that!). Umami is also found in things like mushrooms, parmesan cheese, seaweed, soy sauce, bacon, and more.

Alternatively, pork ribs have a taste that is not nearly as strong as beef. Some even describe the taste as slightly sweet. Without additional flavorings, pork ribs often taste very similar to pork chops. But, pork ribs can pair well with a variety of different combinations of spices, rubs, and bbq sauces.

 

beef ribs vs pork ribs | pork ribs vs beef ribs | which is better pork or beef ribs

Source: Mark Wiens

 

The Preference Between Beef Ribs & Pork Ribs is Up to You

As you can see, there are some distinct differences between these two types of ribs. Knowing the differences and more about different meats will help you more confidently become a master of backyard cooking.

When it comes to pork ribs vs beef ribs, it would be hard to determine if one is necessarily better than the other. It really comes down to personal preference at the time. Both are great options when it comes to a delicious cut of meat that smokes well and will feed a crowd.

Do you favor one of these types of ribs over the other? Plan on smoking ribs soon? Tell us about it by dropping a comment below. We want to hear from you!

If you want step-by-step instructions straight from the champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters on cooking a variety of delicious foods, including ribs, check out our backyard barbecue cooking classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. If you really want to step your competition outdoor cooking game up, check out the All-Access passes to learn everything you need to know to cook award-winning meat.

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