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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Source: Central Market
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.
Also known as a New York Strip or Kansas City 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.
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.
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.
Source: Beef It’s What’s For Dinner
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Check out our in-depth beef rib cuts article for more information on the different beef rib cuts available.
For more info on these different types of pork ribs, check out our in-depth beef rib cuts article.
Source: SunPork Fresh Foods
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.
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.
Source: Charmate NZ
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.
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.
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.
Source: Mark Wiens
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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With the official start of summer approaching and the weather warming up across the country, chances are you are going to be spending a lot more time cooking outside. Hosting frequent BBQ get-togethers (or even outdoor cooking for a large family) can get expensive fast. Especially when it comes to buying enough meat and/or cooking several different types of meat to please everyone.
With the right preparation and enough cooking time, inexpensive cuts of meat can still be a crowd-pleaser. You don’t always have to splurge on the most expensive cuts of meat to turn out some delicious results on your grill or smoker.
So, if you’re wondering what are the cheapest cuts of meat, we’ve got you covered! We’ve put together a list of some great options in meat that will help reduce the cost of feeding a crowd and still keep everyone happy.
A whole chicken is a great, cost-saving meat option that is extremely versatile and easy to cook on your grill or in a smoker. You can slow-cook/smoke a chicken whole, butterfly (aka spatchcock) it, or carve it up yourself and cook it in smaller pieces. By avoiding pre-cut chicken options (especially boneless, skinless chicken breasts) and opting for whole chicken, you can save around $1 per pound in meat.
If you do want to go with a pre-cut chicken option that is still more affordable, bone-in, skin-on thighs and drumsticks are great. Both of these, which are cut from the leg of the chicken, hold their moisture much better than the more expensive chicken breasts.
Usually, you can get chicken thighs and drumsticks for just over $1 per pound. You can do a variety of different flavors in seasoning, rubs, and/or sauces with these and end up with a delicious meal.
Source: Dirty Laundry Kitchen
Another popular BBQ favorite that can easily feed a lot of people is chicken wings. Wings are delicious grilled or even smoked and can be flavored any way you like. The price will usually be around $2 a pound for chicken wings, making this meat option more affordable than many beef cuts. No matter how you cook them, wings are great as an appetizer or even the main course.
It doesn’t just have to be Thanksgiving to enjoy juicy grilled or smoked turkey. Plus, if it’s outside of the holiday season you can get an even better deal. Like whole chicken, you can easily cook it a variety of different ways and feed a big group. Turkey is often available for around $1.50 a pound or less.
As with chicken, you’ll get a better deal buying a whole turkey and cutting it up yourself versus buying pre-cut items like turkey breast, which tends to be pretty expensive relative to other cuts.
Ribs are another item that is always a crowd-pleaser, no matter if you choose beef or pork. When it comes to beef, beef back ribs are delicious and also one of the cheapest cuts of beef you can get. Compared to other items on this list, you may not get as much meat per pound but it’ll still be a great deal for beef.
When selecting your rack of ribs, look for ones that have plenty of meat with a little fat as well. At least half the rack’s weight and price is the bones, so try and maximize the meat and take fewer bones for the price if you can. This will help you get the most for your money. If you cook the ribs low and slow you’ll end up with a flavorful and tender result that everyone will enjoy.
Source: Traeger Grills
If you or your guests prefer pork, pork ribs are a great option as well when it comes to economical cuts of meat. While pork ribs are not the cheapest pork cut available, they are still an inexpensive cut of meat compared to others. Like beef ribs, look for ribs with plenty of meat and plan on cooking them low and slow to achieve the best results.
Steak cuts are consistently a higher-priced option compared to most other cuts. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to totally skip it for your outdoor get-together. If you don’t want to splurge on the pricier filet or ribeye, go for a chuck eye steak.
Cut from the upper shoulder of the cow in the fifth rib area, this steak shares a similar flavor and meat-to-fat ratio with the ribeye because it is the next cut over from the rib eye. So, if you’re craving steak, you don’t always have to spend a ton of money to get a delicious cut that still does well on the grill.
If you’re definitely leaning towards beef for your cookout, one of the most economical cuts of meat you can buy is ground chuck. Burgers always make a great option and you can dress them up with creative add-ins or toppings and still keep costs down. Keep in mind that the best and juiciest burgers need to be about 20% or more fat. So, save even more money by skipping the leaner, pricier ground beef.
If you want to kick things up a notch, lamb will definitely do that. But, good lamb can be expensive - depending on the cut. The popular lamb cuts like rack of lamb, leg, and loin are going to be higher priced than many other cuts of meat. But, a great lower-priced option is the breast. Cut from the rib section, not far from the rack of lamb, it is still a very flavorful and tender cut.
Usually, you’ll find lamb breast at your local butcher shop with the ribs and bones attached. But, it is often also available with the ribs sold separately as spareribs or riblets. Another option is to cut the meat away from the bone and make lamb kebabs with vegetables. This will make the meat go even farther when you’re feeding a large group.
Source: US Wellness Meats
The delicious cut of meat that is usually used to make BBQ favorite pulled pork is also one of the least expensive cuts of pig. Pork butt, cut from the pork shoulder, is loaded with flavor and often costs only around $2 per pound or less. At an average of 7 lbs, this cut will easily allow you to feed a crowd.
Prepare it right and plan on slow cooking and smoking the pork butt for a while and you’ll end up with a mouth-watering result.
For budget-friendly grilling, bone-in pork chops are another tasty option when cooked properly. In comparison to other pork cuts, chops are a little higher in price at usually around $4 per pound. But, they are still more economical compared to almost any steak. Ideally, you want to select thick-cut pork chops to minimize the chance of them drying out on the grill. Also, going with pork rib chops versus pork loin chops will give you more meat and less bone per person.
As you can see, there is a good variety of options available when it comes to inexpensive cuts of meat. When shopping at the butcher shop, you don’t have to go all out every time to be able to cook some great-tasting meat. Your butcher can help select the best cuts of any of the meats we covered above, ensuring you get the most bang for your buck.
Just make sure you follow proper preparation and give yourself plenty of time to cook. Then, you’ll have some great results and plenty of food to go around.
Do you know of any other delicious economical cuts of meat? Plan on cooking a variety of these soon? Drop a comment below. We want to hear all about it!
Check out the step-by-step backyard barbecue cooking classes here at BBQ Champs Academy to learn a variety of different recipes straight from the champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters. Some of which use cuts we covered in the article above.
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Whether you’re buying pork butt, beef ribs, or anything in between, your local butcher shop is the best place locally to get good quality fresh meat. But, there’s still a good majority of people that get to the counter and don’t interact much with the butcher. Not past simply asking for the cut of meat they had in mind when they went in.
But, your local butcher is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to all things meat - different types of meat, different cuts, how to prepare them, and more. You should be taking advantage of that if you want to consistently end up with delicious results from your outdoor cooking.
So, there are some essential questions to ask your butcher that will help ensure you get the best quality meat and the best cuts. Plus, they can even help you expand your cooking skills by recommending a different cut of meat than you may be used to if you’re curious.
Now, if you’re wondering what exactly to ask the butcher, we’ve got you covered! Here are 10 essential questions you should be asking:
Many local butcher shops and meat markets process animals and manufacture products in-house. So, the butcher will know what was cut most recently and what is the freshest. The fresher the meat the better the taste will be. This question may even lead your butcher to give you a behind-the-scenes peek if you’re interested.
If they don’t process the animals in-house, they will still be able to tell you what came in most recently from their source.
Whether they are processing the animals in-house or not, you want to get the full scoop from your butcher on where the meat is coming from. This will ensure you are getting the best possible meat that you can locally.
A good butcher will be well-versed on where they get their meats and will be happy to tell you all about it. Are they getting the animals/meats from a local farm or ranch? Why did they choose that particular farm? The answers to these questions will tell you about the strength of the relationships they might have with local farms, as well as the quality of the meat.
Source: Snake River Farms
This is a natural follow-up question to the one above. Get curious about how the animals are raised at the farm or ranch your butcher sources from. The meat from animals that are humanely raised, free-range, and grass-fed will always taste better. For example, for pork and chicken, free-range should be the minimum standard you are looking to buy.
When you are buying beef, it is important to consider the grade of the meat. Ideally, you don’t want to be buying lower than Choice grade meat if you want good-quality beef that is tender and flavorful. Most quality markets will also offer a selection of Prime cuts and even Wagyu.
Remember, the higher the grade of beef, the higher the amount of fat marbling throughout the meat.
Don’t forget to also ask about any dry-aged beef they may also have in different grades.
Keep in mind that the "best" cut of meat isn't necessarily the best option for the method you plan on using to cook it. As we’ve mentioned before, some cuts do better than others when you are smoking meat. Other cuts are best over high-heat on the grill.
Talk to your butcher about the type of cooking you are planning on doing. They’ll be able to give you insights into different cuts that would work and give you new-to-you options you could try.
A good way to take advantage of your butcher’s vast knowledge about meat is to ask about lesser-known or less-popular cuts that they would recommend. More than likely, they’ll have a favorite cut that you may not be familiar with or a new way to prep an old favorite of yours. This is an easy way to expand your repertoire when it comes to outdoor cooking.
It is almost a sure bet that your butcher not only loves to prep cuts of meat but they also love to eat it too. So, tap into their knowledge about cooking different cuts of meat and get insider tips they may have.
You’re probably not going to want to spend a lot on a cut of meat every time you go into the meat store. Especially if you are outdoor cooking often. The good thing is, you don’t necessarily have to spend a ton of money to end up with a deliciously cooked piece of meat. Some of the most economical cuts of meat are also the most flavorful.
So, if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck at this visit, ask the butcher about good cuts based on price point.
Do you want to debone a cut of meat? Planning on spatchcocking a whole chicken? Want to smoke a frenched rack of lamb? Go ahead and ask the butcher to do it for you. They’ll gladly handle a lot of the prep work for you when you buy your meats. They can even walk you through some of the prep work if you like.
So, don’t be afraid to ask for more than just grabbing the cut you’re pointing to. Butchers are trained in much more than just weighing out meat. They’ll be happy to help and they want to set you up for success when it comes to your outdoor cooking.
When it comes to questions to ask your butcher, your dog has an important one. As butchers process and cut an animal to meet customer’s needs, there will probably be some large bones leftover. These bones make delicious treats that you can bring home for your dog. In most cases, the extra bones are just going to be thrown away. So, don’t be afraid to ask if they have any you can get before you leave. Some butchers will even smoke these bones for you, adding extra flavor for your furry friend to enjoy. Or, you can even use these bones to add extra flavor to soups.
Important note: If you plan to give the bone to your dog, make sure it is not a bone that splinters easily or is very small.
Source: Butcher’s Bones
Asking questions and building a rapport with your local butcher can open many doors for you when it comes to your outdoor cooking. They are there to help you and they know everything there is to know about meat. By utilizing some of the questions to ask your butcher that we’ve covered above, you can ensure you are always getting great quality meat and expanding your cooking skills while you’re at it.
Can you think of some questions we left out? Did you recently learn something new from your local butcher? Tell us about it below. We want to hear from you!
If you want to learn how to perfect your backyard cooking straight from the pros, join our Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. Follow along with the in-depth virtual cooking classes to learn everything you need to know.
Check out the virtual Championship Backyard BBQ Classes to follow along step-by-step with 20 different recipes or dive into one of our All-Access Passes to try your hand at cooking four different types of meat just like the top competition cookers. Make sure to also check out the latest from the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel. Click “Subscribe” to stay on top of the latest insider tips and BBQ news straight from the pros!
Springtime is the perfect time for grilled or smoked lamb. Really any time is good for this deliciously rich meat, but Spring has long been the traditional season for lamb. So now, you’re headed to your local butcher shop to pick up some meat to cook, but what cuts of lamb do you get? What are the best lamb cuts?
There are a variety of different lamb cuts available, all of which can be very good when cooked properly. Each cut has unique variations and characteristics. Some are better on the grill, while others can be smoked low and slow to a delicious finish. To truly expand your outdoor cooking skills and grill lamb perfectly, it is important to understand the types of lamb cuts and how they differ.
In this article, we’ll break down the different cuts of lamb and what to look for when buying lamb. Let’s take a look:
Source: The Spruce
As you’ll see below, there are a variety of different lamb cuts available. Depending on how much the muscle each is cut from is worked, they’ll have different levels of leanness or marbling, tenderness, flavor, etc. This also impacts the cooking method that works best for each cut.
Here are 9 popular lamb cuts:
One of the larger cuts of lamb (and one of the five lamb primal cuts), the shoulder comes from the top of the front legs. Because this is a muscle that is usually worked harder than other parts, the meat from the shoulder is very lean. But, it does still have some good marbling and is very flavorful.
The shoulder will take a while to become tender so this makes it a great cut to smoke and slow-roast. You can maximize the flavor and tenderness of the meat by cooking lamb shoulder on the bone, allowing you to easily pull apart the meat with a fork when it is done.
There are several different variations of lamb chops that come in different shapes and sizes, depending on the part of the lamb they’re cut from. One example is a shoulder chop. A shoulder chop (also called arm chop or blade chop) is a smaller cross-section cut from the larger shoulder cut that we just talked about above.
Shoulder chops require less cooking time than other lamb cuts, making them a good option to grill over higher heat for an easy, quick, and delicious meal.
The leg is going to be the leanest cut of lamb. Similar to the shoulders, the legs contain hard-working muscles, giving this cut a delicious, strong flavor. Another large cut compared to other types, usually weighing 7-8 pounds, a bone-in leg of lamb is great for any special occasion or holiday get-together not only because of its great presentation but it will also feed a lot.
This is another cut that is great for low-roasting and smoking whole to get a delicious exterior bark (thank you Maillard reaction!) and soft tender interior. Plus, the bone adds an even richer flavor to the meat.
Source: Serious Eats
A BRT or boneless leg roast is one of the most versatile cuts of lamb when it comes to cooking it. You can slow roast or smoke it whole, trim it into smaller pieces and grill it on kebabs, cut it into smaller roasts or individual chops to cook over a two-zone grill setup, or even butterfly it and grill it.
Another type of chop, sirloin chops are large, meaty cuts that are cut from the leg of lamb. These are easily identified by the crosscut piece of round leg bone within the middle of the meat. Less expensive compared to the prized rack and loin chops, sirloin chops can be just as tender and flavorful when cooked properly.
Taken from the lower part of the leg, lamb shanks are available in both hind shanks and fore shanks. Also a popular menu item at many restaurants across the country, when they are slow-cooked, lamb shanks practically fall off the bone. Another lean cut that is still big on flavor, the meaty lamb shank contains a high amount of collagen, which makes it perfect for cooking low and slow or even slowly braising in a simmering broth.
Cut from the upper ribs, the rack is an icon of fine dining menus throughout the country and is usually the most expensive cut of lamb, with highly tender and delicious meat. The rack of lamb consists of the first 8 ribs and will usually weigh about 2 pounds total.
Surprisingly easy to prepare at home, the impressive presentation of a rack will give you a restaurant-quality meal that is versatile for entertaining. You can keep the rack together and slow roast it or cut it apart into what are known as lamb chops (aka cutlets) and grill them individually over higher heat. Individual bone-in lamb chops are what are also sometimes referred to as lamb lollipops.
A rack of lamb can come in two variations as well:
Frenched Rack: A few inches of meat have been removed from the end of the bones.
Crown Roast: Two frenched racks are tied together resembling a crown.
Another prized cut, loin chops are cut from the waist of the lamb and are lean, tender, and deliciously flavorful. Because of their popularity, these are often one of the most readily available cuts at your local butcher shop and sometimes even available at the grocery store.
Easy to prepare and cook on the grill, loin chops are usually 3 to 4-ounces each and have a distinct “T” shaped bone that runs through the top of the meat. Hence why they are sometimes called T-bone chops. Marinating them for 4 to 6 hours before grilling can help flavor and tenderize the exterior of the meat even more.
You can also have a great small roast by keeping a few loin chops together in one piece.
Somewhat of an underrated cut of lamb, the neck is an inexpensive piece that can be slow-cooked whole or chopped into smaller chunks for kebabs or stews. Slow roasting lamb neck will really bring out all the flavors of the meat. While seasoning smaller chunks in salt, pepper, and paprika and cooking slowly over the indirect heat side of your grill makes for an easy and delicious meal.
When it comes to great-tasting lamb, the quality of the meat you are getting is just as important as the type of lamb cuts you choose and the cooking technique you use.
Your local butcher, smaller specialty grocery stores, or even top online meat wholesalers are the best places to find good quality lamb. There are a couple of things to look for and keep in mind to ensure you get quality lamb meat. These include:
Now you should have a deeper understanding of what differentiates the different cuts of lamb and also what to look for when you buy the meat. Lamb is something everyone should try at least once, as its tenderness and robust flavor are absolutely mouth-watering. Pair it with your favorite stout or porter beer and you’ll have a delicious flavor combination. Use a two-zone grill setup and experiment with cooking different cuts of lamb to find your favorites.
If you want to try a step-by-step recipe straight from the pros that shows you exactly how to grill a rack of lamb perfectly, check out our online video/class for Frenched Rack of Lamb Chops for only $7.98!
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As you probably know, there are many different grades of meat. All with varying levels of quality and fat marbling throughout. It’s no doubt that if you are looking for some extremely high-quality tender beef, Wagyu beef is a top option.
An option that you’ll often find in steak cuts gracing the menus of Michelin Star restaurants or briskets in the smokers of the world’s top BBQ Pitmasters at competitions. Some have even referred to it as the “most luxurious” beef and it’s growing in popularity even more lately.
You may have heard someone you know talking about how delicious a Wagyu steak was that they recently had. Or maybe you’ve even recently tried it for the first time. But do you know the answer to the popular question “what is Wagyu beef?”
In this article, we’ll break down the answer, fill you in on everything you need to know about Wagyu and clear up some common confusion as well.
Simply put, Wagyu (pronounced wahg-yoo, not wah-goo) translates to Japanese cow. But, not every Japanese cow is actually considered Wagyu. True Wagyu beef that is sought after so highly refers to a specific breed of Japanese cattle with special genetic qualities.
Four of the six genotypes of Japanese cattle make up the Wagyu breed – Japanese Black (Kuroge), Japanese Red/Brown (Akaushi), Japanese Shorthorn (Nihon Tankaku Washu), and the rare Japanese Polled (Mukaku Washu). These cattle originated in Japan over 35,000 years ago. Originally, these Wagyu cattle were used as working animals in agriculture because of their strong stature and physical stamina. This stamina comes from the high amount of intramuscular fat that provides a steady supply of energy.
Japanese Wagyu cattle have a genetic predisposition that causes the cow to metabolize fat internally, so it integrates with the muscle tissue itself. This causes a finer meat texture and an incredibly high level of fat marbling in the meat. Because of this, true Japanese Wagyu beef has an unmatched taste bursting with umami and such tenderness to it that it literally melts in your mouth.
No other livestock does this the way these cattle do. So, any other breed of cattle, even when raised in the same conditions as Wagyu by award-winning Wagyu cattle farmers, will not produce Wagyu beef.
As the breed became more revered over the years, this led the Japanese government in 1997 to declare Wagyu cattle a national treasure and ban exports of the cattle to outside countries. Before this happened though, some embryos and live cattle had already been exported to the US. Currently, Japan still exports cuts of Wagyu beef.
Most cuts of Wagyu beef are labeled by type, which is named after the Japanese town or prefecture they come from. Sometimes the label will also include the breed of cattle it is. Some common types of Wagyu include: Miyazaki, Ohmi, Matsusaka, and Hida.
Similar to the USDA Beef grading scale, there is a grading scale for Wagyu beef. The Japanese grading scale, which is judged by the Japan Meat Grading Association (in Japanese), shows yield grade as A, B, or C and meat quality grade as 1 through 5. “A5” is the best of the best Wagyu beef. This means it has the highest yield and the highest meat quality.
The grading scale also incorporates a Beef Marbling Standard (BMS) which denotes how much marbling wagyu includes. The BMS goes from 1 through 12 and is determined by checking the amount of marbling in the rib eye and its surroundings. A BMS of 12 has the most marbling, while a BMS of 1 would mean there is no marbling. For the meat to be an A5 rating, it has to have a BMS of between 8 and 12. An A4 will have a BMS between 6 and 8.
Source: Zen-Noh Wagyu
Sometimes the terms Wagyu and Kobe are used interchangeably and it can cause some confusion. Kobe is a specific type of Japanese Wagyu beef and it originates from the Tajima strain of Japanese Black cattle, raised in the capital city of Japan's Hyōgo Prefecture, Kobe. Then, there are a few other stipulations for the meat to be considered actual Kobe beef as well.
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 by the Kobe Beef Association. Finally, the meat has to be rated an A4 or A5 on the Wagyu Beef Grading Scale.
If you see American Kobe on a restaurant menu, don’t fall for the marketing gimmick. As you can see now, Kobe is not able to be produced in the US. So, American Kobe beef does not actually exist.
There are currently only 37 restaurants in the US that are certified and sell authentic Japanese Kobe beef.
But, American Wagyu is a real thing. Confused yet? Here’s how that’s possible. As we mentioned early, before Japan halted the exportation of Wagyu cattle in 1997, some had already been exported to America. These cattle were then bred with top American Black Angus cattle. This crossbreed of cattle is what is now known as American Wagyu.
Meat from these cattle will still have a high degree of marbling and be very tender, making it some of the best American beef you can buy. But, it will not have near the marbling levels of purebred Japanese Wagyu or the same flavor or mouth-feel. A distinct feature of American Wagyu is that it will still have the robust “beefy” flavor that comes from Black Angus beef.
There are some myths and rumors that the reason Japanese Wagyu cattle taste so good is that they are raised in a life of luxury and are even sung to. This is not entirely true, but not entirely false. They are intentionally raised in an environment where the stress levels on the cattle are reduced as much as possible. This is because stress causes an increase in cortisol in the body, which can cause the cattle’s muscles to become less fatty and degrade the quality of the meat.
So, Wagyu cattle-breeders in Japan go to great measures to create a zen-like existence for their cows. This means controlling the noise levels so that the cattle are not startled, constantly refreshing their water, and separating cows that are not getting along.
Source: Japan Times
Japanese Wagyu cattle are also monitored more closely than American cattle who often roam huge open pastures. They are not restricted in movement or force-fed and are actually raised on controlled open-air farms, where they are given a name versus a number and checked on every few hours. Also, to qualify for Wagyu certification the adult cattle have to be fed a special diet made up predominantly of grain.
So, as you can see, the way the cattle is raised has an impact on the quality of the fat marbling within the meat. Combine their stress-free lifestyle, diet, and careful attention with the fact that Wagyu cattle commonly live longer than other beef cattle, and the flavor of the beef is significantly improved. Japanese Wagyu cows live an average lifespan of three years, while normal beef cattle live to roughly 15 months.
All of these things in the way the cattle are raised and the strict regulations from the Japanese government is what makes Wagyu beef so much more expensive compared to traditional beef cuts.
Yes, you read that right. There are actually some great nutritional benefits of Wagyu beef compared to traditional American Angus beef.
Wagyu beef is loaded with a higher concentration of monounsaturated fats (the good fats) and a much lower level of saturated fats (the bad fats) compared to traditional beef. It’s also packed with more Omega-3 than other beef. It is also high in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). This is a naturally occurring Omega-6 fatty acid that is associated with aiding in weight loss, lowering the risk of Type 2 diabetes, and even lowering the risk of cancer.
As you can see, Wagyu beef will provide a taste and quality unmatched by many other cuts of beef. If you have the opportunity, try Japanese Wagyu beef at least once in your life. Trying different types of Japanese Wagyu and even comparing those to the taste of American Wagyu is the full experience.
If you want to try your hand at cooking this delectable meat yourself, there are some great high-quality beef wholesalers you can order from online. Then you can have authentic Japanese Wagyu beef shipped straight to your door.
Have you recently tried Wagyu beef? Mastered how to smoke a Wagyu brisket? Tell us all about it below, we want to hear from you!
If you’re ready to cook a Wagyu steak like the pros, check out the one-of-a-kind online grilling classes taught by Champion Grillmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. You’ll learn everything you need to know to master your grill or smoker.
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So at your local butcher or when you’ve got your meat delivery in, you may have seen labels that say the beef has been aged for 14, 28, 45, or even 120 days. Or you may have heard someone talk about eating dry-aged beef. But what exactly does dry-aging beef mean, and how does that impact the quality or flavor of the beef?
In this article, we’ll break down exactly what the process of aging beef is, answer the question of why age beef, and the two different ways it can be done. Let’s take a look:
You may be wondering, what is dry-aged beef and how do you age beef? Essentially the process of dry-aging beef is “controlled rot”. That may sound less than appetizing, but it is entirely safe and the effect it has on the beef is delicious.
During the aging process, large primal cuts of beef hang in a temperature and humidity-controlled room. In this, the cuts are exposed to unimpeded airflow on all sides. As the beef is dry aging, a fine, fluffy blanket of “good” mold covers parts of the exterior of the meat. This is because the meat is exposed to oxygen, causing oxidation to occur, which activates the enzymes in the meat. This mold bacteria that form is similar to what ages blue cheese to a nice savory flavor.
During the aging process, the moisture content of the muscle is significantly reduced through evaporation and the fiber and molecular bonds of the meat are broken down. Some of these molecular bonds are broken down into smaller, more flavorful fragments. For example, some proteins will get broken down into amino acids and some glycogen will get broken down into sugar. This process will also actually result in more tender meat when it is cooked (see below) because the internal structure has been broken down more.
Then, when the meat is done aging before it is sold this mold layer is trimmed off. Revealing the darker, perfectly aged meat. This meat is then cut into smaller pieces and sold. For example, bone-in New York strip and ribeye are two of the most common cuts of dry-aged beef.
Timeframes of dry-aging beef range from 7 all the way up to 120 days. Many times, the number of days the beef is aged depends on the type of cut it is. Many beef experts say that the sweet spot in regards to flavor for aged beef is 30-35 days. Past that and the meat gets significantly funkier in taste and smell, similar to blue cheese.
Source: The Daily Meal
Before any aging, meat is about 75% water. As the mold does its magic it draws the moisture out and some of the moisture content is then evaporated from the meat. During this, it is actually tenderizing the meat and concentrating the flavor. The process of flavor enhancement in aging beef has been compared to reducing stock to a demi-glaze for cooking.
So, aging beef enhances the meat’s flavor and imparts into it an even richer, robust taste that is packed with umami. Some people also describe the taste as having a slight nuttiness to it.
Even though the taste is unmatched, keep in mind, aged beef will be more expensive than fresh beef. It’s not because it simply tastes better. This is mainly because, as the rot is trimmed off before selling, you lose meat that would otherwise be sold if it was being trimmed fresh. 25% to 50% of each primal cut is lost during the aging process, so the butcher or meat supplier has to make up for that and cover the cost of production for aging beef.
You may have also heard the term “wet-aged” and are wondering what is wet aging compared to dry-aging beef. This process of aging meat is often done to try and get the same type of results in flavor enhancement, in less time, and without losing a percentage of the meat as you would in dry aging.
In wet aging, the meat is vacuum-sealed in a plastic bag and sits in its own juices for several weeks or longer. This does tenderize the meat but it prevents any evaporation from happening. So, you don’t get the same kind of flavor concentration as dry aging. Wet-aged meat will not have the level of richness or nuttiness in the taste or the same mouthfeel as dry-aged meat.
While both have an effect on the tenderness of the meat, wet-aging will not have any significant effect on enhancing flavor like dry-aging does.
So, if you have a choice between dry-aged and wet-aged beef and want a fantastic tasting, tender cut, go for the dry-aged.
Source: Serious Eats
Let’s say you’ve picked up or ordered some dry-aged steaks and are ready to cook them at home. How you cook dry-aged beef will be a little bit different and require extra care not to burn the meat. As you know by now, the longer the steak has aged the dryer and more dense it is when you get it. So, you can’t just throw it on the grill or sear it like you would a fresher cut unless you want a burnt chunk of meat.
To cook a perfect steak that has been dry-aged, you will be searing for less time and cooking over indirect heat longer until you reach the desired temperature. This can be done on the grill using a two-zone method or in a cast-iron/non-stick skillet. Oftentimes, basting the steak with butter while cooking it will help it absorb some more moisture back in and remain extremely tender.
Check out this recipe from Shipley Farms on how to cook a dry-aged ribeye steak in a cast-iron skillet.
Now that you know exactly what dry-aging beef is and why it’s done, you can see how every bite of a dry-aged steak will be rich, tender, and bursting with flavor. If you haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet, get yourself some dry-aged beef today and cook a cut of beef that will have your mouth-watering.
Did you learn something new today about aging beef? Have you already tried dry-aged beef and have a favorite cut? Leave a comment below and let us know. We want to hear from you!
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As we’ve talked about before, buying high-quality meat for your outdoor cooking will make a huge difference in the taste and tenderness of the final result. But, what happens if you don’t have time to get to your local butcher shop or if you don’t have a good meat store nearby?
The good news is that all hope is not lost. There are several options of places you can buy meat online without leaving your house. Get everything you need, from premium brisket to seafood to venison and everything in between, with the click of a button from the top online meat suppliers.
We’ve gathered up a list of the top places to order meat online in 2021. Let’s take a look:
If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for all kinds of top-quality meats, Crowd Cow is a great option. As one of the top places to buy meat online, they work directly with ranchers and farmers that they know personally to provide meat that is raised humanely and has exceptional taste and quality. On the Crowd Cow website, you can get an idea of what the animal was fed, how it was finished, and the type of marbling or flavor you can expect before you buy.
Specializing in exceptional beef, Crowd Cow offers cuts of 100% grass-fed and pastured grain-finished from local ranchers, as well as American Wagyu and imported Japanese Wagyu from the top 5 beef Prefectures in Japan. You can also get pasture-raised chicken, heritage and all-natural pork, pasture-raised American lamb, sustainable wild-caught seafood, and more.
You can order the meats and seafood you want as a one-time purchase or get them on a recurring basis.
Source: Porter Road
Porter Road only works with hand-selected farms in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania and meticulously hand-cut all meat in their own facility in Kentucky. You can order pasture-raised beef, pork, lamb, and chicken that is free of hormones, antibiotics, and GMOs. They also dry age all of their beef for a minimum of 14 days to deliver excellent tenderness and flavor.
Also, making things even better, all of the meat from Porter Road is shipped fresh and not frozen. You can also order curated butcher’s choice boxes from Porter Road on a subscription basis that will be delivered straight to your door every 2, 4, or 8 weeks.
If you’ve been around the competition barbecue world, chances are you may have heard of Snake River Farms. Many of the top pitmasters favor their brisket for competitions. Snake River Farms is one of the top suppliers of American Wagyu beef and Kurobuta pork, as well as a wide assortment of USDA Prime beef cuts under their Double R Ranch label.
Their Wagyu Gold Grade beef is the highest of all American Wagyu grades with 9 to 12 on the Japanese marbling scale. To put that in perspective, USDA Prime is only a 4 to 5. So, you can have some of the best beef available shipped right to your door. If you do want to avoid freezing your meat, Snake River Farms does offer fresh shipping. Your order is then packed in ice and sent overnight.
You know when some of the top steakhouses in the country order from a particular company, the meat has got to be good. Family-run Rastelli’s has long been supplying premium meats and seafood to restaurants all over the world, and now you can order in bulk from them too.
From pasture-raised Black Angus cattle from the Central Plains to wild-caught salmon from the Faroe Islands, all of Rastelli's products come from their trusted partners and are responsibly raised or wild-caught, and antibiotic-free, hormone-free, and steroid-free. Most cuts can be ordered in quantities of 4 or 8 or you can choose a curated box. If you choose to start a subscription of meats, you can save 5% and have your choice of frequency, every 1, 2, 3, 4, or 6 weeks.
Another favorite restaurant supplier that now allows the public to buy meat online, Allen Brothers has been supplying many of the best steakhouses throughout the country since 1893. On their site, you’ll find a full catalog of great cuts of premium beef, from Ribeye to Prime Rib Roast, all available to ship to your door.
Allen Brothers sells high-quality USDA Prime, all grades of Wagyu up to A5, and dry-aged beef in a wide range of cuts. You can also find a great selection of premium lamb, heritage breeds of pork, top-quality veal and poultry, premium seafood, and more. Place a one-time order of favorites, choose a curated assortment box, or start a Steaks and More monthly subscription.
Source: Chicago Steak Company
If you’re looking for premium surf and turf options, Chicago Steak Company is one of the best providers online. With their fantastic selection of beef, it’s no wonder they won the People’s Choice Award for Best Steak at The Great Steak Debate. Chicago Steak Company provides premium Angus Beef, USDA Prime Wet Aged and Dry Aged, and American Wagyu. You can also find high-quality Kurobuta pork, Berkshire ham, premium chicken, and more.
Once you’ve decided on your steak, you can’t jump over to their Fresh Fish Market section and find a perfect seafood option to go with it. From cold-water lobster tails from Maine to wild-caught salmon, there’s plenty of high-quality seafood to choose from.
With over 200 unique meat options, if you are looking for hard to find cuts and exotic meats, Fossil Farms is your source. Since 1997, Fossil Farms has been providing uniquely sustainable proteins straight to your door. You can find everything from bison to ostrich to venison and everything in between. They also sell high-quality, all-natural beef and pork, including American Wagyu and Japanese Wagyu beef and Berkshire pork.
You can pick out and order meats individually or try their curated package specials, like the Ostrich Tasting package with two different cuts of Ostrich. If you are within their local delivery area, Fossil Farms also has a bi-weekly discovery box subscription that includes a selection of the latest in-season produce, pantry staples, and proteins from trusted local partners.
Even though you may not hear these companies’ names every day, as you can see, there are plenty of great places to buy meat online today. So, don’t worry if you don’t have or can’t get to a local butcher shop. You can easily get some fantastic, premium meat and seafood delivered straight to your door.
Do you have another favorite online meat supplier that we didn’t include? Have you had an awesome experience with any of the suppliers on our list? Let us know below. We want to hear from you!
If you want to learn from the pros exactly how to cook all this wonderful meat you can order, join our one-of-a-kind online BBQ and grilling classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. Master how to do everything from grilling the perfect steak to smoking a competition-worthy brisket. Classes are available individually or checkout out the All Access to get the full inside scoop.
Also, make sure to swing by our YouTube channel for insider tips and BBQ info straight from the pro Pitmasters and Grillmasters. Click “Subscribe” to stay on top of all the latest from BBQ Champs Academy!
Not all pork ribs are created equal. Many people don’t realize that there are several different types of pork rib cuts. To truly elevate your barbecue game and master the art of cooking ribs, it is important to understand the different types of pork ribs and how the cuts vary.
Some pork ribs have more meat on the bone than others while some are more uniform in shape. Some pork rib cuts are better suited for smoking and cooking low and slow than others. Each rib cut has some unique characteristics and variations.
In this article, we’ll break down the different pork rib cuts and what to look for when buying your ribs. Let’s take a look:
A pig has a total of 14 ribs attached to the center section of the spine. Each type of rib cut comes from a different section of the ribs. Where the ribs are cut from on the pig matters a lot when it comes to how much meat is on the bone, the length, and even the taste.
There are 5 popular types of pork ribs:
One of the most popular types of pork rib cuts, baby back ribs come from the upper loin area of the pig near the spine. These ribs are also sometimes referred to as loin back ribs. In the name baby back ribs, the term “baby” does not mean they come from piglets but refers to the size of these ribs being smaller compared to spareribs.
Baby back ribs tend to be between 3 and 6 inches in length and have a distinct bend in the bone where the rib meets the spine. Even though they usually have more meat on the bones, this rib cut is leaner in the amount of fat in the meat compared to spareribs so they don’t take as long to cook. Baby back ribs usually take 3 to 4 hours to properly cook.
Arguably the most popular type of pork ribs, spareribs are cut from further down the side of the pig near the belly, reaching down toward the breastbone. You may also hear these referred to simply as spares.
Spareribs are longer and flatter in comparison to baby back ribs, allowing them to brown more evenly. On one end of the spareribs, where they have been cut away from the baby back ribs, you’ll see the marrow of the bones. The other end, towards the chest of the pig, will be more tapered. At this tapered end will be a larger chunk of meat, cartilage, and gristle.
One of the biggest differences is that spareribs have significantly fattier meat with more marbling along the top and between the bones. This is why these ribs take longer to cook and are often the better choice for smoking. Spareribs usually take 5 to 6 hours to cook.
Source: Serious Eats
Another popular variation of ribs, St. Louis ribs are simply spareribs that have just been trimmed up more. These have had both the cartilage and gristle-filled area and the tapered end of the ribs cut off. This results in a more rectangular, uniform look to the rack of ribs. Because of this, many competition pitmasters prefer to use St. Louis style ribs. Both for their clean appearance and the amount of meat on the bones.
The name of this rib cut came from the meatpackers in St. Louis who started cutting their ribs this way in the mid-20th century. Because of the way they are trimmed, St. Louis ribs are longer than baby back ribs but shorter than standard spareribs.
You won’t often find this type of rib cut in your local big-box grocery store. Unless you trim the spareribs yourself into St. Louis style, your local butcher will be your best source for these types of pork ribs.
Kansas City ribs are very similar to St. Louis ribs but are not trimmed as closely. With St. Louis style ribs, the cartilage section is removed, while Kansas City ribs have the cartilage section still included.
Finally, rib tips are the small bones and cartilage that connect the lower breast bone to the front ribs. These are cut from the lower ends of spareribs when cutting them into St. Louis ribs. This cut used to be considered butcher scraps but actually makes a great appetizer. Rib tips are usually 8 to 12 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide. Then, when they are ready to be served, they are usually cut into 2-inch chunks.
Because of the high amount of cartilage, rib tips do tend to be chewier compared to other types of pork rib cuts but can still be delicious when cooked properly.
You may have heard of country-style ribs as well. But, for clarification, these are actually not ribs at all. These are basically a bone-in pork chop that is cut near the shoulder from the front of the baby back ribs.
Depending on the overall size of the pig, country-style ribs may be served with either a one bone or two bone thickness with a significant amount of pork loin meat attached.
The quality of your pork is just as important as the type of rib cut and cooking technique when it comes to great-tasting pork ribs. Pork doesn’t have the same kind of grading specifications as beef, which goes by the level of fat marbling. But, there are still ways you can determine good quality pork ribs.
When it comes to pork, you want to look for dark reddish-pink to purplish-red with some good marbling. Remember, the fat helps add tenderness and flavor. But, try and avoid large chunks of fat on top. You also want to look for an even thickness across the ribs. Ideally, you want to get ribs that are around an inch thick.
Source: Pork Checkoff
Your local butcher is going to be your best source of high-quality pork with the largest selection of the various types of pork ribs. Plus, if the rib cut you want is not in the case and ready to buy, just ask and they’ll gladly cut it for you.
Now, with this article on pork rib cuts explained, you should have a clearer picture of what differentiates different types of ribs and also what to look for when you are buying your pork ribs. Set up a two-zone grill and don’t be afraid to experiment with cooking and smoking different types of ribs to determine your favorites and achieve the results you are looking for.
If you are a rib fan, make sure to check out our articles on the different types of beef rib cuts and the differences between beef and pork ribs as well. Taking the time to understand the different types of meat cuts and further expand your outdoor cooking knowledge will help you quickly step your barbecue game up.
For more insider tips and tricks straight from top barbecue Pitmasters and Grillmasters, dive into the one-of-a-kind, in-depth classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. You can master how to cook BBQ ribs and much more.
Check out our All-Access pass to get the full inside look at all different types of barbecue. You’ll learn, through stunning high definition video, detailed step-by-step, how to cook competition-worthy barbecue like nowhere else.
Not all steak cuts are created equal when it comes to grilling. Some specific cuts take to a grill better and result in a delicious, tender, and juicy grilled steak.
If you are wanting to up your grilling game and master how to cook competition steak like the pros, making sure you have one of the best steak cuts for grilling is crucial. The last thing you want is a tough piece of beef that you can hardly cut through.
In this article, we’ll break down what to look for when it comes to steak cuts and the options you have when you are searching for the best cut of steak to grill.
Cooking a perfect grilled steak is about more than just knowing what the best steak cuts for grilling are. There are some things to consider when selecting your steak cut that will help tremendously.
To get an amazingly tender and flavorful grilled steak, you have to buy good quality beef. As you probably know, there are several grades of beef as determined by the USDA. The thing that differentiates the different grades of beef is the amount of fat marbling throughout the meat.
The more marbling in your cut of steak the more tender your meat will be. A favorite choice of many grillmasters is USDA Prime beef. Prime cuts will be more expensive but will have a great amount of marbling running through the meat.
If you are going to be grilling steak a lot and don’t want to spend the money on Prime cuts all the time (or are having trouble finding it), your next best option is upper-two-thirds USDA Choice.
Either way, look for a good amount of the white, spiderweb-like marbling running through the meat to end up with a juicy and tender steak.
In most instances, the highest grade of beef you’ll find at the grocery store is USDA Choice. You may also run into some difficulty finding some of the good cuts of steak in these stores. If you are serious about cooking great grilled steak it’s time to befriend your local butcher.
Your local butcher will have a much larger variety of the best steak cuts for grilling and will have many of them in USDA Prime (and sometimes even the highest grade, Wagyu, if you’re feeling fancy). Plus, if you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for just ask the butcher. Chances are they’ll cut it for you right then.
At your local butcher shop, you’ll get more personalized service, they can help you select great steaks with plenty of marbling, and you’ll be supporting a small business as well.
If you don’t have a local butcher shop, you can also order online from some of the great American cattle farms and ranches like Snake River Farms / Double R Ranch. Then you’ll have great quality steak cuts shipped straight to your door.
Another important factor of cooking competition-worthy steak is making sure you’ve got a good thickness in your steak cut. A thinner steak will quickly dry and out and become tough on a hot grill. The optimal thickness for grilled steak is 1 ⅛” to 2”.
Again, it may be hard to find steaks of this thickness in the grocery store so this is another reason your local butcher shop is a good bet.
Now that you know what to look for in the quality of beef and thickness of your cuts, let’s take a look at the specific options for the best steak cuts for grilling. Some of these you may recognize but you may find some new favorites as well:
Section cut from: Rib primal (ribs 6 through 12)
The Ribeye steak is often one of the first choices for many grillmasters and is the required cut in Steak Cookoff Association (SCA) steak competitions. This cut is known for being very well-marbled evenly throughout, tender, and can be purchased bone off or bone-in. Just make sure to avoid Ribeye cuts with large chunks of fat in the middle.
A bone-in Ribeye that has 5 or more inches of a “frenched” bone left in is what is known as a Tomahawk steak.
Ribeye steaks are often closer to 2 inches thick and cook very well using a reverse sear method on a two-zone grill setup.
Section cut from: Short Loin
Another favorite steak cut for grilling is the New York Strip. With a nice beefy flavor, these steaks are also very tender and well-marbled. Again, make sure to look for nice, even marbling throughout the cut.
New York Strips do well on the grill when they are at least 1 ⅛” thick.
Section cut from: Closer towards the front of the Short Loin
If you are looking for one of the larger steak cuts, a T-Bone is a great option. This is because this bone-in steak actually contains two types of steaks in one. It will have a Striploin on one side of the signature “T”-shaped bone, and Tenderloin on the other side of the bone.
The key to cooking a T-Bone properly is keeping an eye on internal temperatures on either side of the bone. It is not uncommon for one side to cook faster than the other because of the different levels of connective tissue and marbling on each side.
A reverse sear method works great for T-Bone steaks.
Section cut from: Closer towards the rear of the Short Loin
Porterhouse and T-Bone steaks are often confused as being the same cut of steak but they are in fact different. Since a Porterhouse is cut closer towards the rear of the Short Loin, it will include more of the Tenderloin on one side of the bone along with the large Striploin. Because of this, Porterhouse steaks are often even larger than a T-Bone.
A Porterhouse is another steak that should be cut thick, usually around 2 inches.
When cooking a Porterhouse, just like the T-Bone, keep an eye on the temperature on either side of the bone.
Section cut from: Smaller end of the Tenderloin in the center of the Short Loin
Because it contains very little connective tissue, a Filet Mignon is one of the most tender steak cuts available. It is also cut from one of the smallest beef sections, with most steers having only 1 lb of Filet Mignon.
For these two reasons, a Filet Mignon is going to be one of the most expensive steak cuts. But, this cut can definitely result in a very nice grilled steak.
A Filet Mignon is easily recognizable by its smaller diameter, almost round shape and is often 2 to 3 inches in thickness.
Section cut from: Sirloin
Even though it is one of the more affordable cuts of steak, a Top Sirloin is still a very flavorful steak. With more connective tissue, it will not be as tender as some of the other steak cuts.
You still want to try and select a Top Sirloin steak that is 1 ⅛” thick at a minimum. These steaks can be cooked over direct heat for the majority of the time. Just make sure to keep an eye on it and check the internal temperature frequently to avoid overcooking it.
Even if you are fairly new to grilling, you can still cook a perfectly grilled steak that’ll impress. It just comes down to knowing what to look for. This includes the quality of the meat, the amount of marbling, the thickness, and that it’s one of the best steak cuts for grilling.
If you take all of these things into account, you have a much higher chance of cooking a tender, juicy steak every time and mastering how to cook competition steak. Step out of your comfort zone and try a different steak cut than you are used to. You never know, you may discover a new favorite.
Make sure to also check out our article here on tips for grilling steak like the pro Grillmasters.
The insider tips on grilling steak don’t stop here. With online steak grilling classes straight from champion Grillmasters like Allen Newton and John Lindsey, BBQ Champs Academy can help you take your grilling game to the next level. Don’t miss out on all of the step-by-step instructions, tips, and secrets and master how to cook competition steak. Learn how to grill steak straight from the pros!