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 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.
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.
If you want to up your backyard cooking game and master your grill, make sure to check out our Championship Backyard Cooking Classes. Learn how to cook a variety of different backyard BBQ favorites with the Champion Grillmaster and Pitmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy.
Ready to really elevate your grilling and/or smoking skills and learn how to cook like the pros? With our All-Access passes, you’ll get all the competition smoking and grilling techniques, insider BBQ tips, and more in our first of its kind online BBQ cooking classes with Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters. Start cooking like the pros today!
Make sure to also subscribe to our YouTube channel to get the latest scoop on competition BBQ news and insider info with the leading competition cookers.
3 dishes you will learn how to cook: