How to Choose the Correct Beef Steak Cuts
Not all steaks are created equal. Thus choosing the right grade and the right cut of meat makes all the difference in how tender the steak is and how much saturated fat and cholesterol you end up ingesting. Never mind the calories.
The tenderness of a steak depends on where the steak is cut from. Beef is a muscle and the more the muscle is worked, the less fat it has. Steaks that have less fat are not as tender.
USDA beef grades
The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) has established eight beef grades to classify meat. The grades refer to the quality of the meat when inspected and it is based on the fat the meat contains (marbling). The three grades commonly available to consumers are:
Prime: Prime meat has a lot of fat which makes the steak very tender and quite tasty. Prime meats are generally served at good restaurants and sold in grocery stores.
Choice: The majority of graded beef is graded choice. It contains a moderate amount of fat and is still tender, but the flavor is not as great as prime.
Select: Select beef has very little fat. It has less flavor than prime and choice and when cooked is drier and tougher.
Some common cuts of meat
Chuck steaks: The chuck section (the shoulder area) includes the first five ribs as well as the shoulder-blade bone. In most cases chuck steaks are tough and some cuts contain large amounts of gristle and fat. You will get best results when cooking these cuts if you cook them low and slow, such as a slow cooker.
Rib steaks: The rib section is located just behind the chuck/shoulder area and contains the next seven ribs. This is where the prime rib roast is found. The steaks from this rib section are of high quality with just the right amount of fat, great flavor and tenderness. This cut of meat is great for grilling.
Short-loin steaks: This section is located just behind the rib section, in the upper middle area of the back. Steaks cut from the short loin are of great quality. The tenderloin, which is known for its tenderness and rich flavor, is found here. The T-bone and porterhouse steaks are also from this section.
Sirloin steaks: The sirloin section is behind the loin section at sometimes is referred as the hip area. Sirloin steaks are fairly large but thin and the meat is not as tender as the short-loin cuts, but they have great flavor. This cut is great for stews and roasts.
Flank steak: the flank steak is located on the underside belly area, directly below the short loin and sirloin. Steaks from this area have a rich flavor but must be sliced thin and against the grain to keep the meat from being chewy.
Pros and cons of red meat
The calories in the meat come from the protein and the varying amounts of fat. As you probably know by now, very lean meats provide calories mainly from protein and high-fat meats provide a similar amount of protein but much more fat.
One of the problems of meat is that the fat is saturated fat and it is also a source of cholesterol. Both saturated fat and cholesterol can raise your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
On the other hand, meats are a great source of protein and of several vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorous and vitamins E, B6 and B12.
How many servings of meat?
The amount of meat servings a day is based on the amount of calories you ingest a day. Some examples are:
|Daily Calorie Range||Servings of Meat – ounces|
|1,200 – 1,400||4|
|1,400 – 1,600||5|
|1,600 – 1,900||6|
|1,900 – 2,300||7|
|2,300 – 2,800||8|
In general, a serving of meat is about 2 to 3 ounces cooked. An ounce of meat has about 7 grams of protein, no matter where the cut comes from.
The cuts of meat you choose day in and day out, greatly affects the calories and the amount of fat you eat. To eat the correct servings of meat you may want to weigh it on occasion to make sure your estimates are correct.
Fat and calories in meat
What makes the difference in calories is the type of meat you choose. Here is a guideline you can use when buying meat:
|Type of Meat||Fat – grams||Calories||Examples of meat|
|Lean||0 – 3||45||Tenderloin, sirloin, ground round|
|Medium-fat||4 – 7||75||Ground beef (not lean 80/20), prime beef|
|Nutrition information is per 1 ounce cooked portion|
Choose the leaner cuts as often as possible and eat them in small amounts. Go for the lean or extra lean ground meat. If you are diabetic, cutting down on saturated fat is very important since you are at risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. A reduction in saturated fat intake and cholesterol can help you improve your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Wishing you the best health!
Emilia Klapp, R.D., B.S.