Beef Butcher Instructions Cover Image showing a beef cut chart

Beef Butcher Instructions

Once you’ve committed to buying beef direct, whether it be a whole beef, 1/2 of beef or a 1/4, the phone will ring, and the butcher is going to have a lot of questions to ask you. He or she wants to know exactly what YOU want. At first, this can feel a little overwhelming, giving butchering instructions. To a butcher the cuts and what you can do with each of them is as common sense to them as needing to buckle up our kids before getting on the road is to you and I.

Things to Consider Before the Butcher Calls

Between the time that your beef is butchered and the butcher calls to get your beef butcher instructions, you should take a moment to consider exactly what you want. After going through each of the primal cuts, consider the current season you are living in.

For example:

  • Do you have time for cuts that take slow cooking, if not, do you have an Instant Pot or a slow cooker and recipes “pinned?”
  • Are you consistently reaching for ground beef because it is extremely versatile and easy to grab? If so, you may consider what cuts you want to add to the grind to make it more flavorful or increase the amount of grind you receive.
  • Is there a cut that someone in your household just doesn’t care for? Consider what you could do with it instead.
  • What season will you be stocking your freezer in? Will you looking for more cuts to grill, or great options for your slow slow cooker?
  • How many people do you regularly feed?
  • Do you like having leftovers?
  • How many pounds of ground beef do you want in each chub?
  • How many steaks do you want to a pack?
  • How thick do you want your steaks cut? (Do you need them to cook faster or have more mouths to feed? Consider going thinner than the standard thickness.) The butcher will let you know what their standard thickness is.
  • How many pounds of stew meat would you want in a pack? Or are you like me and don’t really use stew meat so you add it to the grind?

Beef Cuts

One thing to keep in mind if you choose the 1/4 of a beef option, there really isn’t a “1/4” of a beef. You are essentially splitting a 1/2 with someone. It is wonderful if you can do this with someone you know, so that you can divvy up the cuts a little differently. If you are just asking for a 1/4 of a beef though, you are going to get either the front 1/4 (Pictured below: #1, 2, 8, 9, and 10) or the hind 1/4 (Pictured below: #3, 4, 5, 6, and 7). Let’s talk through each of the cuts that the butcher will be asking you about. When I mention a quantity of a cut that you will receive, it is assumed that we are talking about 1/2 of beef.

Half of beef visual showing all of the primal cuts.

# 1 the Chuck

This shoulder region is very flavorful, yet typically firmer. The portion cuts that come from the chuck are:

  1. Short Ribs – If you don’t think you and/or your household will use this cut then you can always ask the butcher to bone them out and add to the grind (aka ground beef the most versatile cut known to man).
  2. Blade Steaks – If you and/or your household enjoys or prepares stir fry often, you can ask for this to be sliced thinly to use in stir fry.
  3. Chuck Roasts – If you aren’t a big roast fan (I have a recipe for them that will turn you into one), you can have stew meat made with it OR you can add them to the grind.

# 2 the Rib

Before you start planning a prime rib dinner for 12, remember that of the 13 pairs of ribs on a beef animal, only the last six are considered part of the “ribs” primal cut – the remaining ribs are grouped with the chuck and short plate. The portion cuts that come from the ribs are:

  1. Prime Rib – You will get about a 3-4 rib roast or you can have these “steaked out” (aka cut into rib steaks instead). The butcher can also cut the bones off of the prime rib roast and attach them with kitchen twine so they are easy for you to remove when the roast is done cooking. The ribs have a lot of flavorful meat on them that all will enjoy. They are finger licking good!
  2. Rib Steaks

# 3 the Short Loin

Say hello to the most tender, therefore most expensive cuts of beef! The reason for the tenderness is due to its location on the animal, it is not heavily used or exercised. I apologize now if the list below makes you start to drool just a little bit. Grab a snack and keep going, this prep work will make talking to the butcher a breeze. The portion cuts that come from the short loin are:

  1. T-bone Steaks
  2. Porterhouse
  3. Filet Mignon – If you don’t want to grill the filet’s you can leave them as a roast that you can roast OR you can create something fancy such as Beef Wellington.
  4. New York Strip (One of my favorite cuts!)

# 4 the Sirloin

Since the sirloin is closer to the round “booty” of the animal which inevitably moves a lot, the sirloin is leaner when compared to the short loin. The portion cuts that come from the sirloin are:

  1. Sirloin Steaks – This is a much leaner steak than any of the others and you could certainly add it to your grind.
  2. Top Sirloin Steaks

# 5 the Round

“Look at the hip on that one.” My son and I constantly tease my husband about the comment he frequently likes to make about his favorite calves. He is referring to the round of the animal. Animals that have more muscle in this area (have a nice looking booty) have less fat, which leads to leaner cuts. The portion cuts that come from the round are:

  1. Cubed steak
  2. Eye of the Round Roast
  3. Round Steaks – This is the cut used to make London Broil.
  4. Rolled Rump Roast – There is no bone in this roast, it is very lean and needs to be cooked very slowly at a low temperature. You can opt to add this to your grind or cut into stir fry meat.

# 6 the Tip

It is amazing to see how specific cuts have been developed over time. Before writing this, I consulted my mom who is an outstanding cook (total understatement), has extensive experience working in a slaughterhouse, and cooking a vast array of cuts. We grabbed her Betty Crocker Cookbook and consulted the beef cuts section in the back to organize our conversation. I smiled when I saw “sirloin tip roast” listed as a cut from the Tip. I pointed at it and said, “Wow, kudos to Santa Maria.” This cut will forever be known as a tri-tip roast. The teacher in me wants to take a moment to point out that this cut has the pre-fix “tri” in it, referring to the triangular shape of the roast.

  1. Tri-tip Roast – If grilling a roast feels uncomfortable or you would like something that would grill up quicker, you can certainly have the roast cut into steaks (sometimes called a triangle steak or Santa Maria Steak).

# 7 the Flank

I feel like when you are a mom to kiddos under five your humor typically comes from all of the movies they watch. When I began to write about the flank all I can think of is Lupe the Calming Goat on the movie Ferdinand say, “Moving on down the flank, momma like that, momma like that.”

Okay, we are back to our regularly scheduled program, the beef butcher instructions of the flank. The meat from the flank can be used as flank steak, a desirable cut since it was further developed and discovered that it is quite spectacular when cut cross-grain. You’ll probably get a flank steak that would feed a family of four, but if that is not of interest to you, you can have them add it to the ground.

# 8 the Short Plate

The short plate is a much fattier cut, given it’s location, on the stomach. The portion cuts that come from the short plate are:

  1. Short ribs (approximately 8-12 ribs)
  2. Skirt Steak (You’ll get just one steak that feeds about 2 people.)

If you don’t think you and/or your household will use either of these cuts then you can always ask the butcher to bone them out (if needed) and add to the grind. Fat = flavor and if you use ground beef a lot in your home than you will appreciate a flavorful grind. Adding cuts like this to it will make it very tasty.

# 9 the Brisket

Brisket can be tough if cooked improperly. It does have a lot of fat though, which means it is a very flavorful cut. Can you ground this? Yes, yes you can. Should you? No, no you should not. If I can give you any advice within these beef butcher instructions it is to not grind this. If you do decide to grind it, someone in the south will probably say, “Bless your heart.” Heck, it might even be illegal to grind it in some states like Arkansas, Texas, or Alabama. Let me check on that.

# 10 the Foreshank

The foreshank is the front upper leg as you can see in the image above. This meat is very lean as you can imagine when looking at the legs of a beef animal. You can choose the take the shanks and braise them, or you can choose to make stew meat from it or a stir fry cut.

You Are Ready to Give Your Beef Butcher Instructions

Now that you have made your way through all of the beef cuts, you are ready for that phone to ring. If you are looking for an extra confidence boost, listen to the recording below where I walk through the beef butcher instructions with our butcher’s wife on a half of beef as a new customer would.

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