Self-sufficiency lessons: How to butcher a beef carcass

In case you were unaware it takes a heck of a lot of effort to get meat from whole cow all the way down to delicious steak. I hope to provide a brief summary of Beef.

First step when you get a whole cow from the abattoir is to cut it into the 8-9 primal cuts (sometimes brisket and shank are one piece) From these you get all the cuts you get in the grocery store (sirloin steaks come from the sirloin) etc. They also grade it before it’s sold but more on grading beef in a different post. Meat is muscle and the more the muscle is used the tougher it will be. for example shank, brisket and chuck will be tough from a cow walking and moving it’s head around to eat grass….stargaze… whatever. Round and flank will also be pretty chewy. The most tender cuts come from the back where the muscles are basically only used to keep everything in place that’s why the loin (tenderloin) is in the middle of the back and is also the most tender (read expensive) cut of beef.

The loin (or short loin) contains a lot of peoples favorite cuts of meat including Striploin (newyork), T-bone, porterhouse and tenderloin. These also tend to be the most expensive cuts of meat. They are tender, fairly flavorful and should be cooked over dry heat (oven, bbq, frying pan) Also T-bones and porterhouse steaks both have tenderloin on one side of the bone and sirloin on the other. Porterhouses are the front end of the loin so they tend to have more tenderloin and be sliced thinner than T-bones so if you like rare get a T-bone if you like mid+ get porter because it’s softer and will cook faster.
Sirloin is where you get top sirloin, tritip-bottom sirloin, butt tenderloin and a lot of steaks. Actually if you google sirloin pretty much all you get is pictures of steaks. The reason it’s called sirloin is because (apparently) one of the mad kings of old had a fondness for beef so his cook served and entire loin strip at a dinner party and he declared it was so magnificent he knighted his dinner and thus it became Sir loin.
The Flank is the home of flank steak and some ground beef and stew meat. Recently flank has been gaining popularity because while it is a slightly thinner, slightly tougher cut. It has amazing flavour and when cooked and marinated correctly and sliced nice and thin it’s just as good as a more expensive steak.
And finally the Round (Hip) which is where most roast beef comes from ’cause there’s a lot of meat back there. (Cows have a honky-tonk-badonka-donk) Inside round comes from inside the leg, outside from the outside. There’s also sirloin tip from the front, Shank from the lower leg and eye and heel of round from the mid-butt area. The more down the leg it is the lower and slower you want to cook it to make it really tender and juicy. Now that the hindquarter is covered onto the front end (forequarter)
Chuck is the neck area and boy is it tough. Even in the picture you can see all the connective tissue- this makes most of it bad for quick cooking (the exception being flat iron steak which looks and cooks a lot like flank) This stuff is made into stew beef, ground beef, and pot roast and it’s really good at that. All the collagen (that white tough stuff) cooks down into gelatin which gives stews that nice hearty broth. The key is low temp, long cook time and lots of moisture. (think slow cooker or dutch oven)
Brisket: One of the best cuts for smoking because it’s tough enough to stand up to a long cook time and has enough fat to not dry out and get like beef jerky. I work at a BBQ restaurant and we can go through 8-10 whole briskets in a night. Brisket is also used for corned beef and Montreal smoked meat because it also brine’s well. Thant and it’s pretty cheap. – Shank: It’s a leg. They sometimes get these at big buffets to roast and carve because it’s an impressive looking piece of meat. Also great for stews because of all the bone and used to make things like osso bucco although traditionally I think that’s made with veal leg. The Shank bones are also used to make stocks and consomme because they have so much quality marrow.

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Plate: Contains ground beef, skirt steak (again like flank steak and traditional for fajitas) and short ribs which can be cut as seen above (with or without the bone) short ribs like to be braised for a long time to get really tender and dissolve all the fat on them or chain short ribs which are cut into strips of meat with little circles of the bone running along the bottom. Those are great on the BBQ especially with a little teriyaki marinade. frequently seen at Korean BBQ places.

When you think rib you think ribs, prime ribs, tomahawk rib steak etc but some delicious steaks and roasts come from here including rib eye (Delmonico steak), prime rib roasts and standing rib roast. Once again for best results cook somewhat low and somewhat slow but the rib roasts are naturally more tender than the rump roasts. (Step By Step How To Make A One Year Stockpile)
beef carcass butchering
And that’s all! Here’s a handy diagram for identifying all the bits. Knowing where a piece of beef comes from helps a lot in knowing how too cook it. Enjoy! ()

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