Buying and Cooking Beef

Irrespective of what Jacques Chirac says, beef is one of our most delicious and traditional dishes and it is making quite a comeback to the British dining table!

Here’s a little information about beef that we hope you find useful.

Beef comes from castrated bullocks and young heifers that have never had calves. Although the better quality meat comes from younger animals, it is essential that any meat be matured after slaughtering. This is called ‘hung’. The meat is ‘hung’ in low temperatures in order to tenderise it and improve its keeping qualities.

The optimum hanging time for beef is 12-14 days, however this depends very much on the age of the beef and the quality required. Some beef is hung for 21 days that will make it extremely tender and usually great quality.

Top Tips About Beef
1.  Well hung beef will have a dark red, almost ruby colour. Bright red meat, although very common in supermarkets, is an indication that the meat has not been hung long enough and will therefore be less tender.
2.  If there is a lot of gristle in the meat, it has come from an inferior part of the animal. It is also likely to be quite tough.
The best cuts for slow roasting will be speckled with fat throughout the meat that will ensure the meat will not dry out when roasted.
3.  If you find a big line of gristle between the fat and lean parts of a steak, the chances are that it is very old and will therefore be like eating a tyre inner tube!


4.  Cheap cuts of meat are just as nutritious as expensive ones – just bear in mind that cheaper cuts are likely to take longer to prepare and cook to be as tender.
5.  The price of beef is based on supply and demand. Steak, for instance, is always expensive as only a certain number can be cut from one animal. Stewing and braising steak are more expensive in the winter than the summer.
6.  Try to avoid unusual cuts of meat that you’ve never heard of. Chances are they’ll come from a non-descript part of the animal that can have an affect on the joint when cooking. Not great when cooking for others!
7.  A good butcher will know all of these cuts pictured in the diagram, but maybe they are not so often seen in
By law, all butchers must label beef with the country of origin.
8.  Mainly beef in this country comes from Scotland, England, Ireland, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia.
9.  Allow 225g/8oz to 350g/12oz per person from a joint on the bone and 150g/6oz to 225g/8oz per person from boned joints. A steak weighing 125g/5oz to 225/8oz should satisfy most appetites!
10.  Best for Roasting: Sirloin joint (not steaks), Rib joints, Flank and Fillet
11.  Best for Slow Roasting: Top Side and Rump
12.  Best for Braising and Pot Roasting: Flank, Brisket, Topside, Rump and Silverside.
13.  Best for Boiling: Silverside and Brisket.
14.  Best for Grilling and Frying: Fillet Steak, Sirloin Steak, Rump Steak, Porterhouse Steak and T-bone.
15.  Best for Stewing: Flank, Chuck and Shin
Braising Steak
This steak is usually suitable for pie fillings, casseroles and stews. It comes from the blade bone (see the diagram).
Pot Roasting
If you want to pot roast beef, then brisket is your man! It comes from the shoulder and rib area of the animal and usually weighs a whopping 8kgs! Very often it is cut into 2 joints. It can be sold on the bone or, very often, boned, rolled and tied. Either way, brisket is best for slow cooking – either pot roasting or braising. A very economical cut of meat that can, when rolled, can be cooked, cooled, sliced and eaten cold.
Stewing Steak


The best quality stewing steak comes from the chuck (see the diagram). It is not suitable for grilling or frying, but can be used in many casseroles and stews. Try out our Spicy Slow Cooked Beef with Coconut Cream.

Fillet steak is one of the best cuts of beef. It comes from just below the ribs of the sirloin from the loin of the animal (see the diagram). A sign of whether a fillet steak is good for grilling is to look at the specks of fat running through the lean meat. The specks make sure that the steak doesn’t dry out when grilling or frying.

See the diagram for all types of steak cuts, from porterhouse to entrecote.
The leg needs very long and very slow cooking. A leg of beef nearly always refers to the hind leg only. Great for casseroles and stews.
Rib of Beef
The forerib is a very large roasting joint that is either cooked on the bone or boned and rolled. The butcher will do this for you.
Prime Rib of Beef (or Wing)

This cut comes from between the fore ribs and sirloin in the loin area. It is a very expensive cut but is extremely good for roasting. Look for a really good creamy yellow fat layer that will help keep the joint moist.

When quick roasting a joint ON THE BONE allow 15 minutes per 450g/1lb PLUS 15 minutes extra. The oven temperature should be 210C/425F/Gas7
When quick roasting a joint OFF THE BONE allow 20 minutes per 450g/1lb PLUS 20 minutes extra. The oven temperature should be 210C/425F/Gas7

When slow roasting a joint ON THE BONE allow 20 minutes per 450g/1lb PLUS 20 minutes extra. The oven temperature should be 180C/350F/Gas4
When slow roasting a joint OFF THE BONE allow 30 minutes per 450g/1lb PLUS 30 minutes extra. The oven temperature should be 180C/350F/Gas4

For STUFFED JOINTS allow an extra 10-15 minutes per 450g/1lb

When boiling joints allow 20 minutes per 450g/1lb and when grilling steaks (about 2.5cm/1inch thick):
Rare: 7 minutes                                Medium: 10 minutes                                       Well Done: 15 minutes
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