WHAT CUTS ARE BEST FOR LOW & SLOW?
Most of us know the good cuts for a hot and fast barbecue, but what about low and slow? If you want to cook authentic Texas BBQ, then you'll want a cut of beef that will fall apart at the end of your cook – if you’re lucky (or talented) it will have a gorgeous bark on the outside and be packed with flavour.
The best cuts for low and slow are actually the harder-working parts of the beast. These cuts are loaded with flavour, just waiting to be released. The reason they need to be cooked low and slow is to release all the complex connective tissue and fats.
Beef recipes often hark from Texas and a lot of cookbooks and online recipes also come from that region. In New Zealand, we can have slightly different names for some of the cuts. Below we've added in the American equivalents to help you translate recipes.
Great Beef Cuts for Low and Slow (Indirect) Cooking
Brisket: The ‘breast’ meat from the cow, brisket comes from a hardworking muscle that supports a lot of the cows body weight. Make sure you pick a cut with the most marbling for the deepest flavours. Get the thickest fatty-white part you see on top when it’s in the packet. Leaving this on will help insulate the meat when smoking and add to the intense flavours. See Nutritionals etc. www.recipes.co.nz
Beef Cheeks: As the name suggests, these are from the facial muscle of the cow. These are similar in texture to a brisket, but they are smaller and have a richer taste. Cheeks tend to pull apart like pulled beef once cooked. They should come from the butcher fully trimmed and without any membrane on. Cheeks have a lovely ripple of collagen which melts during a slow cook and the outer edges can carry a glorious bark. See Nutritionals etc. www.recipes.co.nz
Scotch Fillet (aka Ribeye, Cube Roll): This cut is great for reverse searing. From the upper rib section, this is a lightly worked muscle and has lovely marbling of fat. As the name suggests, the ‘eye’ of the fillet is the best central portion. In NZ and Australia, we call it Ribeye when it has the bone in, or Scotch Fillet with the bone out. If you’re following American recipes, ‘Rib Eye Steak’ is the term they use when the cut is boneless, the term Cowboy Ribeye or Cowboy Cut is when the bone is left in. Get a cut from your butcher that has a good amount of marbling throughout the steak. 'Dry-Aging' is becoming more popular too, this is where the meat has hung in a dry aging chiller for a minimum of 28 days to enhance flavour.
Bone-in Short Ribs (aka Spare): These are taken from the forequarter after the brisket is removed. They are a short portion of the rib bone (usually around 7 – 15cm) and come as a ‘plate’ (a section of around 3-4 ribs). Butchers don’t always let you know if the ribs come from the brisket, chuck, plate or rib areas, but if you want the best ribs, ask for short-ribs from the rib area. Look for good marbling throughout and ask for the silver skin underneath the ribs to be trimmed out.
Beef plate (aka Short Plate): This comes from the section between the brisket and the flank steak from the belly of a cow. This is a well-marbled area on the cow.
Tri-tip (aka. trimmed Bolar Blade, Bottom Sirloin or Santa Maria Steak in the US): This cut has a great flavour. It has a distinctive triangular shape, is boneless and has very little fat making it very lean.
Chuck, Silverside Sirloin (aka. Strip Steak), Silverside (aka Outside Round or Round Steaks), Knuckle (aka Sirloin Tip), Oyster Cut Blade.
Great Beef Cuts for Hot and Fast (direct) cooking
The meat cuts with the least amount of connective tissues and fat are generally best to cook over a direct heat using the searing method. These cuts usually have fat distributed throughout and are less bulky pieces of meat. Cooking these cuts for longer will just dry them out.
Sirloin Steak: This cut comes from between the fillet and the rib, it may have some marbling. It is extremely tender and can tolerate high temperature so is ideal for hot and fast grilling. Leave the fat on to ensure a succulent result. For nutritionals and more information check out www.recipes.co.nz
Tomahawk Steak: This is an impressive on-the-bone rib steak. It is cut from the fore-rib and has the entire bone left in. This is a large cut that can feed two people and usually weighs around 1.2kg.
Whole Eye Fillet: A very tender unused muscle from the lower back, this needs to be well trimmed with all silver skin removed from the top. Make sure you get a consistent sized whole piece with the tail end of the fillet removed for a consistent cook. For nutritionals and more information check out www.recipes.co.nz
Eye Fillet Steaks: Steaks cut from the Whole Eye Fillet. The muscle sits beneath the ribs next to the backbone. It is incredibly tender and succulent. For nutritionals and more information check out www.recipes.co.nz
Flat Iron Steak: This is a very cheap but tasty cut of beef popular in America. Taken from the cross cut blade out of the shoulder blade, it’s a very lean thin cut of meat that needs to be well trimmed with all silver skin and excess fat removed, great for direct heat cooking.
If in doubt about what cut to start with, ask your butcher. Stay tuned for more beef recipes and 'How To’s' on our site. If you have any great recipes or thoughts, let us know!
Thanks to Beef + Lamb NZ and the Tattooed Butcher for their expertise.