Some pieces of beef are easy to identify. Ground round, ground chuck, ground sirloin, tenderloin, chuck roast, brisket and flank steak are just a few easily identified cuts of beef, if only because they are labeled. We pretty much get used to what the particular store we shop at has to offer in the meat case and adjust our culinary repertoire to fit what is available.
When you’re buying beef, one thing to know is that ground round, ground chuck and ground sirloin are ground from only that particular muscle. Ground beef can be from any and all of the above and includes meat trimmings from any part of the carcass. This is not necessarily bad, just something to keep in mind. Ground beef is often made from whatever odds and ends the butcher has on hand. One time I asked the butcher at a local grocery store what the ground beef was ground from and was delighted to hear “Tenderloin.”
Ground chuck is my favorite choice as it has a good meat to fat ratio, meaning it is has enough fat to keep it from getting dry and crumbly when cooked as a burger or meatballs. I almost never (once in the last 5 years) buy what I call “tube o’ beef.” I like to see the meat before I buy it and it is a rather unpopular act to open prepackaged food, especially if you don’t buy it.
What part of the carcass other cuts of meat are from can get confusing. Especially if you are trying to figure out how to cook them. Should this be cooked rare to medium rare or be fully cooked to be tender? Eye of round is sometimes called “mock tenderloin.” Well it looks like the incredibly lean piece of meat it is but if it is not cooked to medium rare and thinly sliced it is tough and chewy.
I have seen packages of chuck steak with the sticker “Great on the Grill” slapped onto them. Chuck steak is just a thinly cut chuck roast. You will not find that cut of meat on my grill, unless I am going to slowly oak smoke it for hours along with enough other steaks to keep it from getting lonely. Delmonico steaks, rump roast, top butt (connected to the oxtail?), top block, trotter steaks, strip loin, Lip-on, shell steak… These are just a few of the names given to cuts of beef. When in doubt about what something is or how to cook it, just ask whomever you can find in the meat section. They may just know.
For some reason it is not uncommon when I am checking out at the grocery store for someone behind or even in front of me in line to make a comment or ask a question about what I am going to do with whatever I happen to be buying. Years ago I was at a grocery store checking out and happened to have several packages of beef soup bones I was going to use for beef stock and as well as several packs of ground chuck that were on sale. A nice woman behind me asked me what I was going to do with them. I will never forget the look of awe she gave me when I jokingly told her I was going to go home and turn them back into steaks.