For a beef stew with fork-tender texture and robust, beefy flavor, chuck is the ideal cut. But not all cuts of chuck are the same. A single chuck contains a complicated network of muscles (from the steer’s shoulder and upper arm) that can weigh as much as 100 pounds, so it’s no surprise that smaller cuts from the chuck will vary greatly.
Choose a cut with the fewest muscles (distinguished by their slightly different grains and dividing lines of fat or gristle). Different muscles cook at different rates, so the fewer the muscles, the more evenly your stew will cook. The best cuts to look for are top blade, chuck eye, and arm pot roast. Also look for thin streaks and small specks of fat—called marbling—running throughout the meat. The fat melts during cooking and bastes the meat internally so it becomes moist and tender. Don’t confuse marbling with the thicker strips of fat that separate distinct muscles.