Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Note Icon Heart Icon Filled Heart Icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon


Save to Recipe Box
Add Private Note
Saved Add to List

    Add to List

Add Recipe Note

What is it?

No matter what part of the steer it comes froml, beef is made up of muscle, connective tissue, and fat. Most of what you see is the soft, dense muscle. Cuts with large amounts of connective tissue tend to be tougher. Fat can appear in thick layers over muscles and also as fine marbling between muscle fibers. When finely marbled fat melts during cooking, it enhances tenderness and adds succulence.


How to choose:

Sorting out Beef Labels: Here’s what some of the most common terms mean:

  • Grass-fed – All cattle eat a natural diet of grass at the beginning of their lives. The question is whether the animal was switched to grain to fatten up before slaughter, or whether it continued to eat grass and hay throughout its life. From a health standpoint, exclusively grass-fed beef has more nutrients and less saturated fat, lower rates of the dangerous E. coli O157:H7 bacteria, and no risk of mad cow disease. From a flavor perspective, it’s leaner than conventional beef, and it’s less forgiving if overcooked; aim for rare or medium rare. Look for terms like “100% grass-fed” or “grass-finished” or for another third-party verifier, such as the American Grassfed Association (whose standards are stricter than those of the USDA).
  • Organic – Beef that carries the USDA organic logo has met the department’s standards, which prohibit the use of growth hormones, antibiotics, genetically modified feed, and animal byproducts, among other things. The standards do not require a grass-only diet; the animal may be fed organic grain.
  • Free-range or free-roaming – These terms have no legal definition when applied to beef (though they do for poultry). While they suggest, at minimum, that the animal had access to the outdoors, there are no standards that producers need to follow.
  • Raised without antibiotics – This implies just what it says: that antibiotics were not given to the cows. The producer must submit documentation supporting the claim, but unless otherwise noted, it isn’t independently verified.
  • No hormones administered – This suggests that the animal received no growth-stimulating hormones. The producer must submit documentation supporting the claim, but unless otherwise noted, it isn’t third-party verified.
  • Natural – As defined by the USDA, “natural” or “all-natural” beef has been minimally processed and contains no preservatives or artificial ingredients. Since virtually all fresh beef conforms to these standards, the term has no real significance.
  • Naturally raised – The USDA is working on a new standard for naturally raised beef that would prohibit the use of hormones, antibiotics, and animal byproducts but might not address other production concerns, such as animal welfare, diet, or access to pasture. Once the final standard is released, you may start to see this term accompanied by the USDA “process verified” shield. However, the program will be voluntary, so producers may use the term even without verification.


How to prep:

The trick to getting good results when cooking beef is deciding at the outset what sort of treatment the meat needs.
Tender cuts with little connective tissue can take high, dry heat. Steaks and other small, tender cuts take well to grilling and pan searing. Larger cuts like prime rib are good candidates for roasting.
Tougher cuts with lots of connective tissue do best with gentle, moist heat and lots of time, during which the connective tissue breaks down into gelatin, giving the dish a silky texture. Long-cooking stews and braises are ideal for cuts like beef brisket and short ribs.


  • Chile Philly Cheesesteak Panini

    The Chile Philly Panini

    This take on a Philly cheesesteak gets spiced up with chipotle and poblano chiles.

  • Recipe

    Greek Spinach Salad with Grilled Flap Steak and Marinated Feta

    Grilled steak turns a Greek salad into a substantial dish, while marinating the feta in a mixture of spicy chile flakes, briny capers, bright lemon, and herbs adds a big…

  • Recipe

    Grilled Flap Steak and Asparagus with Béarnaise Butter

    A compound butter packed with tarragon and shallot mimics the flavors of béarnaise sauce with much less effort. If you have any left over, try it on salmon or rice.

  • Recipe

    Mushroom Steak Melt

    This knife-and-fork open-face sandwich features thinly sliced flap meat mixed with savory rosemary beer-glazed mushrooms and onions under a blanket of melty cheese. Here, the steak is initially cooked to…

  • Recipe

    Mustard-and-Herb-Butter-Rubbed Prime Rib

    A butter, Dijon, rosemary, and thyme crust hugs this juicy roast. The genius "reverse-sear" method lets you roast the meat hours ahead of the final sear, so you can pull…

  • Recipe

    Braised Beef Shank Bourguignon

    This recipe comes from chef Paul Denamiel, whose family owns Le Rivage on NYC's Restaurant Row.  Paul uses an osso buco cut to make this classic French braise. You could…

  • Recipe

    Retro Curry

    Let’s dial it back to where it all began: old-school Japanese curry. Sweet-savory, fragrant, rich—and irresistible—this dish calls for the classic Japanese curry ingredients, that is, root vegetables, apple, and…

  • Recipe

    Open-Face Reuben

    This open-face version of a beloved sandwich—a rich, tangy, meaty mix of corned beef, sauerkraut, and melted cheese—makes a satisfying meal. The sandwich may become a little soggy thanks to…


Leave a Comment


  • ddavis3 | 07/22/2012

    I just purchased a fourth of a grass fed steer, my first time buying bulk beef. Fine Cooking is the first place I go any time I need a recipe, so here I am looking for some recipes to use my less expensive cuts of beef such as chuck roasts, bottom round roast, london broil roasts, cube steak, and stew meat. Perhaps with the cost of beef expecting to continue soaring, a good idea for a future magazine edition would be to cover some recipes for these less expensive cuts of beef. Plus it would help me immensely :) Thanks for all your great recipes!

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Delicious Dish

Find the inspiration you crave for your love of cooking

Fine Cooking Magazine

Subscribe today
and save up to 50%

Already a subscriber? Log in.


View All


Follow Fine Cooking on your favorite social networks

We hope you’ve enjoyed your free articles. To keep reading, subscribe today.

Get the print magazine, 25 years of back issues online, over 7,000 recipes, and more.

Start your FREE trial