How to Pick the Right Cut of Meat

Depending on your needs, some cuts are better than others.

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Woman holding packet of beef in supermarket

Photo by: Noel Hendrickson ©(c) Noel Hendrickson

Noel Hendrickson, (c) Noel Hendrickson

If you’re showing off a marinade, pick up a beef tri-tip. This uneven, triangular cut comes from the bottom sirloin, and its loose, fibrous texture makes it ideal for marinades.

If you’re experimenting with a rub, try skirt or flank steak. These loose, thin cuts cook quickly and best when seared on the outside, perfect for turning a spice rub into a crackly, savory crust. Skirt and flank steak are served thinly sliced against the grain, making for the  tenderest bite, and complete with concentrated bits of rub found only on the surface area of each slice.

If you’re on a budget, go with beef sirloin or chicken wings. Sirloin delivers beefy, rich flavor, though it’s quite lean and can dry out when overcooked. This makes it great for skewers, which are also a nice way to stretch the dollar when it comes to sticking to a meat budget. Chicken wings are an inexpensive yet tasty cut, as they come with as much flavorful bone and sinew as they do meat.

If you are watching your weight, stick to skinless, boneless chicken breast. The healthiest meat for the grill is undoubtedly the skinless chicken breast; in general, choosing pork and chicken over beef is a good idea if you’re counting calories. With its uneven shape and size, chicken breast lends itself to being butterflied or pounded to an even thickness, with both methods aiding the chicken in cooking evenly and keeping it from drying out.

If flavor is the goal, pick up pork or beef ribs. Meat on the bone is known for being more flavorful, and pork and beef ribs only prove that to be true. This grilled classic requires a cooking method that isn’t rushed, as the longer the ribs can cook, the deeper and richer the flavor can get. Plus, ribs can be made ahead, allowing flavors to develop further, and can be reheated on the grill just before serving.

If price is no object, treat yourself to porterhouse steak. Two cuts of beef — NY strip and filet mignon — are separated by a juicy bone on this steak. Meat shrinks as it cooks, which may result in a protruding bone on a porterhouse; this is less than ideal when pan-searing a steak, but perfect when cooking on a grill, over a direct source of heat. 

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