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Beef Glossary: A Glossary Of The Different Beef Types & Beef Cuts Diagram

Page 7: Types Of Beef Terms & Definitions for the letter S

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  Sirloin Steak
Make ours rare: sirloin steak with a side of hash browns. Photo courtesy of

If you’re looking for the definition of a particular cut of beef, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s the lingo butchers and other industry professionals use as they cut beef. (If you’d like to suggest additional words, click here.)  On this page of the glossary, you’ll find terms such as aged beef, beef bacon, beef cheeks, beef jerky, beef stew meat, Black Angus beef and an answer to the question, What is beef? When looking up beef cuts, it’s helpful to refer to the beef cut diagram, courtesy of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association. If you enjoy this Beef Glossary, we have a food glossary for almost every category of food—including a Lamb Glossary and a Pork Glossary.

Beef Cuts

Download your own beef cuts chart (pdf).


A salisbury steak is made of ground beef that has been shaped to resemble a steak. It is typically served with gravy and grilled onions. Salisbury steak was invented by an American physician, Dr. J. H. Salisbury (1823-1905), in the 1890s. Dr. Salisbury, a hearty beef eater, championed the shredding of all foods to improve digestibility.


The fat between the muscles.


Browning the surface of meat by short application of intense heat.


Another term for strip steak.


See tenderloin.


The cut-off ends of the prime rib. Because they are very tough, short ribs should be cooked in liquid until they are tender. The Jewish dish, flanken, is made by boiling or stewing short ribs. They are traditionally served with horseradish.

Photo courtesy
After the steer is slaughtered, the carcass is split lengthwise down the backbone into two “sides” and hung by the hind legs. Beef is shipped in this form to the retailer (or middleman), who divides the sides into the various cuts of beef. The style and name for cuts varies by country as well as by region. See Boston cut and New York cut.


Pastured cattle graze on grass, clover and other field greens. In cold weather months, organic-raised and other premium animals are fed silage, a mixture of cut and fermented legumes, to supplement the lack of pasture grass. Other cattle are fed lesser mixtures of feed year-round. Mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or B.S.E.) has been traced to an infectious protein in cow feed that contained meat and bone meal from infected cattle. Now, the U.S. and Canada ban the use of cattle tissues in feed intended for cattle.


See culotte steak.


Sirloin steak is a multi-muscled steak cut from the sirloin section. Sirloin cuts are naturally lean and full of bold, beefy flavor. They tend to be chewier, and the most popular preparation is a quick grilling (many people marinate them first for tenderizing). The top of the sirloin contains several different cuts, all of which are called, confusingly, “sirloin steak.”

These cuts are a little less tender than those from the loin and rib, but they are very flavorful and popular. Cuts from the bottom sirloin, ball tip and flap steaks are less well-known, but at least they have non-confusing names! The cuts from the top of the sirloin include sirloin, boneless top sirloin (or top butt), top sirloin cap steak (or culotte steak); and from the bottom sirloin, the sirloin tri tip. Sirloin steaks can vary considerably: the best cuts come from the top portion of the sirloin and have a mid-sized pin bone (the long, flat part of the hip bone). These are known as top sirloin steak (and also top butt steak, hip sirloin, and center cut sirloin). In general, other sirloin configurations with a flat bone are less tender than the top sirloin, but more tender than cuts with a round bone (always choose sirloin steaks with a flat bone). Boneless top sirloin, also known as butt steak, is more chewy than the other sirloin steaks, but has perhaps the best flavor of the loin steaks. The top sirloin cap steak is a smaller steak, popular for grilling or pan frying. The sirloin tri tip, also known as sirloin triangle tip, triangle steak and triangle roast, comes from the bottom sirloin (also called the sirloin butt or bottom butt). It has less marbling than a top sirloin, but has a good flavor.



Top Sirloin. Photo courtesy
A boneless cut of beef from the lower part of the brisket. Cut from the beef flank, the skirt steak is the diaphragm muscle, which lies between the abdomen and chest cavity. It is a long, flat cut that is very flavorful, but tougher than most other cuts. Skirt steak has risen in popularity over the last 20 years.

Previously, it was the cut that the butcher kept for himself. On cattle drives, the trail bosses had first priority on the skirts. It is the cut of choice for making fajitas (which means “little belts” or “sash” in Spanish), grilled strips of meat rolled into a tortilla. Skirts can also be used for London broil. Skirt steaks are usually marinated and grilled over high heat. As with tougher cuts, skirt steak should be sliced across the grain.


  Skirt Steak
Skirt steak. Photo courtesy
See Swiss steak.


A method of tagging animals adopted by better producers, that allows the entire history of the cut of beef to be identified, from the birth of the animal, including its pedigree, to the time it is prepared, packaged and sold. This enables tracking in case of any concern, e.g. an animal-related disease or processing problem. Also called Complete Source Verification.


See rib-eye steak.


See prime rib.


Ground raw beef mixed with onions, capers Worcestershire sauce and a raw egg, generally served with toast points. The basis of the name is the legend that Tartars did not have time to cook their meat, and thus ate it raw on horseback. In Belgium, where the dish is popular and served with frites (what we call French fries), it is known as filet américain.

  Steak Tartare
Steak tartare. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Cubes cut from tougher cuts that need long, slow cooking in order to be tender.


See New York strip steak.


Smaller cuts derived from primal cuts.

  Stew Meat
Stew meat. Photo courtesy
Sweetheart steak is the perfect cut for Valentine’s Day. Your favorite cut can be butterflied into the heart shape shown at the right. A 20-ounce boneless strip steak or boneless rib steak is the beef of choice—butterflied into the shape of a heart. You can ask your butcher for your favorite type of beef: USDA Prime, Natural Prime or American Wagyu. Do you have to split the 20-ounce steak with your sweetheart, or do you each get your own? For the sake of love and happiness, order two!

  Sweetheart Steak
Sweetheart steak. Photo courtesy
Not a cut but a method of preparation, beginning with rolling or pounding, and then braising. The name does not refer to Switzerland, but to the process of “swissing” fabric through rollers in order to soften it. Swiss steak is typically made from relatively tough cuts of meat, such as the round, which have been pounded with a tenderizing hammer, or run through a set of bladed rollers to produce cube steak (minute steak). The meat is then typically coated with flour and other seasonings and served with a thick gravy that can include onions, carrots and tomatoes. The dish is called smothered steak in England.

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Last Updated  Apr 2018

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