Cheat Sheet for Meat

In case you missed it, there was an article in the Business Section of the Trib recently entitled, “Meat Industry Takes Knife to Names” by P.J. Huffstutter. The gist of the piece talks about how the pork and beef industries are working to rename over 350 meat cut monikers, “…to give them more sizzle”.

BostonRoastTo give you a feel for how this will play out, the pork butt, for example – which really comes from the shoulder of the animal not the back side – will now be called a “Boston Roast”.  The idea is that consumers will feel better about purchasing and serving Boston Roast vs. Pork Butt.  When you look at it like that, butt for dinner is not such a glamorous thing.

There are many nicknames already used by meat purveyors, chefs and restaurateurs in the food service industry for the different cuts of meat.  What’s most interesting is consumers are already highly familiar with a lot of them.

What’s in a Name?

Steak cuts such as, Delmonico, New York Strip and Porterhouse came by their names based on the popularity of where they were served.  A porterhouse was the name for a bar and steak house popular in the mid to late 1800’s. Legend has it that when the owner of a particular Manhattan porterhouse started serving rather large T-bone steaks, they became known as the now ubiquitous Porterhouse Steak. 

Contemporary names for meat come from a variety of resources. A recent example of this occurred when research teams at the Universities of Nebraska and Florida were looking for a new value cut from the top blade of the shoulder.The resulting value cut was shaped like an old flat iron and thus given the name Flat Iron Steak. TGI Friday’s first popularized the Flat Iron Steak and it is seen on numerous menus today. The meat industry continually looks for ways to merchandise new cuts of meat. 

Meat Lingo

When I first came into to the meat business, I quickly realized I had to learn a new language – the language of meat. One of the best things I did was attend the North American Meat Association (NAMA) Center of the Plate Training  where I learned the scientific names of each muscle, where on the animal it came from and what its common nickname was.  As I started working with restaurateurs and chefs, I soon learned another whole set of nicknames for the same cuts of meat. It was confusing at times, to say the least.

The language of meat became tacit knowledge being immersed in the business on a daily basis and I soon found myself unconsciously speaking it to my customers and colleagues.  Ironically, due to the volume and duality of meat names, confusion prevailed both internally and externally.  Ultimately, we developed a “Cheat Sheet for Meat” for the language of meat to train employees and help consumers better understand meat cuts and decode meat industry buzzwords.

BeefCutMapBiggerWhile certainly not exhaustive, below are the most common terms used in the language of meat and what they mean. For additional detail check the Meat Buyer’s Guide available in print and online. View a complete Cheat Sheet for Meat here.



Ball-Tip Steak Boneless steak cut from the bottom sirloin muscle known as the ball tip / Lower cost value cut
Baseball cut butt steak Boneless top sirloin steak cut filet style / Rich and flavorful, looks like a tenderloin filet at a lower cost
Bavette Steak Name commonly used for steaks cut from sirloin flap meat  
Boston Cut Strip Steak Boneless New York Strip steak cut in half across the width  
Butcher’s Steak Another name for hanging tender steak, or hanger steaks
Club Steak Cut from the beef short loin nearest the rib / Triangular L shaped like a T-Bone steak but without the tenderloin
Cowboy Steak Bone-in Rib-eye steak with meat cut off at top end of the bone leaving about 1” exposed bone for presentation
Cube Steak Cut of beef, usually top round or top sirloin, fiercely tenderized by pounding with a meat or electric tenderizer 
Delmonico Steak Boneless Rib-eye steak with no tail fat
Filet (Tenderloin Filet) Commonly used term for a boneless steak cut from the tenderloin muscle
Flank Steak Boneless steak cut from the abdominal muscle which is called the flank
Flat Iron Steak Steak cut from the shoulder top blade muscle located inside the clod or shoulder / Tender value cut
Hanger Steak Steak cut from the hanging tender in the diaphragm of the animal / Commonly called Onglet Steak in French bistros
Kansas City Strip Bone-in Strip steak cut from the short loin
London Broil Variety of thinly sliced beef cuts, usually boneless, for broiling / Suggested cuts: top butt cap, flank, and top round
NY Strip Steak Boneless steak cut from the strip loin muscle
Onglet Steak Another name for a Hanger Steak
Petite Filet Medallion Common name given to a boneless cut from the teres major muscle in the shoulder
Porterhouse Steak Bone-in steak cut from short loin; similar to T-bone / One side is tenderloin at least 1.25″ wide; one side strip loin
Ranch Steak Boneless steak cut from beef shoulder chuck / Technical name: boneless chuck shoulder center cut steak / Value cut
Rib-Eye Steak Cut from the animal’s rib portion / Rib-eye steaks can be boneless or bone-in
Sizzler Steak Name commonly used for boneless ball-tip steaks
Skirt Steak Boneless steak cut from whole skirt muscle / Can be inside or outside skirt
Sirloin Flap Cut from the bottom sirloin just above the flank and right next to the short loin  
T-Bone Steak Bone-in steak cut from short loin similar to a Porterhouse / One side tenderloin at least .5″ wide; one side strip loin
Tomahawk Steak Name for bone-in rib-eye steak with long portion of rib bone attached and exposed for dramatic plate presentation
Top Butt Steak Boneless steak cut from top sirloin muscle, rich and flavorful / Not the actual “butt” of the animal
Tri-Tip Steak Boneless steak cut from tri-tip muscle, part of the bottom sirloin
Vein Steak Hip end of sirloin strip or short loin; shows piece of connective tissue around loin eye / Value cut from end of strip loin
Backstrap Elastin type connective tissue found in neck, blade, rib and loin / Usually removed before steaking or roasting strip loin
BRT “Boned, Rolled & Tied” / Bone is removed; meat is rolled and tied (netted) / Usual specification for boneless lamb legs  
Chine Bone Part of the backbone that remains after a carcass is split / Chine bones should be removed from beef roasts to cut through the roast prior to or after cooking
Denuded Meat cuts that have had all surface fat removed
French Cut Bone-in steaks (or chops) with meat trimmed from the bone to expose it / Like the “cowboy steak”
Lollipop Cut Bone-in steak (or lamb/pork chop) with bone trimmed down to eye of the loin / Bone is exposed further than French or Cowboy style making it look like  a “lollipop”
Mouse or Rat Muscle Small muscle part of the whole top sirloin (top butt) / Can be left on or taken off with cutting steaks
Peeled Same as Denuded; meat cuts that have had all surface fat removed
Pinned (Needled) Tenderizing process involving penetration of muscles by steel blades
Silver Skin Thin film of soft connective tissue on beef tenderloin / Can be left on or removed when cutting steaks
Tail Fat Small part of fat attached to cut of steak / Typically 1” or 2” on Strip Steaks and Rib-Eyes
Ball Tip Boneless sub primal found in Bottom Butt / Can be roasted or cut for “Sizzler” steaks
Bottom Butt (Bottom Sirloin) Boneless sub primal below Top Butt; includes Tri-Tip and Ball Tip cuts 
Bottom Round Bone-in sub primal from beef round or back leg of steer / Also called a “Gooseneck Round”
Chuck Bone-in or boneless containing neck, shoulder blade and upper arm / Tougher cut good for roasting and ground beef
Chuck Roll Boneless cut from the whole beef chuck
Clod Heart Flavorful less tender cut from heart of beef shoulder / Clod roast is an economical cut for roasting or grinding 
Coulotte Triangular shaped muscle beneath the surface of whole top butt muscle / Very rich in flavor, great for roasting or steaks
Export Rib Bone-in whole Rib-eye primal cut / Used for roasting or cutting into bone-in rib-eye steaks
Gooseneck (Round) Bone-in sub primal that comes from beef round or back leg of steer / Also called “Bottom Round”
Inside Round Bone-in sub primal that comes from the beef round or back leg of the steer / Also called “Top Round”
Knuckle Very lean part of the sirloin; also known as “Sirloin Tip” / Commonly used for roasts and ground beef
Lipon Rib-Eye Boneless rib section; sub primal / Used for prime rib and boneless rib-eye steaks
PSMO Peeled beef tenderloin; side muscle on / Common sub primal cut used for roasting or cutting into tenderloin filets
Short Loin Bone-in sub primal from back of the steer / Contains part of the spine and includes the strip loin and tenderloin
Strip Loin 0x1 Boneless sub primal cut without tail fat on one end and 1″ tail fat on the other / Used for roasting or cutting strip steaks
Strip Loin 1×1 Boneless sub primal cut with 1″ tail fat across the loin / Used for roasting or cutting strip steaks
Top Butt (Top Sirloin) Boneless sub primal below tenderloin between short loin and round / Used for roasting or cutting steaks rich with flavor
Top Round Bone-in sub primal from the beef round or back leg of steer / Also called “Inside Round”
Tri-Tip Boneless sub primal found in Bottom Butt / Great for roasting or cutting into Tri-Tip Steaks

When names like Boston Butt start popping up in our local meat cases people will ask “what’s that?”  The store managers will explain, meat companies will keep marketing it, restaurants will soon follow and before you know it, we will all be using these new names. 


From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @ Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page 

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9 thoughts on “Cheat Sheet for Meat

  1. I think the “rebranding” of traditional/proper cuts to make them more end-user friendly is ridiculous. This from an industry that purposefully drove the classic butcher out of the business in favor of cheaply paid cutters/boxed beef. Of course consumers have no idea what they are buying when it is all cryo-vacked in a cooler case. Though I am not sold on the revival of the butcher as a widespread phenomenon, more isolated to hipster centric ‘hoods, I think that a little education and care shown by large grocery chains could bring in greater margins than the easy/lazy approach of renaming cuts.

    • Good thoughts Josh. I guess it’s all about marketing “user friendly” names that would drive more retail sales. In the wholesale food service side of the business many of these nicknames are already commonplace. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment!

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