A Guide to the Leanest Cuts of Beef

Jason Webster
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Understanding nutrition labels

And fat contents in beef products.

Watching your weight? Checking nutrition labels more thoroughly? You may have noticed that the fat content of some of the leanest cuts of beef are higher than expected!

The fat content in lean cuts can be quite misleading. Pay attention to the % fat and not the number of grams of fat or calories.

For example, a 6-ounce portion of eye of round roast has 73% fat, which is around 8.3 grams of fat.

The same amount of top round roast, on the other hand, has 46% fat, which is about 4.1 grams. In comparison, a 6-ounce portion of sirloin steak has 30% fat (about 1.6 Grams).

All these lean cuts of beef have calories just between 40 and 240 calories with an average of 95 calories.

Beef has always been a health food. It is rich in protein and can also be a great source of iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B12 and phosphorous. Despite the high fat content, experts agree that eating red meat in moderation is safe and that lean beef is a good source of protein and essential nutrients.

An extra tip: The only way to find out the correct fat content of the leanest cuts of beef is to check the nutrition labels. Hence, the best way to get the right information is to buy lean cuts of beef labeled as such.

Lean beef

Beef can be the perfect alternative to your favorite foods that contain pork or chicken, as it can provide you with much more protein and other much-needed nutrients.

Some cuts of beef tend to contain more fat than others, so you need to choose the lean cuts of beef if you want to avoid becoming overweight or obese.

Extra-lean beef

Cuts include:

  • Chuck steak: One of the best bistro cuts, chuck is one of the leanest. Chuck makes oxymoronic braised beef chuck tender, but also makes for a great roast. Chuck steak isn’t as tender as filet mignon, but it’s a good deal more genteel than chili and works just as well for kabobs.
  • Eye of round: Mealy but tender, this cut has a dark outer layer that prevents it from getting overcooked. Great for tough recipes like rump roast, you can tenderize it by placing it in a plastic bag and hammering with a meat mallet.
  • Top sirloin: Provides top sirloin steak, which is a lean, tender alternative to filet mignon.
  • Bottom sirloin: The most underrated cut, bottom sirloin is cheap and incredibly tender. Cooking it requires long, slow cooking, however, which makes it ideal for braised dishes.

Beef grading vs. labeling

The U.S. Department of Agriculture meat grading system is broken down into three categories: Prime, Choice and Select.

Prime grade beef is also referred to as the highest quality, most desirable grade of beef. Select grade beef is the lowest quality and least expensive grade of beef. Choice grade beef falls between prime and select.

The grading is based on marbling (intramuscular fat) and other factors in the meat. The biggest difference between grades is the fat content.

Popular cuts of steak from each category are:

Prime: T-bone, Porterhouse, Rib Eye, Top Sirloin

Choice: New York Strip, Tenderloin, Rib Eye, Sirloin

Select: Chuck Steak, Flank Steak, Hamburger steak, Round Steak

But since prime and choice grade beef has almost the same fat content and is fine eating, labels on packages of both are sometimes combined, such as Prime Choice. The major difference is that prime comes from older beef and from cows that are finished on grain. Choice comes from younger beef and from cows that are grass fed.

Selecting lean cuts of beef

While beef is a great source of protein, it’s not exactly low in calories. If you’re trying to lose some weight and aiming for a healthier diet, choosing the lean cuts of beef is probably your best bet.

Where fat is concerned, beef cuts that yield higher amounts of marbling containing the fat in beef are much more caloric than those with leaner cuts. The leanest cuts of beef are also the most tender.

In some cases, you want the tenderness of luxurious cuts of beef. Other times, you just want to trim some calories, and that’s when these lean cuts of beef come in handy.

Lean cuts of beef generally have 125 calories or less on a three-ounce serving. These cuts will maintain a low calorie count even after cooking, so you don’t have to worry about ruining the deal with high-fat oil, butter, or other heavy sauces while cooking.

But, make sure to keep an eye on the tenderness.

Using the following list, you can easily pick out the leanest cuts of beef. Because this list is sorted in order of tenderness, the leanest cuts are at the top.

Names of cuts

When you place an order at a steakhouse, the first question you will be asked is ¿how would you like your meat prepared?¿.

From this, the server will know which cut of beef you're after.

There are several different parts of an animal where the meat is cut from and this is why the variety of names are plenty.

For example, I would recommend the sirloin steak instead of the arm and shoulder steak since the latter contains a lot of connective tissue.

Generally, ¿tenderloin steak¿ refers to the tenderloin muscle, which is the muscle at the rear of the animal.

Now, the two tenderloin cuts you will find are the tenderloin and the filet mignon.

The tenderloin muscles that lie at the backside of the spine of the animal are the most tender of them all. However, it is quite smaller as compared to the filet.

So, if you want a bigger steak, you can opt for the filet. It is considered to be the best part of the meat and it is mostly removed whole while preparing the tenderloin steak.

The filet is a ideal steak for a grill because it is this cut that allows for more heat to seep in without the meat drying up.

Lean cuts of beef table

If you are cutting down on the amount of red meat you eat or you are a vegetarian, you will need to make sure you eat a variety of lean cuts of meat.

Using the following table as a guide will help you make sure you are including all the right types of lean meats in your diet.

Combining lean meat cuts with plenty of greens, fresh fruits, and whole grains will help you keep your weight in check and your cholesterol levels low.

Preparing cuts of beef

Before cooking, you should be aware of the following:

  • First of all, marinating steak for a long period of time makes it tougher, so save that for greater cuts.
  • Apply salt and pepper to your steak half an hour before cooking.
  • The fatty cuts like ribeye or prime rib should be cooked at low temperatures and for long durations.
  • Avoid overcooking your beef.

The best way to cook lean beef

I recommend slow cooking and high 180F or 82C for rare, then slow cooking for an additional hour, then medium. The medium won't hurt a thing. The slow cooker requires little attention.

Pot roast, braising steaks and roasts, short ribs, stew, all the pot roasts, all the braising beef cuts, and short ribs are the best. Super tender and very flavorful result.

Pork, veal, and lamb are pretty good but harder to cut correctly. Beef is pretty easy.

Beef is so much better than the other meats in my opinion.

Is beef actually bad for you?

The answer is not a simple black and white as it may seem. (Sorry for the pun.) Here is a quick breakdown of how red meat consumption can be good or bad for you depending on a few factors.

All the meat you eat will be broken down by your body into amino acids. Your body uses these to repair cells and produce hormones. Red meat specifically contains the amino acids methionine and lysine.

Protein is important in weight loss as it keeps you feeling fuller for longer. However, although you could survive on protein alone, red meat has a lot of saturated fats, which have been linked to heart disease and cancer. And inflammation, which is a key part of obesity. So you don’t want to eat too much of it.

Using a leaner cut of beef may be your best bet. Lean red meats including sirloin, eye round and round tip cuts are much better for you. They are typically lower in calories and fat, and provide the same amount of protein as other cuts but less saturated fats. They are the perfect choice when you want something a little more masculine on the plate!

Beef provides the building blocks for growth and repair of tissue, vitamins, protein, iron, zinc and B-6 and B-12. All important goods for sports-minded people.

The fattiest cuts of beef to avoid if you’re trying to cut back

What is the leanest cut of beef you can buy?

If you’re trying to cut back on the calories in your diet, you can opt for lean cuts of beef. They are rich in nutrients and loaded with protein, which makes them the perfect choice for a healthy diet.

Red meat is generally considered to be a source of saturated fats (meat fats are solid at room temperature). And this is why so many people avoid it. However, there are still very lean cuts of red meat that are high in protein, with little saturated fats. If you’re portioning them correctly and consuming them once or twice a week, lean cuts will do you no harm.

So what are the leanest cuts of beef? Here are the most tender and leanest cuts of beef:

  • Skirt steak “ a boneless beef cut from the abdominal muscles of the animal. It has little fat and is very tender.
  • Flank steak “ a cut taken from the abdominal muscles under the last rib of the cow. It’s also very tender and has a mild flavor.
  • Tenderloin “ a cut from the back of the animal that contains very little fat. It is also very tender.

Rib cuts

The boneless beef ribeye comes from the beef rib. It’s a dine-in and restaurant candidate. Quick cooking is best done with the thin, central portion of the meat.

Beef ribeye steaks are best seared rare to medium rare, which can still be quite pink. The more you cook this cut of beef, the drier the meat becomes. Ribeye is best served simply, with salt and pepper.

Beef Rib Roast

This is one of the most expensive steaks because it is the most tender. The roast is best when roasted with a dry heat. The roast is not tender enough to be braised and stewed.

Beef Short Ribs

The short ribs are the beef equivalent of pork spare ribs. They are available in up to a dozen steaks per set. Braising them is recommended for making the meat tender. You may want to try this cut of beef with a barbecue sauce or gravy.

Brisket Point

The Brisket is a cut of beef taken from the breast or lower chest of cattle, in being usually in contact with the diaphragm. This plump muscle continues to work well after the cow is killed and belongs to the steer rather than the dead cow. To get a better understanding of this muscle, first look at the anatomical drawing in the image above.

One of the most important things to know about the Brisket is that it's not necessarily lean and therefore can have a higher fat content. The fat content is determined by the direction that the cattle is facing when it's slaughtered ‗ the more it's facing north, the fattier the meat is.

The Brisket can be divided into the Point Cut and the Deckle Cut. The Point Cut has less fat content than the Deckle Cut.

Chuck Cuts

One of the home cooking staples in nearly every American home, pot roast is an inexpensive cut to make. It is also the most popular chuck roast when it comes to the slow cooking method.

I am a big fan of hot pot roast, with a tomato based gravy on top.

While the dish does require several hours of cooking time to tenderize the meat, it is definitely worth it.

Chuck Steak

Similar in texture to pot roast, chuck steak is one of the best kinds of beef if you are looking for a versatile cut that can be marinated and cooked in numerous ways.

Because it is not as expensive as other cuts of beef, you will be able to prepare chuck steak in a variety of different ways, depending on your mood and the time you have.

London Broil

Who does not like a good LondonBroil? This cut of beef is a bit more difficult to find, but it is definitely worth the search.

Some recommended London Broil recipes include:

Inside Skirt Steak

Typically referred to as skirt steak or hanging tender steak, inside skirt steak is not just for those who like it hot and spicy.

Complete guide to injecting meat for smoking

We have talked about brisket and how to make award winning brisket. Now let’s make it even better.

With the help of a red digital meat thermometer you will learn how to inject brisket for smoking.

There are various reasons why you want to inject brisket for cooking.

Adding moisture, tenderizing the meat, and enhancing flavor are the few reasons why you want to inject meat in the first place.

But you also have to remember that too much moisture can lead to a flabby brisket.

What is the solution?

Simple. Injecting using the right mix will leave your brisket moist and flavorful.

Now you may want to ask which is the right mix for brisket?

We have already given you a recipe for a delicious beef injection with a lot of flavor.

Experiment with it and use what you are comfortable with.

The truth is that you may not have all the ingredients required and may need to make a few substitutions.

Here is a little recipe for you to get started.

1 Cup of Water

A clove of garlic, chopped.


Pour each ingredient into a blender and make sure they are thoroughly combined.