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article number 465
article date 07-14-2015
copyright 2015 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Guide Your Butcher; Selecting Your Cuts of Beef, 1881
by Maria Parloa, Principle, School of Cooking, Boston

From the 1881 book, Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book and Marketing Guide.

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Upon the amount of practical knowledge of marketing that the housekeeper has, the comfort and expense of the family are in a great measure dependent; therefore, every head of a household should acquire as much of this knowledge as is practicable, and the best way is to go into the market. Then such information as is gained by reading becomes of real value.

Many think the market not a pleasant or proper place for ladies. The idea is erroneous. My experience has been that there are as many gentlemen among marketmen as are to be found engaged in any other business. One should have a regular place at which to trade, as time is saved and disappointment obviated.

If not a judge of meat, it is advisable, when purchasing, to tell the dealer so, and rely upon him to do well by you. He will probably give you a nicer piece than you could have chosen.

If a housekeeper makes a practice of going to the market herself, she is able to supply her table with a better variety than she is by ordering at the door or by note, for she sees many good and fresh articles that would not have been thought of at home.


Beef is one of the most nutritious, and, in the end, the most economical, kinds of meat, for there is not a scrap of it which a good housekeeper will not utilize for food.

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As to Choosing It.

Good steer or heifer beef has a fine grain, a yellowish-white fat, and is firm. When first cut it will be of a dark red color, which changes to a bright red after a few minutes’ exposure to the air. It will also have a juicy appearance; the suet will be dry, crumble easily and be nearly free from fibre.

The flesh and fat of the ox and cow will be darker, and will appear dry and rather coarse. The quantity of meat should be large for the size of the bones.

Quarters of beef should be kept as long as possible before cutting. The time depends upon climate and conveniences, but in the North should be two or three weeks.

A side of beef is first divided into two parts called the fore and hind quarters. These are then cut into variously-shaped and sized pieces.

Different localities have different names for some of these cuts. The diagrams represent the pieces as they are sold in the Boston market, and the tables give the New York and Philadelphia names for the same pieces.

In these latter two cities, when the side of beef is divided into halves, they cut farther back on the hind quarter than they do in Boston, taking in all the ribs—thirteen and sometimes fourteen. This gives one more rib roast. They do not have what in Boston is called the tip of the sirloin.

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The Hind Quarter.

In Philadelphia they cut meat more as is done in Boston than they do in New York. The following diagram shows a hind quarter as it appears in Boston. In the other two cities the parts 1 and 13f are included in the fore quarter.

The dotted lines show wherein the New York cutting differs from the Boston:

DIAGRAM NO. I. HIND QUARTER OF BEEF. The dotted lines show wherein the New York cutting differs from the Boston.


1. Tip end of sirloin.
2. Second cut of sirloin.
3. First cut of sirloin.
4. Back of rump.
5. Middle of rump.
6. Face of rump.
7. Aitchbone.
8. Best round steak.
9. Poorer round steak.
10. Best part of vein.
11. Poorer part of vein.
12. Shank of round.
13. Flank.

1. First cut of ribs.
2. Sirloin roast or steak.
3. Sirloin roast or steak.
4. Hip roast; also rump steak.
5. Middle of rump.
6. Face of rump.
7. Tail end of rump.
8. Best round steak.
9. Poorer round steak.
10. Best part of vein.
11. Poorer part of vein.
12. Leg.
13 (e) Flank.

1. First cut of ribs.
2. Porter-house steak or sirloin roast.
3. Flat-boned sirloin steak or roast.
4. (a) Large sirloin
5. (a) steaks
6. roasts.
7. Aitchbone.
8. (and 4b and 5b) Rump steak or roasts.
9. (and 12c) Round steak.
10. Best part of vein.
11. Poorer part of vein.
12. (d) Leg of beef.
13 (e) Flank.

The hind quarter consists of the loin, rump, round, tenderloin or fillet of beef, leg and flank. The loin is usually cut into roasts and steaks; the roasts are called sirloin roasts and the steaks sirloin or porter-house steaks.

In the loin is found the tenderloin; and a small piece of it (about two and a half pounds in a large animal) runs back into the rump. In Boston this is often sold under the name of the short fillet, but the New York and Philadelphia marketmen do not cut it. Plate No. 2 shows the fillet.


Next the loin comes the rump, from which are cut steaks, roasts and pieces for stewing, braising, ala mode and soups.

Next the rump comes the round, from which are cut steaks, pieces for a Ia mode, stewing, braising and soups. The flank is cut from the loin, and used for Corning, stewing and as a roll of beef.

Plate No. 4 represents a loin as cut in Boston and Philadelphia, and it and No. 3 represent one as cut in New York, if the two parts be imagined joined at the point A. No. 4 also shows the inside of the loin, where the tenderloin lies.


The sirloin is cut in all sizes, from eight to twenty pounds, to suit the purchaser. The end next the ribs gives the smallest pieces, which are best for a small family.

The tenderloin in this cut is not as large as in the first and second.

In cutting sirloin steaks or roasts, dealers vary as to the amount of flank they leave on. There should be little, if any, as that is not a part for roasting or broiling. When it is all cut off, the price of the sirloin is of course very much
more than when a part is left on, but though the cost is increased eight or ten cents a pound, it is economy to pay this rather than take what you do not want.

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Porter-House Steaks.

Every part of the sirloin, and a part of the rump, is named porter-house steak in various localities. In New York the second cut of the sirloin is considered the choice one for these steaks. The rump steak, when cut with the tenderloin in it, is also called porter-house steak. The original porter-house steaks came from the small end of the loin.

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Sirloin Steaks.

Sirloin steaks are cut from all parts of the loin, beginning with the small end and finishing with the rump. In New York the rump steaks are also known as sirloin. In some places they do not cut tenderloin with sirloin.

One slice of sirloin from a good-sized animal will weigh about two and a half pounds. If the flank, bone and fat were removed, there would remain about a pound of clear, tender, juicy meat.

There being, therefore, considerable waste to this steak, it will always be expensive as compared with one from a rump or round. But many persons care only for this kind, as it has a flavor peculiar to itself; and they will buy it regardless of economy.

Plate No. 5 shows a second cut of the sirloin, with the shape of a sirloin or small porter-house steak. The only part that is really eatable as a steak is from the base to the point A, the remainder being flank.


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Rump Steak.

What in Boston and Philadelphia is called rump steak is in New York named sirloin.

There are three methods of cutting a rump steak; two of these give a very fine steak, the third almost the poorest kind. The first two are to cut across the grain of the meat, and thus obtain, when the beeve is a good one, really the best steaks in the animal.

Plates Nos. 6 and 7 represent these steaks. No. 6 is a long rump steak, very fine; and No. 7 a short rump, also excellent. In both of these there is a piece of tenderloin. In New York, No. 6 is sirloin without bone, and No. 7 sirloin.


There is yet another slice of rump that is of a superior quality. It is cut from the back of the rump, and there is no tenderloin in it. Plate No. 8 shows a rump steak cut with the grain of the meat; that is, cut lengthwise. It comes much cheaper than the others, but is so poor that it should never be bought. It will curl up when broiled, and will be tough and dry.


Some marketmen will not cut rump steak by the first two methods, because it spoils the rump for cutting into roasts, and also leaves a great deal of bone and some tough meat on hand. The price per pound for a rump steak cut with the grain is ten cents less than for that cut across, and yet dealers do not find it profitable to sell steak cut the latter way.

Plate No. 9 shows the back of the rump, which is used for steaks and to roast. The steaks are juicy and tender, but do not contain any tenderloin.


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Round Steaks.

Plate No. 11 shows the round of beef with the aitch bone taken off; a, a, a, a, is the top of the round, b, b, b, b, the under part, where the aitchbone has been cut off; and c, c, c, c, the vein.


Plate No. 10 is this aitchbone, which is first cut from the round, and then the steaks are taken off.


The best steak begins with the third slice. The top and under part of the round are often cut in one slice. The top is tender and the under part tough.

When both are together the steak sells for fifteen or sixteen cents per pound; when separate, the top is twenty or more and the under part from ten to twelve. If it is all to be used as a steak, the better way is to buy the top alone; but if you wish to make a stew one day and have a steak another, it is cheaper to buy both parts together.

Round steak is not, of course, as tender as tenderloin, sirloin or rump, but it has a far richer and higher flavor than any of the others. It should be cut thick, and be cooked rare over a quick fire.

Steaks are cut from the vein in the round and from the shoulder in the fore quarter. They are of about the same quality as those from the round.

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Tenderloin Steak.

This is cut from the tenderloin, and costs from twenty-five cents to a dollar per pound. It is very soft and tender, but has hardly any flavor, and is not half as nutritious as one from a round or rump.

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Quality and Cost.

We will now consider the various kinds of steak, as to their cost and nutritive qualities. The prices given are not those of all sections of the country, but they will be helpful to the purchaser, as showing the ratio which each bears to the other.

• Steak prices per pound:
• Top of the round, the most nutritious . . . 18 to 25 cents.
• Rump cut across the grain, next in nutritive qualities . . . 28 to 30 cents.
• Rump cut with the grain . . . 22 to 25 cents.
• Sirloin . . . 25 to 30 cents.
• Porter-house . . . 30 cents.
• Tenderloin . . . 25 cts. to $1.00

The tenderloin, rump and round steaks are all clear meat; therefore, there is no waste, and of course one will not buy as many pounds of these pieces to provide for a given number of persons as if one were purchasing a sirloin or porter-house steak, because with the latter-named the weight of bone and of the flank, if this be left on, must always be taken into consideration.

After the aitchbone and steaks have been taken from the round there remain nice pieces for stewing and braising; and still lower, the meat and bones are good for soups and jellies. The price decreases as you go down to the shank, until for the shank itself you pay only from three to four cents per pound.

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It will be remembered that plate No. 4 represents a loin of beef; showing the end which joined the ribs, also the kidney suet. No. 12 represents the same loin, showing the end which joined the rump.


There are about thirty pounds in a sirloin that has been cut from a large beeve. This makes about three roasting pieces for a moderately large family. The piece next the rump has the largest tenderloin and is, therefore, by many considered the choicest. Steaks cut from it are now served in the principal hotels as porter-house.

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The Rump.
In plate No. 3 was shown that part of the rump which joins the round. Plate No. 13 represents the end which joins the sirloin.


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Plate No. 14 represents the first five ribs cut from the back half where it joins the tip of the sirloin, and shows the end that joined. This cut is considered the best of the rib-roasts. For family use it is generally divided into two roasts, the three ribs next the sirloin being the first cut of the ribs and the others the second cut.


Plate No. 15 represents the chuck ribs, the first chuck, or sixth rib, being seen at the end. There are ten ribs in the back half as cut in Boston, five prime and five chuck. We must remember that in New York and Philadelphia there are thirteen ribs, eight of which are prime.


The first two chuck ribs make a very good roast or steak, being one of the most nutritious cuts in the animal, and the next three are good for stewing and braising. Many people roast them. The flavor is fine when they are cooked in this manner, but the meat is rather tough. A chuck rib contains part of the shoulder-blade, while the prime ribs do not.

In New York and Philadelphia the ribs are cut much longer than in Boston; hence the price per pound is less there. But the cost to the purchaser is as great as in Boston, because he has to pay for a great deal of the rattle-ran or rack. It is always best to have the rib-roasts cut short, and even pay a higher price for them, as there will then be no waste.

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Fore Quarter.
The fore quarter is first cut into two parts, the back half and the rattle-ran, and these are then cut into smaller pieces for the different modes of cooking. Diagram No. 16 represents a fore quarter. The back half only is numbered, for the rattle-ran is given in diagram No 17.


All except 1 applies to Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

1. First cut of ribs. (IN New York and Philadelphia; First cut of ribs with tip of sirloin.)
2. Second cut of ribs.
3. Third cut of ribs.
4 & 5. Best chuck ribs.
6 & 7. Poorer chuck ribs.
8. Neck piece.

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The Rattle-Ran.

The whole of lower half of the fore quarter is often called the rattle-ran. Diagram No. 17 shows this, and the table
following gives the name of the separate cuts:



1. Rattle-ran
2. Shoulder of mutton.
3. Sticking piece.
4. Shin, thick end of brisket, part of sticking piece.
5 & 6. Brisket piece.
7. Middle cut or rib plate.
8. Navel end of brisket.

1. Plate piece
2. Shoulder of mutton.
3. Shoulder of mutton.
4. Shin and thick end of brisket.
5 & 6. Brisket piece.
7. Navel end of brisket.
8. Navel end of brisket.

1. Plate piece
2. Shoulder of mutton or boler piece.
3. Sticking piece.
4. Shin and thick end of brisket.
5 & 6. Brisket piece.
7. Navel end of brisket.
8. Navel end of brisket.

The rattle-ran or plate piece is generally corned, and is considered one of the best cuts for pressed beef.

The shoulder of mutton is used for stews, beef a la mode, roasts and steaks, and is also corned.

The sticking piece, commonly called the back of the shoulder, but which is really the front, is used for stews, soups, pie meat and for corning.

The shin is used for soups, and the brisket and ribs for corning and for stews and soups. One of the best pieces for Corning is the navel end of the brisket. The middle cut of the rattle-ran is also corned.

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