Sorting out the Cuts of Beef Jigsaw in French and Italian !
My biggest challenge when cooking in a foreign country is buying cuts of Beef. While pork and lamb cuts are easier to recognize, it is not the same for beef cuts. Some pieces are universally known, while others are not.
Besides the difficulties in finding the right name, different countries cut the beef in different portions and sizes.
In England they tend to use more generic names for beef cuts (usually larger), while the French on the other hand prefer to use smaller cuts and consequently have a wider variety of names, for example the English Fillet in French becomes: Filet, Chateaubriands, Tournedos, Filets Mignon.
The same cuts are also sold for various types of dishes across the world, for example, cuts used for stews in one country are used for hamburgers in another.
I decided, therefore, to spend some time sorting out the names of the cuts along with their cooking methods, and created a chart that I can bring to the Supermarket with me.
Here I start with cuts for Barbecuing; the charts can be downloaded at the end of this post.
As a matter of interest, I always cut my meat over a dedicated meat board as it is more hygienic.
I use a Index Chopping Board Set you can find on Amazon (affiliate link)
Each board is colour coded and has a symbol indicating its use e.g. meat (red), fish (blue), vegetables (green), and cooked food (white).
Here are more of my favourite kitchen tools
1. Fillet, Tenderloin (Eng.), Filet (Fr.), Filetto (It.): It is the prime and most renowned cut of beef, lean with light marbling. It is very tender as the muscle is completely inactive. As it has no fat, it does not have a strong flavour. The side closest to the leg is a less refined cut, and is used for steaks. The Chateaubriand comes from the middle of the filet, while the Tournedos and the Filets Mignon come from the tail end. These cut requires a short cooking time.
2. Short Lion, Steak, T-Bone (Eng.), Cote (with bone) , Entrecotes (without bone) (Fr.), Lombata (It.), Roastbeef (It. Milan), Lombo (It. Rome), Trinca (It. Sicily) Located at the end of the ribs over the Filet, it is less tasty and tender than the filet. The famous Florentine Steak is where the Steak is cut with the Filet and the bone. It is a perfect cut for Barbecuing.
3. Rib (Eng.), Basse Cote (Fr.), Costata, Braciole, Costa (It.)
It is the muscle that covers the end of the rib cage, and can be cut with or without the bone. It is very tender, with plenty of fat that gives the meat a lot of flavour when barbecued.
The latest trend is to cut the slices leaving the whole rib bone clean of any fat. Here in Europe this cut is called Tomahawk, named after its shape resembling the Indian Tomahawk. In the USA it is called Boned in Rib Chop or Cowboy Steak
( here I use the red board from Index Chopping Board Set you can find on Amazon via my affiliate link)
4. Sirloin (Eng.), Faux Filet (Fr.), Lombata (It.), Roastbeef (It. Milan), Lombo (It. Rome), Trinca (It. Sicily). Situated above the rear end of the filet it is lean and has light marbling. An outer layer of creamy white fat makes it very tasty for Barbecueing. In Italy it is cut together with the Short Lion, and jointly called Lombata.
5. Top Sirloin , Topside (Eng.) Tende de Tranche, Poire, Merlan (Fr.), Fesa (It.), Scannello (It. Rome), Rosa (It. Milan) It is the round central piece of the leg. Lean and with little marbling, it can be cooked in many different ways such as barbecued: braised, pot-roast, roast or steak tartare.
6. Rump cover, Rumpsteak (Eng.), Rumsteak (Fr.), Scamone (It.), Pezza (It. Roma), Codata (It. Sicily) Called Picanha in Portuguese, it is one of the prime cuts in the Brazilian Churrasco. It is a very tender cut of beef, located at the top of the leg just before the tail.
7. Flank Skirt, Thin rib (Eng.), Bavette aloyau (Fr.), Pancia (It.), Scalfo (It. Milano), Spuntatura di lonzo (It. Roma) , Bavetta di lombo (It.) This is a less refined piece of meat, and used to be reasonably priced. It is becoming more popular as it is used in well-known international recipes like Fajitas in TexMex, Fraldinha in the Brasilian Churrasco, Vacío in the Argentinean Asado, and in the Chinese Stir fry beef. As it is a stringy cut of meat full of flavour, it should be marinated with stronger seasoning to soften it. Once cooked it should be sliced across the grain.
Note: you will find marinating ideas in my next post: The Art of BBQ.
As there are many regional differences both in terms of type of cut and name, I suggest you always double check with the butcher. Ask which cuts are suitable for barbecuing and how s/he would suggest cooking it. They often have interesting cooking ideas to share.
If you are missing your favourite Relishes chutneys condiments pickles or any other ingredients from the UK, you can order it here:
I enjoy trying new cuts of beef, and hope that this chart will provide you with some new ideas.
If you want to buy different cuts of meat and you don’t speak the language, find my charts with names translated into French and Italian aslo for cuts for lamb, Pork, and Sea Monsters (Squids, Pulp and Cuttlefish).
You can download the charts here for free:
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