What to Look for When Buying Different Types of Meat

It can be quite difficult in figuring out what is the best meat to buy. Where should you buy your meat? From the supermarket? From the butcher? What is best? Organic or non-organic? You want the best quality of meat, but don’t know what to look for. And with all the different types of cuts of meat, what is the best type for your meal or recipe? This guide will help you be informed about the different types of meats and cuts available.

Choosing Meat

meatCredit: morguefile

When selecting meat, there are some key factors you need to be aware of and look for, regardless of what type of meat you are purchasing.

  • Fat found around the edge of the meat should be a creamy-white colour. If it is a yellowish colour that suggests that the meat is aged.
  • The surface of the meat should be dry and sticky, not wet.
  • Too much gristle will make the meat tough. While a thin layer of gristle is normal, if there is a thick layer of gristle between the fat and the meat, it means that the cut probably came from an old, tough animal.
  • Don’t by pre-packaged meat if it is swimming in blood.

By keeping an eye out for these points when you are next buying meat, you should be able to make sure that you are purchasing the best, freshest cuts of meat. Now let’s look at the different types of meats and cuts that are available.


Beef comes from bullocks or heifers that haven’t bred. Veal comes from calves that are a few months old, and the most widely bought and available beef comes from yearlings, who are between eight and ten months old.

Different Cuts of Beef

FILLET: also called tenderloin and is the leanest and most tender. It is usually quite expensive, but can be roasted whole or cut into steaks for grilling, barbequing or pan-frying.

RIB ROAST: the finest type of beef. Rib eye is usually cut into steaks.

SIRLOIN: usually roasted or cut into steaks. T-Bone and Porterhouse steaks are part sirloin and part fillet. All three are tender and lean, making them perfect for quick cooking.

MINCE: this ground beef comes in various different grades, with the best being topside mince.

BRISKET: is tough unless properly slow-cooked.

SHIN: comes with or without the bone and is cooked very slowly for a long time to produce a tender, full-bodied stew.


Lamb comes from the animal when it is between three and ten months old, were mutton is when the animal is two or more years old. Although meat from younger animals is considered to be tenderer, it doesn’t necessarily mean it has the best flavour.

Different Cuts of Lamb

LEG: a tender piece of meat that is mainly used for roasting. It is sold on or off the bone, or as a butterfly cut. It can also be cut into shanks and steaks for grilling, pan-frying, barbequing or slow cooking.

LOIN: this cut is the most tender and great for roasting and barbequing.

BACKSTRAP: a boneless cut that is good for grilling or barbequing.

FILLET: also called tenderloin, it is delicate in texture and flavour, and is ideal for quick cooking.

SHOULDER: either boned or on the bone, this cut is usually makes for a cheaper and more flavoursome roast. It is also sold as chops and cubed for stewing.

FOREQUARTER: comes from the upper should section and is sinewy, so as chops or as a roast it is best slow-cooked.

RACK: is a tender cut of the first eight ribs of the lamb. It is either sold as one piece, or cut up into cutlets for grilling or pan frying.

BREAST: also sometimes called ‘flap’, this is a cheap, fatty cut of meat that can be used for pot-roasting.

SCRAG: the middle section of the neck is sold in thick slices to be used in stews.

CHUMP: from just above the leg, and is usually cut into chops for grilling, but can be roasted as a whole piece.


When buying pork, keep in mind that it is the general consensus amongst top chefs that female pigs taste much better than male pigs.

Different Cuts of Pork

LEG: a tender cut that is best roasted. You can also get pork steaks, which are great grilled or pan-fried. The hock or shank is usually slow roasted or sold pickled. The pork hind leg is usually cured for ham.

LOIN: can also be roasted, but also cut into chops or cutlets.

FILLET: can be flavoured and cooked quickly.

BELLY: a fattier cut that is usually braised or slow roasted. There is also the pork spare ribs in this section, which can be marinated and either barbequed or slow roasted.