Article featured image

We all love ourselves a chunk of short rib falling right off the bone or a slice of fatty pork belly. But what exactly makes these cuts more tender than, say, the tougher flank? Our friends at ChefSteps break down the basic science in a short article, along with a video included below. Basically, muscles that work harder will be tough, while muscles that work less will be tender. Hardworking parts of four-legged animals — namely, their necks, legs, shoulders and butts — develop a lot of collagen, which keeps muscles together and attached to the bone. In general, beginning with the center of a cow’s back and moving down and outward, muscles go from most tender to most tough.

So what does this mean for the hunk of beef you choose at your local grocery store or butcher? For one, beef shanks, chucks and rumps will need a lot of time or heat to soften, while cuts that come from the middle of the cow’s back — think filet mignons and New York strips — will be juicy and tender. Makes sense, right?

ChefSteps comprises a team of award-winning chefs, filmmakers, scientists, designers and engineers focused on revolutionizing the way people cook by inspiring creativity and encouraging expertise in the kitchen.

Read more Main Meats stories on Food Republic: