Wednesday, April 27, 2011

For Sirtin

Help. A few years ago I had a steak that was called top sirloin on a menu. My grocery store doesn’t package steaks with that name, just sirloin steaks. Is this a restaurant cut, a style or preparation or fanciful language one finds on menus. Pulling Steaks

PS – the internet didn’t help narrow it down, only confused the issue more what do your books say?

Well, books are like the internet on Paxil, they are just a calmer, not always clearer. My farmers market rancher will sell me top sirloin, my grocery no. However they sell top loin, which is a different cut altogether. Author of Good Meat, Deborah Krasner, writes in her book, a farmer’s biggest complaint about selling directly to consumers is explaining the different cuts. The fact she calls them farmers rather than ranchers, might be a western bias, but it does cast suspicion on her otherwise authoritative book.

Here are the basics…there are 8 primal cuts recognized by the USDA: Chuck, brisket, rib, short loin, sirloin, round, plate and flank. So sirloin is a primal cut, that is if a cow were a nation, these would be the states. Sirloin has 3-4ish parts, again map; think regions: Sirloin, top sirloin, bottom sirloin and depending how you divide it, the tenderloin. Like a river on a map, some of the muscles that are mostly in the sirloin, flow into other cuts, so that a sirloin tip steak/roast, actually comes from the round.

Ready for more, the English, who have been casually linked to beef-loving, have a few more primal cuts (their 10 to our 8). The roastbifs, as the English are sometimes not lovingly referred to, call their sirloin what we call the rib/short loin, so any seller packaging English style steaks and roasts, can pretty much call anything from the rib sirloin or English sirloin.

Not Cool
Finally, the top sirloin is located under the sirloin and tenderloin but above the bottom sirloin. The cut is chewy and tender with a nice piece of fat adjoined, good for grilling or searing – just a little salt sprinkled on top. Top sirloin is sometimes packaged as the culotte, but not always because of the sad connotation to the skirt like shorts.

I have seen people working the meat counter get flummoxed by questions, since they tend to know the cuts only as their employer packages them, so the ask your butcher advice regularly advised in print and broadcast doesn’t always work, for who among us actually has a butcher? Even though I don’t always see the top sirloin, I usually can spot a top sirloin roast in the case or I can order one, and one for a small capital investment, one can cut the steaks out themselves.

If all this is confusing, the French have 33 primal cuts. While that sounds like just another thing to make fun of the French for, because multiplying basic beef cuts by a factor or 4 is so Fran├žais, but that is specific enough to avoid any confusion like we have with finding something as basic as a top sirloin steak consistently labeled that way.

1 comment:

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