Beef Cooking Methods

Have you ever cooked a piece of meat that turned out really tough? This is not necessarily due to the quality of the beef, but how it is actually cooked.  Depending on the composition of the beef – including fat and connective tissue – it’s important to choose the technique that will minimize moisture loss while increasing tenderness and maximizing flavor. All you have to do is pair the right cooking method with the right beef cut.

Dry Heat vs. Moist Heat

The seven methods of cooking beef can be grouped into two main categories: dry heat and moist heat.  Dry heat cooking methods are often done over high heat for short periods of time to prevent drying out the beef, and/or combined with slower, lower heat cooking to finish. Think grilling, barbecuing, or roasting. Moist heat cooking is any method that involves cooking with moisture, like braising or stewing. 

Typically, tender cuts of meat (such as tenderloin or striploin) can be cooked quickly with a dry method, like grilling or broiling. Tough cuts are best to cook (blade, brisket, short rib) slowly, by stewing or braising them, in order to add moisture and break down the tough proteins. 

Beef Cooking Methods

Braising: When you hear the term braising, think pot roast. Braised beef makes the meat fall off the bone from the least tender cuts. To braise beef, meat is first browned, then cooked, tightly covered, in a small amount of liquid at low heat for a long period of time. The result is highly flavored, tender beef. Beef is usually braised in the oven but can also be done on the stovetop.

Best cuts of beef for braising: Chuck, brisket, round, short ribs, flank steak, skirt steak.



Stewing: Stewing beef is very similar to braising, except stewing submerges the beef completely in liquid, and rather than cooking a large piece of meat, we cut the meat up into cubes or other smaller pieces. This allows for a shorter cook time as a result. It’s counterintuitive, but tougher, inexpensive cuts make the best beef stews. Don’t make a stew with tender or fatty meat.

    Best cuts of beef for stewing: chuck roast, chuck shoulder, round roast, short ribs, cross-cut shanks.


    Barbecuing/smoking: Barbecuing or smoking beef is different than grilling (see below). Barbecuing uses long temperatures and involves cooking for very long periods of time using indirect, low-heat. Barbecuing is typically done over logs or wood chips that smoke the food. Because it uses smoke, barbecuing works best on a charcoal or pellet grill, where chunks of hardwood, like hickory, mesquite, apple, maple, or cherry, can be added to the charcoal.

    Best cuts of beef for barbecuing/smoking: whole rump, brisket, shoulder, short ribs, prime rib, ribeye.



    Grilling: Grilling is the most popular method to cook. Anything from steaks to burgers to even a whole roast can go on the grill. Grilling means cooking over a gas or charcoal grill or other heat source. Usually grilling involves high heat for a short period of time, with or without a finish on lower or indirect heat. Cooking a roast on the grill takes longer, and since maintaining a charcoal flame for a period of time requires adding coals periodically and adjusting the vents to keep the temperature where you want it, gas grills make grilling roasts quite a bit easier.

    Best cuts of beef for grilling: Tenderloin steak (chateaubriand, fillet, tournedos), sirloin steak, ribeye steak, rump, porterhouse, T-bone, prime rib, flank steak, skirt steak, hangar steak.


          Pan frying and stir frying: Pan and stir frying is a quick, easy way to prepare your beef. Pan frying is a fast-cooking method involving a small quantity of hot fat, such as oil or butter, and typically high heat and shorter cook times. The great thing about stir-frying is that all the ingredients in the dish, including thin strips of beef, vegetables, like onions and bell peppers, are cooked together in the same pan. Marinating the meat first is a nice touch.

          Best cuts of beef for pan frying and stir frying: fillet, ribeye, sirloin, T-bone, rump, tenderloin, flank steak, skirt steak.


          Pan searing: Similar to pan frying, pan searing is a stovetop method that uses a skillet over high heat with a little bit of oil. A gas top stove with a cast iron pan is perfect for this type of cooking. Reverse pan searing is best for thicker steaks (over 1 inch), and begins in the oven and finishes on the skillet.

          Best cuts of beef for pan searing: tenderloin steak (chateaubriand, fillet, tournedos), sirloin steak, ribeye steak, rump, porterhouse, T-bone, prime rib, flank steak, skirt steak, hangar steak.


            Roasting: Roasting usually incorporates larger pieces of meat, roasts, cooked uncovered in the oven. The moisture reduces while the connective tissues and fat soften, tenderizing the meat. Roasting oven temperatures and times can vary significantly depending on the cut. Because beef cooks quickly at a high temperature, there's little opportunity to break down connective tissues. Therefore, the best cuts of beef for roasting are the tender ones.

            Best cuts of beef for roasting: prime rib, sirloin roast, ribeye roast, whole tenderloin roast, chuck roll, rump.