How the Heck Do You Choose A Lean Cut of Beef AND Know How to Cook It?

How the Heck Do You Choose A Lean Cut of Beef AND Know How to Cook It?

By Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN

This post is a collaboration with Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner., on behalf of the Beef Checkoff, as part of my role as a member of the Beef Expert Bureau. I have been compensated for my time commitment. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

Even as a cookbook author and culinary nutrition expert, the cuts of beef still get confusing. And I know I’m not the only one. When I ask friends or clients about cuts of beef, they are usually familiar with only a few cuts. Many don’t even realize that thanks to increased trimming practices, the external fat in retail cuts has decreased by 80% in the past 20 years. (1) They’re also shocked to learn that over 60% of beef muscle cuts meet the guidelines for “lean.” (2) According to USDA, a cut of cooked fresh meat is considered “lean” when it contains less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per 100 grams (3½ oz) and per RACC (Reference Amount Customarily Consumed), which is 85 grams (3 oz).

Finding Lean Cuts

My no-fail trick— I turn to the website. Even when I am selecting cuts for cookbook recipes I will go onto the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. website (I even use it on the mobile app in the market!). Sometimes a cut of beef is called by one name in the recipe, but the supermarket can label it as several other names. Yes, it does get confusing!

How do I find lean cuts of beef? I go onto the website, for example, and look for lean cuts of beef. The website will list them for me and tell me the best ways to cook it. For example, Strip Steak is perfect for grilling, broiling or pan-broiling/cook in a skillet. When I open the page and look at all the info on Strip Steak, the website lists all the different names of Strip Steak, such as Beef Loin, Strip Loin Steak. If you’re not sure how to grill, broil, or slow cook the cut, the website will give you step-by-step instructions. There is even a huge library of recipes to choose from.

Ask Chuck

If you’re at home looking for some beef inspiration you can always Ask Chuck Knows Beef. Chuck Knows Beef, an all-knowing virtual beef expert powered by Google Artificial Intelligence, is here and ready to help consumers as their personal guide to all things beef. Research shows that 42 percent of people use their smart speakers in the kitchen, and almost half of all smart speaker users have used their device to find a recipe or for cooking assistance. (3)  In addition, 70 percent of people agree that technical support would be helpful when shopping for beef, with another 65 percent agreeing it would influence their purchasing decisions. (4) Based on this research, Chuck was designed to have instant access to recipes, cuts, nutrition information and cooking tips – plus a whole lot more. If Chuck helps you find a recipe you want to try, he can even text you the shopping list!

Nutritionists’ Favorite Lean Beef Recipes

I asked registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) their favorite lean beef recipes and why the recipe is their favorite. Here is what they had to say.

Gyros Breakfast Burritos

Judy Barbe, RD author of Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest says that these burritos are a perfect way to start the day! “Spinach, lean ground beef, yogurt, feta cheese and cucumbers…this makes breakfast burrito recipe (or dinner) positively delicious,” Barbe exclaims.

Photo courtesy of Judy Barbe

One-Pan Beef Tenderloin & Roasted Vegetables

“I’m a big fan of minimal clean-up after cooking so this recipe for One-Pan Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Vegetables scores big points, plus the beef tenderloin is cooked to perfection in the oven,” says Karman Meyer, RD & recipe creator at Meyers says that the hardest part of this recipe is letting the tenderloin rest for 10 minutes once removed from the oven to keep all of the delicious juices inside! It is also paired with a variety of roasted winter vegetables, to make it a very satisfying meal.

Photo courtesy of Karman Meyer

Pumpkin Chili

“I love cooking with lean ground beef because it’s so versatile and affordable,” says Jessica Ivey, RDN, LDN. “When it’s on sale, I’ll stock my freezer with several pounds to have on hand for later,” Ivey says. This version of chili gets a nutrient boost from the addition of pumpkin. The touch of cinnamon adds a cozy note that warms me from the inside on a cold night. Best of all, it freezes great! “I always have a few containers of prepared chili in my freezer for fast future meals this time of year,” exclaims Ivey.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Ivey

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Bowl

“Spicy, tangy, crunchy, fresh, I love this refreshing Vietnamese Beef Noodle bowl salad. Easy to make at home, you’ll turn to this healthy recipe time after time,” says Judy Barbe, RD author of Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest. She uses sirloin in the recipe since it is a lean cut, easy to slice, and an economical cut.

Photo courtesy of Judy Barbe

Beef Stir-Fry with Asian Peanut Sauce

From my best-selling cookbook The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook this go-to stir-fry uses top sirloin, a lean cut of beef. I also like using whatever leftover vegetables I have on hand to help reduce food waste. I also will use quinoa, brown rice, or whatever whole grain I have sitting in my pantry.

Photo courtesy of Nat & Cody Gantz


(1) Calculated from Cross et al., 1986 and Mason et al., 2006
(2) IRI/Freshlook, Total US MULO, 52 weeks ending 5/21/17; Categorized by VMMeat System
(3) Voicebot Smart Speaker Consumer Adoption Report, January 2018
(4) Beef and e-commerce project, ypulse. 2016

PLEASE SHARE: What is your favorite recipe using lean beef?



  • Cindy Phillips
    Posted at 14:44h, 06 March Reply

    I love bowls! Judy’s vietnamese bowl looks so delicious

  • aksharafinserv
    Posted at 23:00h, 10 March Reply

    I love bI love bowls!owls!

  • laex
    Posted at 10:28h, 26 April Reply

    Whenever I read you, it’s like a mini-vacation for me. Thanks for the post and keep posting.

Post A Comment