Thinking about purchasing a side of beef? Here's everything you need to know.

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Whether you're looking to save money, plan ahead, stock up, or support your local farmers' market, a side of beef is a great option for people looking to buy in bulk, save money, and stock up. But before you buy, it's important to understand what a side of beef is and what cuts you can expect with your order.

What Cuts Come in a Side of Beef?

A side of beef is exactly what it sounds like: the meat cuts from one side of a cow. (The main cuts are called "primal" cuts.) You can purchase the meat in steak, roast, and request ground cuts from local farmers or ranchers.

These cuts come in a side of beef:

  • chuck
  • rib
  • tenderloin
  • short Loin
  • shank
  • short Plate
  • brisket
  • flank
  • round
  • rump
  • sirloin (top/bottom)
  • oxtail

Each butcher's productions will vary, but these cuts are the most common. Read on to learn about each cut in a side of beef and how to use them.

Grilled Steaks with Sauteed Mushrooms
Grilled Steaks with Sauteed Mushrooms | Photo by Meredith

What to Know Before You Buy a Side of Beef

If you don't need a full side of beef, consider purchasing a quarter side or half side, or sharing with a friend or family member. You could also consider buying a separate stand-up deep freezer for storage.

How Much Is a Side of Beef?

This depends on the region, availability, and type of beef. However, it is often comparable to or less than grocery store or butcher prices. Check with your state's beef council for market pricing and farmers or ranchers selling sides of beef.

Side of Beef Cuts 101

Chuck Roast

The chuck roast is a dinner staple but can be tougher than other cuts of beef. As you plan for your side of beef, this cut has many options in the slow cooker or Instant Pot. Cooking a chuck roast slowly in the slow cooker gives time add great flavoring while tenderizing the meat. Add some potatoes and carrots to complete the meal. Recipe creator Chef John says, "The real secret here is making sure you sear the meat before the long, slow braising."

Tip: Consider what size roast fits with your household needs before you freeze it. If you need to, cut a larger roast into smaller roasts for your smaller family.

Chuck Roast Recipes to Try:

Beef Ribs

Grilled BBQ Short Ribs with Dry Rub
Credit: Allrecipes Trusted Brands

If you enjoy grilling ribs, a side of beef includes a full set of ribs ready for wet or dry rubs. Having the ribs on hand at home in your freezer can make dinner decisions easier; just open the freezer and take out the meat, minus a trip to the store. Using aluminum foil can be a great way to keep ribs tender and flavorful. This grilled recipe features, "Foil packets that make these ribs fall-off-the-bone tender and keep all the savory flavor inside."

Tip: Attach a list with a running tally of what meat is remaining in the freezer. This helps in meal planning and lets you know when certain cuts are running low.

Beef Rib Recipes to Try:

Loin

Beef Tenderloin With Roasted Shallots
Credit: RESIDAE

If you're looking for a great steak cut, the beef loin includes the recognizable T-bone. When you order a side or partial side of beef, ask if the steaks can be cut to your preferred thickness. Allrecipes recipe creator Rocky's T-bone recipe is described in the review section as, "This steak rub rocks!"

Beef Loin Recipes to Try:

Shank

A shank is more simply a leg of the beef cow. Because of the location of the meat, this cut can be very tough and muscled and will be presented in steak-like sections. Braising or slow cooking the meat can make it more tender and add flavor at the same time.

Tip: Don't forget the bones! The bone marrow inside a shank bone is a great recipe addition. Try adding it to a flavorful, health-filled bone broth.

Beef Shank Recipes to Try:

Brisket

David's Mesquite Smoked Texas Brisket
Credit: Lela

Brisket may be one of the most familiar and versatile cuts of beef. Another good option for the slow cooker, this works well with many marinades and recipes. Try it as corned beef brisket; you'll have a great dinner and sandwich meat for lunch the next day.

Tip: After you cook brisket in a slow cooker, shred it easily with a fork. Save the cooking liquid and create a flavorful dipping sauce.

Beef Brisket Recipes to Try:

Flank

The flank cut is a great option as a flank steak but also works well in fajita applications. It is known as a "thin" cut. Marinades are a great option for thinner cuts like a flank cut because the meat soaks into the meat to impart more flavor. If you've seen strips of beef in fajitas, they're most likely from a flank cut or a skirt steak.

Beef Flank Recipes to Try:

Rounds

tender eye of round roast
Credit: Lindsay Muhlhan

A round steak cut of beef tastes great pan-fried, roasted, or slow-cooked to add tenderness to the cut. The "round" indicates that the cut comes from the back leg. Round cuts include: bottom and top round, knuckle, and eye of round. A slow-braising process can serve up a tender, flavorful cut of beef. Maybe it will be your new favorite?

Tip: Round steaks are a very lean cut of beef and can be a tougher cut because of less fat marbling. Slow cookers are a great way to create tenderness.

Beef Round Recipes to Try:

Oxtail

When you order your side of beef, make sure to ask the seller about the oxtail cut. This piece of meat works well in stews with long cooking times, spices, and flavorings. Whether you add it to a stew or bone broth, oxtail can add flavor and texture. While it is from the tail of a cow, you'll find its small sections with your side of beef, making it an easy addition to recipes. Recipe creator Txnurselaw loves her oxtail with gravy recipe because "this recipe was my mom's. It's a soul food blast from the past. I adjust spices to my personal taste (I love lots of spices)."

Oxtail Recipes to Try:

More About Sides of Beef

If you're looking to buy your own side of beef or have further questions, check out the following resources below: