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If you're not Cuban, you may be baffled by the many cuts of beef that show up in Cuban recipes or on the menu at your favorite Cuban restaurant. If you don't know a Cañada from a palomilla, the Three Guys From Miami present this simple guide that will quickly make you a Cuban beef expert.

What makes Cuban cuts of beef different? For one thing, Cubans have created many dishes that take advantage of cheaper cuts of meat. That's one of the reasons why Cuban steaks are almost always sliced very thin and either cooked very quickly, or slow cooked with plenty of liquid -- as in bistec rollito.

Although all of the steaks we list in our guide are always cut from the same parts of the cow, the quality can vary from "prime" to "choice" to "select." These are the three most common grades of beef purchased at retail in the United States.

Make sure you know what grade of meat you are buying. In some parts of the country, it's not unusual to find some butchers selling commercial and utility grades of beef. These grades are NOT recommended for your kitchen.

Select grades (as well as some of the cheaper cuts of beef) may also need some mechanical tenderizing. You can do this at home, or have your butcher run the steaks through a tenderizing machine. If you can, always choose choice or prime beef.

Cutting steaks from a roast or primal cut.

Know Your (Cuban) Cuts of Meat!

A complete guide to the most popular Latin American butcher cuts of beef

The Three Guys From Miami are lucky to have several good Cuban butchers available. Even Miami grocery chains like Publix and Sedano's do a very good job of cutting meat to order.

However, if you have a Non-Latin butcher shop or shop at a typical American grocery, it is still possible to obtain just about any of these Cuban cuts. (Cuban cows and American cows are exactly alike! OK, the American cows have probably never seen sugar cane, but that is just about the only difference.)

Just bring this guide to your butcher – he or she can cut anything to order.

Bistec de bola – a type of round tip steak. This one is cut from a trimmed round tip roast. Before cut into steaks, this part of the cow looks like a very large ball – although it's not perfectly round! (See bistec de sapito.) Always cut very thin and may be mechanically or manually tenderized.

Bistec de Cañadatop round steak. Because this is a tougher cut, it needs to be sliced very thin and cooked quickly. May need mechanical or manual tenderization. Sometimes called bistec de centro.

Bistec de Cañada – top round steak
Bistec de churrasco (Also known as: arrachera, bistec de falda anterior) – The churrasco steak is a long flat cut of "skirt steak," cut from the "plate" of the cow. Skirt steak is actually the diaphragm muscle of the cow. This is the most popular churrasco cut sold in Miami Cuban restaurants.

Bistec de churrasco de vacio (flap meat churrasco) – is cut from the internal flank plate. Many consider this cut a delicacy with a little more flavor than the standard churrasco.


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Trimming the membrane from the back of the churrasco.
Churrasco
Falda
Bistec de lomo (also called filete de lomo) – is a steak cut from the tenderloin of beef, the most expensive part of any cow, Cuban or American. It's the same cut as the filet mignon. It may be sliced into steaks and even cooked whole as in this recipe.

Bistec de lomo de res – is a rib steak cut from the small end of a rib roast, usually with the bone removed. (See also chuleta and rib eye.)

Bistec de paleta de res -- is a chuck shoulder steak, sliced thin. In case you were wondering, these are usually cut from the neck and shoulders of the cow.

Filete de lomo
Bistec de palomilla – beef loin sirloin, cut from the top butt, one of the two main muscles that make up the sirloin. Some places cut this from the bottom sirloin, a tougher cut of meat that needs to be run through a tenderizer.

Bistec de pecho sin hueso – is a boneless blade cut chuck steak from the chuck primal of the cow. These are cut from a chuck roast.

Bistec de res – is a bone-in chuck steak.

Select grades (as well as some of the cheaper cuts of beef) may also need some mechanical tenderizing.
Bistec de churrasco de cuadril -- unlike most churrascos, this one is cut from the bottom sirloin roast. It is typically the thickest of the churrasco cuts. Some butchers also cut this from a rump roast – a much tougher proposition.

Bistec de falda posteriorflank steak. (Sometimes just labeled or called falda.) Cows evidently use these flank muscles a lot, resulting in a well exercised muscle that is full of flavor. Always cut cooked falda or flank steak against the grain for a very tender eating experience.

Bistec de riñonada – is sold by American butchers as a New York strip steak. It's cut from the center of the top loin, sometimes called the "strip loin."
Bistec de sapito -- is the same as a round tip steak. It is cut from the untrimmed round tip roast, a cut that's just one step below the sirloin. These steaks are best marinated overnight and done on the barbecue grill. (See bistec de bola.)

Don't confuse this with a "round TRIP" roast, the one that comes back up the same way it went down. We've had one or two of those over the years!

Pinchos (kabobs) ready for the grill.

Bistec de tipa de pierna – called Swiss steak by most Anglo butchers, it is cut from the bottom round. Like all round steaks, this one comes from the top of the leg, or hind shank. This is the one to use in dishes that require long, slow cooking with plenty of liquid.

Carne Molida – is ground beef, plain and simple.

Chuleta or chuleton – is the same as a rib steak. In most parts of the United States, the chuleta is a steak cut from a costillar punta pequeña, (rib roast.) The rib eye steak is called, (strangely enough) a "rib eye."

Costillar punta pequeña, is a rib roast.


Three Guys From Miami Show You How to Make the Best Cuban, Spanish, and Latin American Food!

CHECK OUT THE RECIPES:

Drinks | Appetizers | Salads | Main Dishes
Soups | Side Dishes | Desserts | Index


Ajíes Rellenos Stuffed Green Peppers with a Latin twist.

Albondigas Giant Cuban meatballs that put many Italian meatballs to shame!

Alce con Papas Elk or beef with Potatoes.

Bistec de Palomilla Thinly sliced beef, Palomilla Steaks.

Bistec Empanizado Lightly breaded steak.

Bistec En Rollo Rolled steak that is stuffed with ham and veggies and slow cooked.

Bistec Encebollado Tender steak with onions.

Boliche tender, slow cooked pot roast stuffed with Spanish chorizo.

Carne Guisado "Irish" stew with a Cuban slant.

Churrasco Cubano Originally from Argentina, these steaks have a Cuban touch done to perfection on the grill.

Cordero en Salsa de Vino Rojo Tender spring lamb shank in a red wine pan reduction.

Filet Bistec Salteado The meat is sliced into strips - like fajita meat.

Frita Cubana Enjoy this authentic Cuban recipe for the ultimate Cuban hamburger.

Lechon Asado The classic Cuban roast pork dish.

Lomo al Trapo A whole beef tenderloin, wrapped in cloth, and cooked directly on hot coals.

Picadillo True Cuban comfort food, many Miami families eat this dish every week.

Pig Roast Everything you need to know to roast a whole pig in your backyard.

Rabo Encendido Savory oxtail stewed until the meat drips from the bone.

Ropa Vieja Fork-tender beef infused with Caribbean flavor.

Tasajo Dried beef slow cooked in a stew with tomatoes and spices.

Vaca Frita Tender beef shredded and crisped in the frying pan for a unique taste treat.

MEAT RECIPES

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