Under the Chicago method of cutting, a beef chuck represents about 26 per cent of the weight of the side. It contains five ribs, with the shank and brisket removed. Some markets remove the shank by disjointing it at the shoulder. The “Manhattan” or “New York style” chuck includes the brisket and shank. In some markets this cut is known also as “cross cut.” The chuck contains a large percentage of flesh of high nutritive value, but is widely discriminated against on account of the unattractive appearance of the retail cuts. It is regarded as one of the coarser cuts. It is especially adapted to roasting, boiling and stewing. Steaks are also cut from the rib end and from the shoulder clod.
The class and grade of the chuck are the same as those of the carcass from which it came. Cow chucks are distinguished from steer and heifer chucks by the long, tapering necks of the former and their uneven contour. Heifer chucks closely resemble steer chucks. Chucks from cows lack the depth and breadth, especially through and across the shoulders, that are peculiar to steer chucks of the same grade. The rib bones of cows are slightly wider, more “springy” or spready, and the surrounding flesh generally is much thinner than in steer chucks.
The principal factors which determine the grade of the chuck are quality, finish and conformation. Quality is determined largely by the color, texture, and grain of the flesh, and the quantity of fat deposits and covering. In general, the appearance of the cut surface at the rib end may be regarded as the principal index of quality. It also serves as a reliable index of the depth of flesh throughout the cut.
No. A 1, or Prime, Beef Chucks
No. A 1, or Prime, beef chucks are thick, compact, and relatively short and plump. The depth of flesh, in proportion to the width from the backbone to the bricket, is especially noticeable. The heavy muscling, and abundant fat deposits give it a heavy, bulging, meaty appearance. The marbling and intermuscular fats are abundant, and relatively large quantities of high-grade fat occur between the spinal processes or chine bones. The flesh on the cut surface next to the rib is of an attractive light or medium red color, which gradually darkens from the shoulder toward the shank and neck, but not to a marked degree. The flesh is slightly coarser than that of the rib, but is firm and surprisingly tender and palatable. The inner walls are completely covered with smooth, white fat. The exterior surface also is completely covered, but the depth varies from three-fourths of an inch and less at the rib end to a thin layer over the neck .and upper part of the shank. Pearly-white cartilages surround the outer edge of the blade, chine, and brisket bones, and these hones are red, spongy and easily chopped or sawed without splintering.
No. 1, or Choice, Beef Chucks
No. 1, or Choice, beef chucks closely resemble Prime chucks in general conformation and quantity of flesh. There is a difference, however, in the finish and quality. As a rule, the fat covering is rougher, and not as evenly distributed over the shoulder and does not extend to the neck and shank. The inner walls are well covered with fat, which generally is more irregular in thickness than in Prime chucks, being thinner near the backbone. Folds or ruffles of fat follow the interior rib alignment, but the fat is of excellent quality, indicating a high degree of finish. The intermuscular fats, marbling, and the fats between the processes of the chine bones may be excessive, but usually are less than in the Prime Grade, and slightly inferior in quality. The flesh is of light to medium red, and of excellent quality. The cartilages on the blade, chine, and brisket bones are white and soft, and these bones are red, but often slightly harder than those in the Prime grade.
No. 2, or Good, Beef Chucks
No. 2, or Good, beef chucks are above the average in depth of flesh and conformation, but are inferior in these respects to choice and prime. They frequently have a comparatively flat appearance. The bulging appearance of the flesh along the back, noticeable in the better grades, is not in evidence in this grade. Good chucks taper slightly from the backbone toward the shoulder joints. There is usually a moderate amount of fat covering, which is somewhat rough and rarely extends beyond the shoulders from the rib end. There is also a moderate amount of intermuscular fat and a trace of marbling in the thicker parts.
The inner walls are partly covered with a rough fat of good quality, especially along the lower ends of the rib bones. Streaks of fat between the rib bones are visible. The flesh is firm, and varies from light to medium red. Generally, the cartilages on the blade, chine, and breast bones show varying degrees of hardness or ossification, according to age. Age also affects the tenderness of the meat to some extent.
No. 3, or Medium, Beef Chucks
No. 3, or Medium, beef chucks are more plentiful on the market than any other grade. They possess an average depth of flesh, and are rough and irregular in conformation. Such chucks appear wide and flat, and taper to a marked degree from the backbone toward the shoulder joint, but rarely show concavity between these points. They have scarcely any fat covering, except near the rib end. The intermuscular fats are scant, and there is no fat in the region of the chine bones. There is only a small amount of fat on the inner surface along the ribs, but it is more in evidence near the brisket. The tips of the chine, blade, and brisket bones generally are hard and the bones are white and flinty. The color of the flesh varies from light-red in young beef to dark-red in older beef. It is usually tough, watery, and inclined to slip from its natural position when cut from the carcass.
No. 4, or Common, Beef Chucks
No. 4, or Common, beef chucks are thin, flat, rough, and irregular, and are usually light and unattractive in general appearance. The muscles along the back taper or dish sharply from the backbone producing a concave effect. There is no fat covering on the interior or exterior surfaces, and scar>cely any intermuscular fat. The bones are white and flinty, and the flesh has a dark-red color, is watery, and very tough. The muscles slip readily from their natural positions, often exposing the blade bone. The flesh generally is very moist, and shrinks greatly when cooked.
No. 5, or Cutter; and No. 6, or Low Cutter, Beef Chucks
Chucks of these grades are boned and used chiefly for canning, sausage, and curing purposes. Some, however, are boned and sold fresh or frozen. Boneless chucks are sold mostly to restaurant and hotel-supply houses. They rarely are handled fresh by the retail trade.