The grades of beef plates and briskets correspond to those of the carcass from which they come, Together, the two cuts represent approximately 12 per cent of the weight of the side. Taken separately, the plate represents 8 per cent and the brisket 4 per cent, all based on the Chicago method of ‘cutting. The plate is referred to as “navel” in the Chicago market. In high-grade carcasses the percentage of fat in these cuts is much greater than in any of the other wholesale cuts and their market value is largely determined by the amount of fat. In most markets the demand for fresh plates and briskets is equal to only a fraction of the fresh supply, and these cuts are marketed largely as corned or barreled beef. In Boston, the trade specializes in rolled, boneless cuts, and that market uses the larger percentage of its supply of fresh plates and briskets in this manner. Plates and briskets make excellent retail cuts for boiling and stewing, but are not suitable for roasts, unless boned and rolled. Short ribs of beef are the rib end of the plate cut 4 to 6 inches wide the entire length of the plate, or the width of seven ribs.
Plates from cows are broader and have proportionately less depth of flesh than plates from steer and heifer carcasses.
The brisket is considered more desirable than the plate, and is always in demand by hotel, restaurant,, and lunch-room trade, and is used principally as corned beef.
No. A 1, or Prime, Beef Plates and Briskets
No. A 1, or Prime, beef plates and briskets are from Prime beef carcasses, and the market supply is almost negligible. They are thick and well-fleshed, and have an abundance of creamy-white fat interspersed between the layers of lean meat. The exterior surfaces are well and evenly covered with fat of excellent quality. The flesh is light to medium red, and has moderately fine grain as compared with other wholesale cuts of this grade.
No. 1, or Choice, Beef Plates and Briskets
Plates and briskets of this grade differ only slightly in thickness, quality, and finish from those of No. A-1, or Prime, grade. They may have more or less fat, but as a rule it is not so evenly distributed. The flesh has a light to medium-red color, and is comparatively fine-grained and firm. Plates and briskets of this grade are generally marketed fresh, and are rarely corned or sold as barreled beef.
No. 2, or Good, Beef Plates and Briskets
Plates and briskets of this grade have more than the average depth of flesh, and have generous quantities of fat interspersed between the layers of lean flesh and deposited along the ribs. The color of the flesh is medium to slightly dark red, and is inclined to coarseness. The outer surface of the plate is fairly evenly covered with a thin coating of creamy-white fat, which diminishes toward the brisket. Inside, semiloose fats are in evidence, and these are white and brittle. Plates and briskets of this grade are sold fresh, principally.
No. 3, or Medium, Beef Plates and Briskets
No. 3, or Medium, beef plates and briskets are available throughout the year. They have average depth of flesh, and make desirable retail cuts for stewing and boiling. There is practically no outside covering of fat, except a thin layer on the upper end of the plate next to the flank. There is no out-side fat on the brisket, and only limited amounts attached to the inside or breast bone. The percentage of bone is relatively high. The flesh is usually dark, stringy, and very tough. It also has a moist or watery appearance, and shrinks heavily when cooked. A large percentage of this grade is corned and sold as barreled beef.
No. 4, or Common, Beef Plates and Briskets
Plates and briskets of this grade represent the lowest grade that is taken by the fresh beef trade in any appreciable quantity. They are thin and relatively broad. All rib bones are prominent, and usually hard and flinty. There is a total lack of both outside and inside fat. The flesh is uniformly coarse, dark, and tough. The proportion of bone is unusually high. A small percentage of plates and briskets of this grade is boned and rolled, and sold fresh, but the bulk is corned and sold as barreled beef.
No. 5, or Cutter, and No. 6, or Low Cutter, Beef Plates and Briskets
Plates and briskets of these grades are seldom sold as fresh beef. The total lack of fat and the low percentage of flesh generally make them uneconomical as fresh beef. The flesh is very unattractive. It is exceptionally dark, very coarse, and generally tough. Practically all plates and briskets of these grades are boned for sausage at the packing plants, and a relatively small percentage is corned and sold as low-grade barreled beef.
The flank is a boneless cut taken from the hindquarter just below the loin and in front of the round. Under the Chicago method of cutting, it represents about 3 per cent of the weight of the side. Flanks are rarely sold separately, and for that reason separate descriptions of the various grades have been deemed unnecessary. Many are sold with the loin or round, according to trade customs at the different markets. When so sold, they fall into the same class and, grade as the main cut to which they are attached. Naturally there are variations in the quantity and quality of both the flesh and fat, according to the grade.
Flanks from No. 1, or Choice, and No. 2, or Good, carcasses are thick and well covered with fat of excellent quality. Except for the flank steak, which represents about 17 per cent of the flank, and a small quantity of lean trimmings, the cut is composed almost entirely of fat, which decreases in quantity with each grade downward. The flank steak, which is almost entirely lean meat, has a light or medium red color, but is rather coarse-grained and often tough. When properly prepared, it makes a desirable steak or roast.
Flanks from low-grade carcasses have only a scant covering of fat, this usually showing a yellowish tinge. The steaks are thin, dark, coarse-grained, and tough.
Except when otherwise specified, the term “shank” refers to the cut from the forequarter. Hindshanks usually are sold as a part of the round and seldom, if ever, are offered separately. Foreshanks represent 4 per cent of the carcass when cut according to the Chicago method. Shanks from Good, Choice, and Prime carcasses have a thin covering of white fat next to the shoulder, which diminishes sharply toward the knee. All lower grades have no fat covering. The flesh is usually coarse, and the color varies according to the grade of the cacass. In the same carcass, however, it is darker than in the better cuts, such as rib and loin. The flesh from shanks is used principally for stews and hamburger steak; also to some extent as soup stock. The bone is used extensively for soup stock.
Beef Kidney Knobs
The kidney knob is attached to the inner surface of the loin, covering the tenderloin or “fillet,” and includes the kidney and the suet or fat surrounding it. It is generally sold with the hindquarter or untrimmed loin. Kidney knobs are not sold as such to the retail trade, the kidneys being removed and sold separately. No grades are recognized. The size varies generally according to the grade of the carcass from which they are taken. Heavy, fat carcasses produce large kidney knobs, and light or thin carcasses small ones. Fat cows as a rule have larger kidney knobs than other classes.
Suet is the semiloose fat obtained from beef carcasses. It is composed chiefly of kidney, crotch, and breast fats, and represents about 3 per cent of the carcass weight. The greatest amount comes from the hindquarters. The percentage varies according to the grade of the carcass, being greater, as a rule, in the better grades, gradually diminishing with each succeeding lower grade. Common, canner, and cutter carcasses have practically no suet. Suet is sold in only limited quantities to the retail trade, as it is used principally by renderers in the manufacture of oleo oil. Small quantities are used in preparing mince meat.