When it comes to making a hearty and flavorful beef soup, the cut of meat you choose is crucial. The right cut will impart deep, beefy flavor into the broth while remaining tender and juicy when cooked. So what is the best option when looking for beef soup meat?
Many professional chefs and home cooks agree that chuck roast is one of the best cuts of beef for soup. Chuck comes from the shoulder of the cow. It contains a good amount of fat marbling that keeps the meat tender and moist during the long simmering time. While leaner cuts like sirloin may overcook and become tough, chuck roast melts into tender shreds after hours on the stove.
Chuck roast has rich beefy flavor that permeates the broth. This makes it ideal for soups where the broth is just as important as the meat. When trimmed of excess fat and gristle, chuck roast will impart flavor without greasiness.
Look for chuck roast sold in large chunks rather than pre-cut stew meat. Opt for pieces with good marbling. The size of chuck roast allows for easy trimming of gristle and fat before cutting it into uniform cubes or chunks for soup.
Short ribs are another excellent choice for beef soups and stews. Short ribs contain a high ratio of bone and connective tissue to meat. Connective tissue is collagen that melts into gelatin when slowly cooked, giving body and richest to the broth.
The meat attached to the ribs is well-marinated by fat, keeping it tender and flavorful. Short ribs impart the deepest, most beefy flavor. The meat easily shreds off the bones after hours of cooking.
English-style short ribs, cut from the chuck section, work best for soup. They contain more meat than flanken-style that are sliced across the bones. Look for meaty ribs approximately 4 inches long.
Oxtails are an underrated cut used in many classic soups and stews. Oxtails come from the tail of beef cattle. They contain a high proportion of collagen-rich connective tissue and bone relative to meat.
As the oxtails slowly simmer, the collagen melts into the broth adding body, texture, and rich mouthfeel. The meat falling off the bones mingles with tender vegetables in the soup. Oxtails have beefy, robust flavor.
Due to the high bone-to-meat ratio, oxtails are one of the most cost-effective cuts.You’ll need about 2 pounds of oxtail to yield 1 pound of meat after cooking. Look for oxtails approximately 3-5 inches long.
Brisket is a beef cut from the lower chest. It’s naturally tough with a lot of connective tissue. But when cooked low and slow, it becomes extremely tender and flavorful. This makes brisket an ideal choice for beef soups and stews.
The fat marbling of brisket keeps the meat moist and tender during extended cooking. Meanwhile, the collagen melts into the broth adding body and a silky texture. Brisket has a deep beef flavor.
Look for a fresh brisket flat cut if possible. Trim off any thick areas of surface fat before cutting into uniform bite-sized pieces.
Beef shanks are a top choice for full-bodied soups and stews. The shank is the leg portion of beef cattle. It contains high amounts of collagen and little meat.
When simmered for hours, the collagen transforms into gelatin that gives body to the broth. The small amount of meat will be fall-off-the-bone tender after cooking. Beef shanks have deep beef flavor.
Choose meaty shanks that have a good ratio of meat and not too much bone. Remove the tough outer membrane before adding to soup pots.
Round is a lean, affordable cut from the rear legs of the animal. Round has little fat marbling so can become dry if overcooked. For soup and stew meat, choose cuts like bottom round or eye of round.
Trim roasts and chops into 1-inch pieces, removing any silverskin or gristle. Brown the meat well before simmering to build deeper flavor. Add pieces early so they have time to become tender.
While round has good beefy flavor, opt for cuts with more collagen for best results. Round works when you want a leaner beef soup.
Factors When Selecting Soup Meat
When selecting the best beef cuts for soup, consider the following factors:
- Collagen content – Cuts like short ribs, oxtails, and shanks have abundant collagen that melts into rich broth.
- Fat marbling – Moderate fat content keeps meat tender without excess grease.
- Bone-to-meat ratio – Bones impart flavor but too much bone leaves little edible meat.
- Affordability – Less costly cuts like chuck and brisket work beautifully in soups and stews.
- Flavor – Choose assertive cuts like chuck or short ribs for beefy flavor.
- Tenderness – Long cooking transforms tough cuts into fork-tender meat.
The Best Cut for Beef Soup
The best cut of beef for soup is one that becomes meltingly tender and gives maximum flavor. While many cuts work well, short ribs, chuck roast, and oxtails are prime options. Here’s a closer look:
Short ribs offer the best of both worlds – rich broth and tender shredded meat. The plentiful collagen melts into full-bodied broth. And the well-marbled meat easily falls off the bones after hours of simmering. For classic beef soup, short ribs can’t be beaten.
Chuck roast has wonderful beefy flavor and a tender texture perfect for soups and stews. Without too much bone, chuck provides plenty of meat. Opt for good marbling and trim away excess fat. The result is moist, flavorful chunks of meat in a savory broth.
Oxtails give an intense hit of beef flavor and collagen-rich broth. Since they are naturally bony, plan on 2 pounds of oxtails for each pound of meat. Braise the oxtails for hours until meat easily separates from the bones.
While short ribs or chuck may be simpler, oxtails are worth the effort for their old-fashioned flavor.
Tips for Cooking the Best Beef Soup
To allow tough cuts to become tender and flavorful, follow these tips when making beef soup:
- Trim excess fat and silverskin before cutting meat into uniform chunks.
- Generously season meat with salt and pepper.
- Brown the meat well over high heat before adding to soup pot.
- Add aromatic vegetables like onions, carrots, and celery.
- Deglaze browning pan to scrape up browned bits.
- Simmer soup partially covered at low heat for 2-3 hours.
- Skim surface fat and add vegetables the last 30 minutes.
- Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and herbs.
The long, slow simmer allows the meat to become fall-apart tender while developing rich flavor. Follow recipe cook times rather than quick-cooking tough cuts.
Sample Recipe: Classic Beef Soup with Short Ribs
This recipe uses flavorful short ribs simmered into a comforting homemade beef soup:
- 2 lbs beef short ribs
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 cups beef broth
- 1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Pat ribs dry and brown for 2-3 minutes per side.
- Transfer ribs to a plate. Add onions, carrots, celery to pot. Cook 5 minutes until softened.
- Add garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Stir in thyme, bay leaf, broth and ribs.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer 2-3 hours partially covered until ribs are very tender.
- Transfer ribs to a plate. Shred or chop meat from bones and return to pot.
- Add potatoes and simmer 30 minutes until tender. Stir in peas and cook 5 minutes more.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve soup with beef short rib pieces.
The long braise results in beefy, soul-warming soup studded with tender vegetables and short rib meat. Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.
What cut of beef is best for stew?
The best cuts of beef for stew include chuck roast, bottom round, brisket, and short ribs. Look for cuts with marbling for tenderness and moderate collagen for rich broth.
Should beef soup meat be seared?
Yes, it’s important to sear beef soup meat before adding to the pot. High heat caramelizes the exterior giving deeper beef flavor. Deglaze the pan to get browned bits off bottom.
How long should you simmer beef soup?
For tough cuts to become tender, beef soup needs a long simmer time – generally 2-3 hours. After simmering the meat, add quick-cooking vegetables in the last 30 minutes.
What herbs season beef soup?
Classic herbs for beef soup include thyme, rosemary, parsley, marjoram, and bay leaves. Avoid sage which can overpower. Add dried herbs at the start and finish with chopped fresh parsley.
Should beef soup ingredients be browned?
Browning the beef and aromatic ingredients like onions boosts flavor tremendously. Let the meat and veggies get nicely browned before adding liquid. Deglaze the pan to get up all the browned bits.
When making beef soup, the cut of meat you select makes all the difference. Look for well-marbled short ribs, chuck roast, brisket, or oxtails for the best results. These collagen-rich cuts become meltingly tender after long, gentle simmering while adding deep, beefy flavor. With the perfect cut, you’ll achieve soup that is rich, savory, and comforting.