What Cut of Beef Should You Use for Pho?

Pho is a popular Vietnamese noodle soup that has taken the world by storm With its complex and fragrant broth, slippery rice noodles, and variety of toppings like fresh herbs, bean sprouts, lime wedges, and chili peppers, it’s easy to see why pho is so beloved

But the star of the show in any good bowl of pho is always the beef. Thinly sliced raw beef gets added to the piping hot broth just before serving, cooking quickly while infusing flavor. Choosing the right cut of beef is critical for getting the perfect texture and taste.

So what’s the best cut of beef for pho? Here’s a breakdown of the top options:

Flank Steak

Hands down, flank steak is the number one choice for pho It has the perfect mix of rich, beefy flavor and moderate fat content When sliced against the grain, flank steak produces tender, bite-sized pieces that cook fast in the hot broth.

Flank steak comes from the belly muscles of the cow. It’s a fairly lean cut, but has enough marbling to impart taste. Due to its leanness, flank steak can become tough and chewy if overcooked. But added raw to pho, it cooks rare to medium-rare, giving you juicy, flavorful meat.

The moderate price of flank steak also makes it an economical choice for pho. Prices range from $7-12 per pound. For pho look for a flank steak that’s around 1-1.5 pounds to yield enough sliced meat for 4-6 servings.

Some key traits that make flank steak the perfect cut for pho:

  • Lean yet tender
  • Rich beefy flavor
  • Cooks quickly in broth
  • Affordable price

When purchasing flank steak for pho, don’t confuse it with skirt steak. They look very similar, but skirt steak has more tough fibers running through it. It can become chewy and stringy when cooked rare in pho broth. Always choose flank steak over skirt steak for the best results.

Chuck Roast

Chuck roast comes from the shoulder area of the cow. It’s one of the most affordable cuts of beef, usually costing around $5-7 per pound.

While chuck roast is best known for pot roasts and stews, it also makes a fantastic, budget-friendly choice for pho. It contains good marbling which provides plenty of beefy flavor. Sliced paper thin across the grain, it cooks up tender in the hot broth.

Some benefits of using chuck roast in pho:

  • Inexpensive cost
  • Well-marbled for flavor
  • Tender when sliced thinly against grain
  • Can find at any grocery store

Look for a chuck shoulder roast in the 2-3 pound range. Ask your butcher to slice it as thinly as possible, across the grain. The thin slices will cook in just a few minutes once added to the piping hot broth.


Brisket is another budget-friendly cut well suited for pho. It comes from the lower chest area of the cow. Basic brisket can be found for around $3-5 per pound.

For pho, choose a flat cut brisket over a point cut. The flat cut is leaner with less fat running through it. When sliced paper thin against the grain, it produces tender shreds of meat.

Some upsides to using brisket in pho:

  • Inexpensive cost
  • Leaner than other brisket cuts
  • Long shreds of tender meat
  • Big beefy flavor

The flat cut brisket does contain less fat than some other pho cuts. Be sure to slice it as thinly as possible to maximize tenderness. Cooked in the broth just 1-2 minutes, it will impart nice flavor without getting chewy.

Why You Should Avoid Expensive Cuts for Pho

While premium cuts like ribeye, tenderloin, or strip steak may sound tempting for pho, they are actually not the best choices.

Here’s why it’s better to avoid expensive cuts:

  • Lack of fat – Ribeyes, tenderloin, etc. are very lean. The fat is what gives pho meat its signature rich, beefy flavor. Without it, the meat can be bland.

  • Quickly overcook – These tender cuts cross over from rare to well-done very fast. They’ll go from tender to chewy in the hot broth if not pulled out immediately.

  • Waste of money – Pho originated as a peasant dish in Vietnam. Theflavors come from the broth, not fancy steak. Save premium cuts for another use where they can shine.

Stick with affordably priced cuts like flank, chuck, or brisket for the best results and truest pho experience. Their fat, connective tissue, and beefy taste perfectly suit the quick cooking method.

How to Prepare Beef for Pho

Prepping the beef properly is key for pho success. Here are some tips:

  • Partially freeze – For easier slicing, freeze flank steak, brisket, or chuck roast for 1-2 hours until firm but not solid.

  • Slice thinly – Using a sharp knife, cut across the grain into 1/8 inch thick slices or thinner. Thin slices cook quickly in broth.

  • Raw beef – Meat should be added raw to hot broth just before serving so it cooks gently in the soup. Do not pre-cook beef.

  • Divide slices – Separate slices into individual portions in bowls. This allows guests to control amount of meat.

  • Rare doneness – Meat is just lightly cooked by broth. If overcooked, it will get tough. Cook no more than 1-2 minutes in broth.

Following these steps will give you beautifully tender, pink slices of beef that elevate any bowl of pho.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I can’t find flank steak?

Chuck roast or brisket make great substitutions. Look for flat brisket cut if possible. Otherwise, any stewing beef or pot roast cut sliced thinly will work.

Can I use pre-sliced stir-fry beef?

Pre-sliced stir-fry beef from the grocery store will work but is not ideal. The meat quality is inconsistent. For best flavor and texture, choose a whole piece of flank, chuck, or brisket and slice it yourself.

What about leftover steak or roast?

Leftover cooked steak or roast beef can be added to pho but will have a more well-done texture. Go easy on leftovers to prevent overcooked meat.

Do I need to trim all the fat off?

No, leave some fat on for flavor. But very fatty sections can be trimmed off if desired. Some marbling in the meat is good to impart beefy taste.

Can I use ground beef instead?

Ground beef is not traditional for pho. The texture will be mushy once cooked in broth. If using, brown it first before adding to soup to avoid a greasy mess.

The Takeaway

When making authentic pho at home, choose an inexpensive cut like flank steak, chuck roast, or brisket. Slice the meat paper thin, across the grain. Add it raw to the hot broth just before serving. Cook just 1-2 minutes to get perfect tender, juicy slices infused with rich, beefy flavor. With the right cut of meat, you’ll have a bowl of pho that rivals the best restaurants!

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