The Worst Cuts of Beef: Steering Clear of the Tough, Chewy, and Flavorless

As an unapologetic carnivore with a passion for steak, I’m always on the hunt for the most delicious, melt-in-your-mouth cuts of beef However, not all steaks are created equal – there are certainly some subpar cuts lurking out there that are best avoided.

In this guide I’ll share my picks for the worst cuts of beef that are likely to disappoint, along with some tips on how to select quality steaks that deliver on texture and flavor every time. Let’s dive in!

What Makes a Cut of Beef Bad?

Certain cuts of beef simply don’t measure up in key areas like tenderness, juiciness and rich flavor. Here are some of the factors that can make a steak a dud:

  • Extremely tough, chewy texture from lots of connective tissue

  • Lack of fat marbling, resulting in a lean, bland flavor

  • Originating from overworked muscles or uncomfortable cow parts

  • Difficult to cook properly and easily over/underdone

  • Undesirable grain direction that makes slicing difficult

  • Small or oddly-shaped cuts that are hard to cook evenly

While preparation technique, marinades, and cooking methods can mask some flaws, some cuts are just born bad. Now let’s look at the worst offenders.

The Worst Steak Cuts

Here are the cuts of beef I recommend avoiding if you value tenderness and juiciness at all:

Round Steak

This steak comes from the rear leg and rump of the cow, comprising the top round, bottom round, and eye round. These are heavily exercised muscles, resulting in super tough, chewy meat. It’s also very lean, so lacks any juiciness or beefy flavor. There’s a reason round is usually relegated to stew meat – pass as a standalone steak!

Chuck Steak

While chuck can braise and stew nicely, it’s far too tough and stringy for steaks. The abundance of connective tissue results in a chewy, rubbery texture. Chuck also lacks any marbling, so it’s prone to drying out while cooking. Definitely better uses for this affordable cut.

Flank Steak

While flank has a pleasant beefiness, it’s very lean and lacks tenderness. The long meat fibers result in an ultra-chewy texture unless sliced against the grain – even then, flank is far from tender. It also has an unwieldy shape for cooking. You can do much better!

Skirt Steak

Similar to flank, skirt steak is super chewy and stringy despite its thin profile. While flavorful, the muscle fibers are extremely tough even at rare doneness. It also has a long, narrow shape that’s a pain to trim and cook evenly. I’d pass on skirt steak if you value bite-tenderness.


Brisket does have its place for barbecuing and smoking, where slow cooking tenderizes, but seared as a steak it’s far too chewy and tough. The chest muscles get overworked, developing thick connective tissue. Brisket needs moisture and low’n’slow cooking to break down. Grab another cut for steaks!


From the cow’s lower leg, shank is packed with collagen and super tough muscle fibers. Shank is great for soups and stews where prolonged braising helps tenderize, but absolutely terrible as a steak! The texture will be unbearably chewy and cartilage-y – totally lacking tenderness. Leave this one for the slow cooker.


Neck steaks come from an area high in connective tissue that cows use constantly to move their giant heads. As such, neck makes jerky-tough steaks lacking any fat marbling or tenderness when quickly cooked. Slow braise for pot roasts if you must use neck meat.

How to Pick Better Steak Cuts

Now that you know the worst cuts to avoid, here are some tips for selecting superior steaks:

  • Look for “loin” and “rib” cuts like ribeye, sirloin, tenderloin. These come from less exercised upper cow areas.

  • Seek out marbling – white fat streaks throughout the meat ensure juiciness.

  • For tenderness, choose finer grain over coarse grain in the meat.

  • Research recommended cooking methods – ideal cuts are grillable as-is.

  • Ask your butcher for advice on current best buys and high quality.

Taking a little extra care to pick the right cut of beef can make all the difference between a mediocre and marvelous steak experience. With so many better options out there, there’s no reason to settle for the tough, chewy, or bland cuts. Life’s too short for bad steak!

7 Ways To Cook The Worst Cut Of Beef To Make It Delicious!


What is the toughest cut of beef?

Shank. Shank is arguably the toughest, cheapest cut of beef. Located in front of the brisket at the cow’s forearm, this beef cut is notable for its sinewy dryness. Due to its lack of popularity, shank is not typically found in retail stores.

What is the unhealthiest cut of beef?

Best cuts: Sirloin tip side steak, eye of round roast, top round steak and bottom round steak. Worst cuts: T-bone steak, rib-eye steak, filet mignon and porterhouse steak. Best cuts: Breast. Worst cuts: Thigh, wing, drumstick and leg.

What is the nicest cut of beef?

The Ribeye is generally considered to be the most flavourful steak. These steaks are cut from the ribs and contain a lot of marbling throughout. The muscle from where the Ribeye is cut, isn’t used often so the meat is very tender.

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