Demystifying the Undercut: A Deep Dive into this Juicy and Tender Beef Cut

As a long-time beef lover and aspiring home cook, I’ve always been fascinated by the different cuts of beef and how they impact flavor and texture. Lately, I’ve heard more and more about the undercut steak, an intriguing and delicious-sounding cut that promises tenderness and juiciness in every bite. However, despite its growing popularity, the undercut remains shrouded in a bit of mystery. Where exactly does this cut come from on the cow? And what gives it that melt-in-your-mouth texture beef lovers crave?

In this article, we’ll slice through the confusion and get straight to the heart of the undercut steak We’ll explore what it is, where it comes from, how to cook it, and why you should add it to your regular beef rotation Let’s dive in!

What Is the Undercut Steak?

First things first – what exactly is the undercut? Also known as the ribeye cap, spinalis dorsi, or picanha, the undercut steak comes from the rib section of the cow, specifically the ribs close to the sirloin primal cut along the backbone.

It’s essentially a ribeye steak with the signature ribeye “eye” of marbled fat and meat left intact, This cut consists of the spinalis muscle which runs along the cow’s vertebrae and is capped with a thick layer of creamy fat It’s this combination of fat marbling and fine-grained muscle that gives the undercut its signature melt-in-your-mouth texture

While it was once shaved off and discarded or ground into hamburger meat, butchers and chefs now recognize the undercut’s status as one of the most delectable and desirable cuts on the cow.

Where Does the Undercut Come From on the Cow?

To understand where the undercut comes from, it helps to first understand beef primal cuts. The cow can be divided into 8 main primal cuts – the chuck, rib, loin, sirloin, round, flank, brisket, and shank. The undercut steak is nestled within the rib primal section.

More specifically, it is located at the rib end of the sirloin primal, right before the spine and alongside the tenderloin. This positions it to get all the benefits of a well-used muscle (flavor) without being overworked to the point of toughness. It’s the best of both worlds!

The undercut is essentially where the ribeye muscle and sirloin muscle intersect. So you get both the tenderness of the loin and the rich flavor of the ribs – truly a match made in beef heaven.

Why the Undercut Steak Is So Tender and Flavorful

Now that we know where it comes from anatomically, let’s discuss why the undercut delivers such succulent, juicy results. There are a few key factors at play:

Marbling – As we learned earlier, the undercut contains that coveted ribeye “eye” of fat marbling, providing flavor and moisture throughout each bite.

Fine grain – The muscle fiber in this area is slender and fine-grained, giving it a naturally tender texture.

Short fibers – In the loin area, muscle fibers are short which makes them more tender. Longer fibers from leg muscles are tougher.

Minimal use – The spinalis dorsi muscle gets minimal exercise as the cow walks around, keeping it tender.

Fat cap – The generous outer fat cap bastes the meat while cooking and creates irresistible caramelization and crispiness.

How to Cook Undercut Steak Like a Pro

Armed with knowledge of what makes this cut so special, let’s now get into the fun part – how to cook it! Since the undercut is so naturally tender, the cooking method you choose should focus on developing flavor and creating that gorgeous crust. Here are three foolproof techniques:

Stovetop Sear – Get your heavy cast iron or stainless steel pan ripping hot. Coat the steak lightly in oil then place in the pan. Don’t move it for 3-4 minutes until a dark crust forms, then flip and repeat on the other side. Cook to your desired doneness.

Grill It – Get the grill as hot as possible. Oil the grates then place the steak directly over the heat. Resist peeking or moving it for those 3-4 minutes again. Flip and repeat. The steak should get nice grill marks.

Reverse Sear – For the juiciest results, try reverse searing. Cook in low oven (200-250°F) until it reaches 10°F below your desired doneness. Then sear it hard in a hot pan or on the grill to finish.

No matter which technique you use, be sure to let the steak rest 5-10 minutes before slicing into it. This allows the juices to redistribute evenly throughout the meat.

Undercut Steak Recipe Inspiration

The undercut is extremely versatile and pairs well with endless seasoning combos. Here are just a few recipe ideas to spark your creativity:

  • Chimichurri undercut – Top slices of grilled undercut with this zippy Argentine herb sauce.

  • Coffee-crusted undercut – For an unexpected twist, coat the steak with finely ground coffee beans before searing.

  • Gochujang undercut lettuce wraps – Thinly slice and enjoy in lettuce cups with spicy gochujang sauce.

  • Undercut philly cheesesteak – Thinly sliced undercut makes for an ultra-juicy cheesesteak sandwich.

  • Undercut skewers with chimichurri – Alternate chunks of undercut with veggies on skewers for fun appetizers.

The possibilities are endless! Undercut absorbs flavors beautifully, so get creative with global spice rubs and marinades.

Why You Should Add Undercut Steak to Your Dinner Rotation

If you’re looking to shake up your usual steak routine, undercut deserves a spot in your regular rotation. Here are some key benefits of working this cut into the mix:

  • Tender and juicy – The fine grain and marbling makes for steak that is super tender with lots of juice in every bite.

  • Packed with beefy flavor – With fat marbling similar to ribeye but the rich flavor of sirloin, you get the best of both worlds.

  • Special occasions feel fancy – Though inexpensive, the undercut feels like a celebratory, high-end cut making special dinners feel extra fancy.

  • Quick cooking – No need to marinate this naturally tender cut; just season and sear or grill for weeknight ease.

  • Very versatile – Sliced thin for fajitas or skewers, pounded for cutlets, perfect as-is for steak, the undercut is endlessly adaptable.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sold! The undercut has earned its place among my regular steak choices. I can’t wait to keep experimenting with all the delicious ways to cook it. Here’s to juicy, beefy bliss in every bite!

A Cut Above | Meat Cuts Explained | Food Tribune


What cut of beef is undercut?

Undercut steak is a large chop-shaped steak. It is cut from the rib end of an unboned sirloin. It is very tender and juicy. It does not require a long time to cook steak.

What is another name for a rump steak?

The British and Commonwealth English “rump steak” is commonly called “sirloin” in American English. On the other hand, British “sirloin” is called short loin or “porterhouse” by Americans.

What is the most tender cut on a side of beef?

The most tender cut of beef is the beef tenderloin and it is found within the loin. This is where we get filet mignon, which is made from the very tip of the pointy end of the tenderloin. Chateaubriand is made from the center cut of the tenderloin. The tenderloin extends from the short loin into the sirloin.

Where does a cow’s undercut come from?

More specifically, the undercut comes from the loin muscle, which is found on each side of the cow’s vertebral column. This area is known for producing some of the most tender and flavorful cuts of beef, including the tenderloin and sirloin.

Which meats should one avoid?

You should limit or avoid processed meat products such as sausages, salami, pate and beefburgers, because these are generally high in fat and salt. Also limit meat products in pastry, such as pies and sausage rolls. Choose lean cuts, if you are buying pre-packed meat, check the nutrition label to see how much fat it contains and compare products. Prepare turkey and chicken without the skin, as these are lower in fat (or remove the skin before cooking).

What is a sub-primal cut of beef?

These primal cuts are then broken down into sub-primal cuts, including specific steaks and chops: flank steak, flat iron steak, filet mignon, rib eye. As you’ll see below, there are many different cuts of beef to learn. These are usually leaner cuts of beef, best grilled or fried, and work better with high heat.

How are beef cows cut?

Beef cows are split lengthwise into two halves and are then broken down into eight large sections called primals. Butchers cut smaller, consumer-sized cuts from these huge pieces. Knowing what general part of the cow a steak or roast is coming from will tell you how tender (or tough) the cut is.

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