Demystifying Beef Tendons: Which Cuts Contain the Most?

As a newly converted fan of succulent melt-in-your-mouth beef tendon I set out to expand my tendon recipe repertoire. However, I quickly learned that not all beef cuts contain the coveted connective tissue. Turns out certain parts of the cow offer a more abundant tendon supply.

In my exploration for maximum tendon content I discovered which beef cuts yield this collagen-rich prize. Keep reading to uncover the top tendon treasure troves that will take your next pho or rendang to new levels of richness.

What Exactly Are Beef Tendons?

Before detailing the best tendon cuts let’s review what tendons actually are

  • Tendons are fibrous connective tissues that attach muscles to bones.

  • They consist primarily of tough collagen proteins that require lengthy cooking to break down.

  • When stewed for hours, tendons transform into a soft, gelatinous texture that provides rich body.

  • Tendons themselves don’t have much flavor, but absorb and impart the essence of broths and sauces.

  • Common in Asian cuisines, they provide texture and collagen more so than taste.

Now let’s explore which beef cuts contain the highest tendon content to deliver that mouth-coating goodness.

Foreshank and Hindshank: Tendon Treasure Troves

The beef shank or shin area offers a major tendon motherlode. Comprised of leg and arm bones surrounded by muscle and connective tissue, beef shanks provide a complex interweaving of meat, fat, cartilage and tendons.

Foreshanks and hindshanks contain abundant amounts of tendons running through the leg and shoulder areas.

These well-exercised limbs rely heavily on tendons to facilitate movement and stability. Slow-cooked shanks reward you with fork-tender beef and an explosion of natural collagen-rich gelatin that adds body and silky texture.

Try: Osso buco, beef bourguignon, pho tendon, Italian beef shank stew

Oxtails: Built on Beefy Bones

This long, tapered cut comes from the tailbone with sections of vertebrae connected by tendons and fat.

Oxtails offer a high tendon density since the vertebrae bones are literally bound together by the tough, sinewy tissue.

Low in meat and high in connective tissue, oxtails require prolonged braising to extract their specialty gelatin and flavor. The bones can be used to fortify stocks and soups after cooking.

Try: Oxtail soup, Korean braised oxtails (jorim), Caribbean oxtail stew

Beef Knuckles: Packed with Tough Tendons

This joint cut comes from the lower leg above the hoof. It contains parts of the leg bones surrounded by a matrix of thick tendons and dense connective tissue.

With heavy locomotive duties, beef knuckles contain a very high ratio of tendons to meat.

In dishes like beef tendon noodle soup, knuckles are cooked until the tendons are fork-tender and filled with lip-smacking, protein-rich collagen softness.

Try: Beef tendon soup, pho, beef noodle soup

Cheek and Chuck: Modest Tendon Contributors

While not tendon treasure troves per se, cheek and chuck require mention for their more modest, but still significant tendon content.

Beef cheek offers a web of connective tissues and muscle fibers that deliver supreme tenderness when braised slowly. Chuck comes from the cow’s shoulder area which sees a lot of movement. This means plenty of flavorful fat marbling combined with some interspersed tendons.

Both benefit from moist cooking methods to render the meat succulently tender. Compared to shanks and oxtails, their tendon content is lower but still impactful.

Try: Cheek – Barbacoa, beef stroganoff, beef bourguignon; Chuck – Pot roast, beef stew

Brisker and Heel: Offal Odds and Ends

For the adventurous tendon seeker, beef offal like brisker and heel offer concentrated tendon goodness. Brisket comes from the cow’s lower chest area. Beef heel is from the leg below the dew claw.

Both contain high amounts of tendons and connective tissues that require prolonged cooking. They’re best suited for stewing, braising and soup making.

Try: Pho tendon, beef bone broth

Best Beef Tendon Cooking Methods

To transform tough tendons into tender, gelatinous morsels, follow these tips:

  • Cook low and slow – Simmer or braise on low heat around 300°F for 2-4+ hours.

  • Use moisture – Braise or stew tendons in broth, wine or sauce.

  • Cut smaller – Uniform 1-inch chunks allow marinades to penetrate.

  • Marinate – Tenderize with acids like vinegar, citrus, wine or yogurt.

  • Pressure cook – Use a pressure cooker to reduce cooking time.

  • Skim fat – Remove excess fat that leeches out during simmering.

Bonus: Enrich Soups and Stews

Don’t discard the leftover cooking liquid after braising tendon cuts like shanks or oxtails.

The collagen-rich broth makes an incredible base for soups, stews and gravies. Simply strain and use as needed for an instant protein and richness boost.

Satisfy Your Tendon Craving

If you’re seeking the motherlode of lip-smacking tenderness, look no further than shanks, oxtails and knuckles. Their abundant connective tissues deliver beefy depth with minimal effort.

Or turn to cheeks and chuck for more modest but still tasty tendon texture. Just be sure to cook them low and slow to enjoy their irresistible velvety melt.

Now that you know which cuts truly deliver, there’s a world of rich, savory tendon dishes ready to be discovered. Happy cooking!

Steak Cuts Explained


Which part of beef has tendons?

Beef tendons are part of the cow’s connective tissue, located between the animal’s bones and muscles.

Which cut of beef has the most connective tissue?

Forequarter Cuts: Beef Chuck Beef chuck comes from the forequarter. Consisting of parts of the neck, shoulder blade, and upper arm, beef chuck produces tough but very flavorful cuts of meat. This primal cut has a good deal of connective tissue.

What is the toughest part 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.

Which part of beef is most tender?

The most tender of all cuts of beef, tenderloin steaks are lean and known for their delicate, butter-like texture and thick cut. These mouthwatering steaks are so tender they can be “cut with a butter knife.” Tenderloin steaks are commonly known as filets or filet mignon.

What is beef tendon?

Beef tendon is the piece of connective tissue that holds muscle to bone. This fibrous band of tissue is capable of withstanding a good deal of tension and force, making it ideal for long cooking times. Beef tendon is typically sold ready to cook but is sometimes included in larger cuts of meat.

What type of meat is good for bones?

However, the type of meat that is best for the bones depends on the cooking method and cut of the meat. Lean meats such as chicken and fish are good options for bone health. Additionally, lean red meats such as beef and pork can also be beneficial for bones if cooked using healthy methods such as grilling or roasting.

Are beef tendons good?

Properly cooked beef tendons contribute wonderful flavors to the final dish, with deep and rich broth and tendons that literally melt in your mouth. Growing up in the Kanto (east) region of Japan, the beef tendon wasn’t a common cut of meat sold in regular grocery stores or on restaurant menus.

Where can I find beef tendons?

Beef tendons are not easy to find in U.S. supermarkets, but they are a staple of many cuisines, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Taiwanese, Filipino, and Vietnamese. In the dishes of these countries, beef tendons often help create tasty and rich sauces and stews.

Leave a Comment