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Beef Knuckle 101: Everything You Need to Know About This Cut

Beef Knuckle 101: Everything You Need to Know About This Cut

Beef knuckle is a lean, affordable cut from the hindquarters of the cow. This sub-primal cut located near the rear of the animal includes the hip and portions of the leg, and typically weighs 12 to 16 pounds. 

Cuts of Beef

Beef knuckle goes by many names, which can be a little confusing. It’s also referred to as the ball of the round, sirloin tip roast, tip center, French roll roast, and round tip.

Because it’s such a large portion of meat, it can be divided into several cuts, hence the various names.

To get technical, the beef knuckle consists of four main muscle groups: the rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis, and vastus medialis.

Additionally, the term “knuckle” is different from what you might typically think of, since it doesn’t refer to fingers like human knuckles.

Knuckle simply refers to the joint beef bone lined with cartilage, specifically the hip of the cow.

How Do You Cook Beef Knuckle?

Beef knuckle is a versatile cut of meat that can be used in roasts, stews, kebabs, and grilled steaks. It can also be thinly sliced to use as cold cuts or in Philly cheesesteaks.

Beef knuckle isn’t the most tender cut of meat because it’s low in fat, which means long, slow cooking methods in moist environments are best.

For example, roasting in the oven, smoking for hours on the grill, or letting it sit in a slow cooker all day will yield the best results. Beef knuckle has a meaty, relatively mild flavor, which means it can go well with most ingredients and absorb whatever flavor it’s cooked with. 

One of the most popular ways to cook beef knuckle is to make a braised roast. The braising methods improve tenderness and keep the knuckle from drying out in the oven.

  • Let the beef knuckle thaw to room temperature. This ensures the meat has an even temperature when cooking.
  • Remove the connective tissue and fatty parts with a knife.
  • Coat with olive oil, salt, and black pepper.
  • Sear the meat in a pan on the stove until it’s golden brown on both sides (typically 2-3 minutes per side).
  • Place the beef knuckle in a roasting pan with onions, carrots, and peppers.
  • Add up to 1 cup of water (or broth) depending on the size of the roast. 
  • Cook for about 45 minutes (it will need 30 minutes per pound) at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. No need to cover the roast, as you want the meat to brown and crisp on top. The liquid in the pan will help keep the meat moist as it steams. 

The Benefits of Beef Knuckle Bone Broth 

Bone broth is a savory, nutrient-rich way to make use of beef knuckle bones. The knuckle bones come from the leg joint, left over after the animal is butchered.

They are rich in gelatin and collagen, and make delicious stock base for soup or stew when slow-cooked in water.

Bone broth has been shown to have numerous health benefits, thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties. Studies suggest bone broth can:

  • Support joint health. A 2017 study in the Sports Medicine Journal suggested that consuming gelatin increased the amount of collagen in tissues, which could protect your joins from stress.
  • Aid digestion and gut health. The glutamine supplementation helps heal the intestinal lining, improving nutrient absorption and metabolic functions. 
  • Lead to a better night’s sleep due to the high glycine content
  • Keep you full and satisfied due to the high protein content, helping you lose weight
  • Fight inflammation that leads to diseases such as diabetes and heart disease

You can purchase beef knuckle bone broth at the grocery store or make your own. Making your own bone broth is more affordable, and sometimes bone broth in the store is watered down (it does not have the thick, gelatinous texture when cool).

To make your own bone broth, you’ll need a stockpot (or slow-cooker), roasting pans, and wire mesh strainer.

It’s important to blanch the bones first, then roast them in the oven to maximize flavor along with any vegetables and seasonings you want to add.

Additional ingredients such as carrots, onions, celery, garlic, bay leaves, star anise, and apple cider vinegar will enhance the flavor. You’ll then need to boil the bones and reduce to a simmer, sitting for 8-12 hours.

Red Meat: Good or Bad for You?

There’s a lot of back and forth about whether or not red meat is good for you. So, what’s the verdict?

The reality is, it depends where you get your meat from and how processed it is. The quality of your beef knuckle makes a huge difference in flavor, health benefits, and environmental impact. 

Red meat is high in nutrients and minerals including iron, vitamin B, zinc, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. It is an excellent source of protein and can help strengthen muscles and bones.

However, red meat consumption has made headlines for its risky health consequences, as data shows it’s been linked to high cholesterol.

Additionally, more serious evidence from studies indicate that the methods used to make processed meats can cause carcinogens, making eating red meat a major risk factor for colorectal cancer. 

When consuming red meat, it’s important to choose quality cuts from trusted farmers, so you know you’re getting the best product possible.

Unfortunately, mass produced meat products often mean that the animals are not treated humanely, they are eating poor diets, and it takes a huge toll on the environment

Tips for consuming red meat in a healthy, ethical manner:

  • Choose lean cuts like the beef knuckle (and eat the whole cow, including cuts like neck, cheek & tongue)
  • Avoid processed meats 
  • Look for the Certified USDA Organic label, where cattle are raised on 100% organic grass and a healthy mixture of grass, corn, and corn grain
  • Choose antibiotic and hormone-free products
  • The American Heart Association recommends you consume red meat no more than 1-2 times per week.

As always, choosing a diet high in fiber, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains is the foundation of good nutrition. Eating red meat from trusted sources in balance can be a healthy addition to your diet.