What cut of beef does Chinese cuisine use? As one of the world’s most popular ethnic food, Chinese cuisine has a lot of fans. One of the reasons people flock to Chinese restaurants is because of the tender and flavorful beef that’s in some of the most popular Chinese recipes.
Maybe you love beef and broccoli or prefer beef stir fry. Either way, chances are that if you’ve been to a Chinese restaurant and you’re a carnivore, you’ve probably experienced the wonder of the tender beef found in Chinese recipes.
Let’s dive in and learn all about the beef used in Chinese cuisine. We’ll also learn how you can get this tender and flavorful beef when you cook Chinese recipes at home.
What Cut of Beef Does Chinese Cuisine Use? Flank Steak
The amazing thing about beef in Chinese recipes is that chefs don’t typically use an expensive cut of beef. The inexpensive but flavorful flank steak is the preferred cut of beef used in Chinese food recipes.
With a flank steak, you get plenty of flavor and a nice, firm texture. This proves that you don’t have to use expensive beef cuts to make recipes. The secret to getting the flank steak perfectly tender lies in how you cut the meat.
The key to getting tender flank steak is to cut the beef across the grain, not with the grain. What is the grain? If you look at a flank steak, you’ll notice that there are lines that run from the top point of the steak down to the broad-cut side. These cuts are the grain.
You need to cut across the grain to get your beef tender for stir-fry. This will ensure that each slice is tender because your teeth will be biting through muscle fibers that are short.
Other Cuts of Beef for Chinese Cuisine Stir Fry
While flank steak is the most commonly used cut of beef used in Chinese cuisine, you can also use any of these beef cuts.
Skirt steak looks a lot like flank steak, but it’s leaner. The skirt steak comes from a different part of the cow, but it’s long and full of flavor.
There are two skirt steaks: the inside skirt and the outside skirt. The outside skirt is smaller and more tender, so it’s a good choice for stir-fry beef recipes.
As with flank steak, cut the skirt steak against the grain. Freezing it for 15-30 minutes before you cut it makes it easier to get uniform pieces because the meat will be firmer straight from the freezer.
Flat Iron Steak
The flat iron steak is nearly as tender as a sirloin steak. This cut of beef has a grassy flavor and amazing marbling. Because it has the perfect fat content, flat iron steaks are ideal for high-heat cooking.
Although it’s nicely marbled, a flat iron steak has less fat than some of the other cuts. To cook stir-fry with a flat iron steak, we recommend marinating it.
Boneless Beef Chuck Steak
You can use boneless beef chuck steak to make beef stir-fry. Chuck steak is even more affordable than flank steak. However, it’s more challenging to identify the grain in beef chuck steak.
To make it easier to cut the beef and find the grain, consider freezing the meat for 30 minutes to one hour before cutting. Doing this makes it easier to slice the meat.
To find the grain, you need to cut the chuck steak cross-wise by first cutting the long strips of steak into chunks that are about two inches wide.
Top Sirloin Steak
Although top sirloin steak is more expensive than chuck steak, it has a succulent marbling that gives it an incredible flavor. To use top sirloin steak in your stir-fry, slice the meat into uniformly thin pieces.
Sirloin is a tender cut of beef, so you don’t have to marinate this steak before cooking it. Be sure to cook your top sirloin steak fully in just a couple of minutes before you add other ingredients such as beans, vegetables, and chiles.
Round steak comes from the part of the cow that gets a lot of exercise. For this reason, it has less fat content and needs some gentle processing to make it tender.
To get your round steak tender enough for your stir-fry recipes, you can use the velveting technique. We’ve gone into more detail on velveting beef and included full instructions in the FAQ section of this article.
A strip steak is less expensive than a ribeye steak or beef tenderloin. This makes it an excellent choice if you’re wanting an extra special cut of beef for your stir-fry.
Because the strip steak comes from an area of the cow that doesn’t get a lot of exercise, it’s softer and has more marbling. This makes it perfect for stir-fry cooking with high heat.
We recommend using a marinade for a strip steak, but you only have to marinate it for a few minutes. You can use Chinese cooking wine, sugar, and soy sauce for full flavor.
The tenderloin is the cut of beef that gives us the filet mignon, so you know it’s super juicy and flavorful. For high-heat cooking in a skillet or wok, beef tenderloin bites cook up beautifully.
Beef tenderloin is expensive, but if you’re cooking a special dinner, it’s totally worth the extra cost. The beef tenderloin to use for your stir-fry should be about an inch and a half thick.
Trim off the fat and cut it against the grain. Because the tenderloin has thin muscle fibers, it will still be delicious even if you cut it with the grain.
FAQs about Chinese Stir Fry
What cut of beef does Chinese cuisine use? Below, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about beef in Chinese recipes.
What cut of beef is best for Chinese stir-fry?
Traditionally, flank steak is used to make Chinese beef stir-fry. However, you can use any cut of beef.
How do Chinese restaurants cook beef so tender?
For stir-fry, you need to cut the strips of steak into thin, bite-sized pieces. Follow these steps for tender stir-fry beef.
If you’re cooking with a whole flank steak, cut the steak with the grain into three pieces. Once you have your three pieces, cut them into strips across the grain (not with the grain).
When your strips are cut, you’ll begin the process of velveting the beef. First, add about 1 rounded teaspoon of baking soda per pound to the cut beef strips.
Add 1/4 cup of water per pound to the beef and baking soda.
Massage the meat thoroughly until the water and baking soda are distributed uniformly.
Allow the meat to sit for about 1-2 hours so that the beef will get nice and tender.
Rinse under running water until all of the baking soda is gone.
When the water starts to run completely clear, drain the beef in a colander.
Transfer the beef to a medium-sized bowl for marinating.
Marinate the beef for 15-30 minutes with soy sauce or oyster sauce, along with oil and cornstarch.
What is Chinese beef made of?
Chinese beef is usually made with flank steak, but other cuts of beef also work well.
How is Chinese meat so tender?
The beef in Chinese food is so tender and soft because of the velveting process described above. Regardless of which cut of beef they use, the secret to getting beef tender for stir fry is to cut the beef across the grain. The second step is using a good marinade.