Twice in the last 24 hours I have encountered some misunderstanding about the relative tenderness ranking of beef muscles. In one case, someone asked about the teres major (petite tender, and thank you for asking!) and in another, I found an article about prime rib (a very poor article about prime rib) stating that the the only muscle more tender than the longissimus (more specifially, longissimus thoracis = ribeye and longissimus lumborum = loin eye) is the psoas major (tenderloin). Not so fast.
There is a nice fact sheet that summarizes tenderness research findings, right down to the kilograms required to shear across a given muscle, perpindicular to the muscle fiber (often obtained by the Warner-Bratzler Shear Force procedure). Though there are many more than 40 muscles in a beef carcass, 40 of those most likely to appear as a steak or roast are listed in that fact sheet. You can access the tenderness data for any muscle in beef here. The tenderness ranking list was developed using data from A and B maturity cattle, excluding purebred bos indicus cattle, though crossbreds (like Brangus) were included.
The Top 10 line up like this, starting with the most tender:
- Posas major, or tenderloin. Surprise!
- Infraspinatus, or Top Blade / Flat Iron. Here’s my explanation of the difference between the two.
- Spinalis dorsi, or Ribeye Cap. It’s the outside muscle on a ribeye steak (or, see the Beef Alternative Merchandising opportunity to make steaks just out of this muscle).
- Serratus ventralis, or Under blade. A cut option for this is the new Denver Steak.
- Multifidus dorsi. This rope-like muscle is long and has a small diameter. It runs alongside the longissimus dorsi (ribeye, loin eye).
- Subscapularis. I’m not sure how this one is being (or if it is being) individually used. If you know, please comment.
- Teres major, or Petite Tender, sometimes seen as the shoulder tender. These are usually sold as whole muscles, resembling a pork tenderloin in shape and size.*
- Rectus femoris, or knuckle (part of), tip.
- Tensor fascia latae, or Tri-tip. As an added benefit, it’s fun to say.
- Biceps brachii, part of the clod. A trimmed up version of the triceps brachii is called the Ranch Steak. I don’t know the what the current fanciful name for a biceps brachii steak is … if there is one, please let us know!
The loin eye or ribeye muscles do not appear on this Top 10 list. They rank 12th and 15th among the other 40 muscles profiled, respectively.
*Also worth noting is that the Petite Tender is not the same as the Mock Tender, which is the supraspinatus muscle.