What is a Meat Chart?

Cassie L. Damewood

A meat chart is a diagram that provides information on different cuts of meat. The chart may be devoted to one animal or many types of meat from various sources. Most have drawings of the entire animal with smaller pictures of where each cut of meat comes from. Suggested cooking methods are often part of the chart as well. Versions may be designed for use by butchers and other meat cutting professionals or be geared toward the interests of household cooks.

A pork meat chart showing the different cuts of meat and where they come from on a pig.
A pork meat chart showing the different cuts of meat and where they come from on a pig.

Beef and pork are the two most common meats depicted on charts. This is normally attributed to their popularity, availability, and adaptability to various cooking methods. Other charts frequently show lamb, veal, and chicken and advice on how to cook them.

A grilled steak.
A grilled steak.

A significant number of consumers are not familiar with the names of different cuts of meat available at supermarkets. Since a butcher may not be available to assist them, a meat chart can be very helpful in distinguishing one cut from another. Being able to choose the correct cut of meat for different dishes and cooking methods normally gives the cook more confidence. This knowledge may also save money by ensuring the cut of meat will be tender and tasty when properly prepared.

Poultry charts usually give instructions on how to cut up a whole chicken.
Poultry charts usually give instructions on how to cut up a whole chicken.

An example of how a beef chart can help a consumer make good choices is the common confusion that often surrounds steaks. Steak choices normally range from boneless shoulder steak to tenderloin or filet mignon, with up to 15 different varieties in between. The former cut is customarily priced about 75% less per pound than the latter.

This big difference in price is based primarily on the tenderness of the steak. A boneless shoulder steak is basically a pot roast that is a muscular and marbled section of beef from the front of the cow. It benefits from long, slow cooking or braising to break down its fibers, which tenderizes it.

The filet mignon comes from the middle of the cow, called the short loin section. Unlike the shoulder, it is free of muscle and marbling because it does not get the physical workout of a cow’s shoulder. This type of steak is best cooked by quickly grilling, broiling, or stove-top pan searing each side of the steak to the desired doneness, normally referred to as rare, medium rare, medium, and well done.

Other meat charts normally provide much of the same information as the beef chart. The pork chart breaks the pig down into chops, steaks, and roasts and points out where bacon comes from and which parts are normally ground into sausage. Poultry charts commonly provide instructions on how to cut up a whole chicken and carve perfect breast fillets.

Meat charts are sometimes included in general purpose or specialty cookbooks as well. They are also available for viewing or purchase through a number of Internet websites. Colorful, framed ones can be purchased as educational kitchen decorations.

Meat charts can be useful for guiding cuts during the carving process.
Meat charts can be useful for guiding cuts during the carving process.

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Discussion Comments


@Fa5t3r - I've definitely seen some ironic kinds of meat charts, usually ones that "map" an animal we don't generally consider to be food, or something cute like an chocolate Easter rabbit.

It really is a good idea to know your cuts, particularly if you are on a budget. It's not just something that gourmet chefs have to take into consideration.

For example I once had a friend who was horrified at the idea of someone eating rump steak, because she'd always been taught it was a cheap cut of meat, better suited for stewing. Rump steak can make a really tender and delicious frying steak though if you know what to look for and how to treat it.

There are other meat cuts as well that are much cheaper than the standard ones but with the right treatment will make a delicious meal.


I think it's become kind of trendy to hang up a vintage or even a modern meat chart in your house (not just in the kitchen). I suspect it's a hipster kind of thing, i.e. that the meat charts are supposed to be a kind of ironic decor.

But I find them kind of interesting for their own sake. I guess I'm kind of into survivalist topics and the idea of being able to butcher my own meat is an appealing one. Plus, it is a really good idea to know the basic kinds of beef cuts.


I have gotten into the habit of using a meat thermometer when cooking most of my meat. Many of the thermometers have what the correct temperature should be right on them so you can quickly know how long to cook it for. You can also use an internal meat temperature chart that will tell you what the correct internal temperature should read.

They really work great and that way you don't have to worry about over cooking or under cooking your meat.


My husband and several of his friends are hunters, so I am a little bit familiar with the different cuts of beef. Deer are not quite the same, but there are several cuts that are similar. He does a lot of his own processing, but I usually stay out of the way when that is going on. I know there are parts that are much more tender and make for better eating than others. If you get a piece of meat that is a cheaper cut, you can marinate it and cook it in a crock pot on low and that really helps to keep it tender.


I have to laugh because this article reminds of the part on the David Letterman Show about knowing your cuts of beef or cuts of meat. I am about as clueless as some of the people I have seen on there! I probably would not win a prize if I didn't have some kind of help identifying the correct answer!

I don't eat much beef, so maybe that is why. I wonder how they ever came up with that section of their show?

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