What Is Short Loin?

Dan Harkins

Located just above the flank of a cow, in front of the lower back's sirloin meat, lies the prized short loin section. Butchers and chefs regularly trim this mid-back section into some of the most storied cuts of steak, from the T-bone to filet mignon. This meat derives its tenderness from the fact that it comes from a few lower-back muscles that probably were not used that much by the cow — the top loin and tenderloin culinary treats.

Porterhouse steak comes from the short loin of a cow.
Porterhouse steak comes from the short loin of a cow.

Many of the prime steaks come from the short loin. Named after the New York club that made it famous in the 19th century, the Delmonico, or club steak, comes from this section. So do the T-bone and Porterhouse as well, in that order, downward along the spine.Filet mignon and New York strips also come from the short loin. Along with the rib section just ahead of it, the short loin is one of the so-called middle meats of the cow that are prized for being under-worked and slightly marbled.

This section also yields some of the most tender roasts, literally called beef tenderloin, or chateaubriand. These often contain meat from both the short loin and the sirloin. When thickly sliced, this cut also produces filet mignon.

Elsewhere in the short loin section is the area known as the top loin, which also produces steaks. This section is responsible for the Delmonicos and strip steaks. Yet another product of this cut of beef is the bone-in steak. T-bones are one style of cut from this area; another is the porterhouse, which was named by an early 19th century British porterhouse owner.

Butchers and chefs must learn how to excise and properly portion numerous sections, or primals, of the cow, each typically going in a slightly different culinary direction. One example is the well-worked round, or rump, section just behind the short loin and sirloin steak sections, which is usually used for ground beef as well as roasts. In front of the short loin is the rib section, which produces beef ribs, prime rib and ribeye steaks. Below is the flank, which also makes steaks and small roasts. The rest of the major sections include from front to back the brisket, plate and flank sections as well as the muscular chuck section of the neck and shoulders.

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