updated 4/21/2006 8:44:11 PM ET 2006-04-22T00:44:11

Grades of beef: Most meat cuts at supermarkets are graded prime, choice or select. The grades refer to the degree of marbling in the meat, the fat within the muscle that adds flavor and juiciness. Prime has the most marbling and yields the juiciest steaks, but it’s expensive and goes primarily to restaurants and high-end stores. Choice is the next grade and the one most commonly found. Select is the lowest grade shoppers are likely to see.

Tender cuts: The tenderest cuts come from the rib, loin and sirloin areas and include the better steaks, such as rib-eyes, porterhouses, T-bones, filet mignons, New York strips, and sirloins, as well as prime rib roasts and rib-eye roasts. The steaks are suitable for grilling or broiling.

Tougher but tasty: They include cuts from the chuck (shoulder area) and round (rump area). They also include flank steaks and briskets. These cuts contain more connective tissue, and it needs to be broken down for the meat to become tender. Marinating works with some cuts from these areas, while others need slow cooking methods such as oven roasting, pot roasting or braising.

Ground beef: Comes in a range of grades, from lean to fattier. The leanest grades are best as ingredients in other dishes, such as crumbled and browned for a sauce, casserole or tacos. The fattier grades make the juiciest hamburgers. Ground round, ground chuck and ground sirloin come from those specific parts of the carcass.

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