Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Top Sirloin. The Breakdown.

 In celebration of Memorial Day, and my income tax return, I thought it'd be great to document the breakdown of a Top Butt. This was by far the hardest cut of meat for me to master and I've done the cutting tests / yield-to-margin tests to prove that done correctly, this is the most profitable (and enjoyable - to me) way of breaking this primal down. A great deal of variety can be found in this primal, and it literally took me years to decipher the intricacies. 

       The Top Sirloin is a primal that comes from the top of the steer's butt, which is why you'll also see this referred to as the 'Top Butt'. Very Scientific. Anyhow - This primal houses a few secrets including the Brazilian cut, the Picana, (Culotte, Rump Cap, many names), Top Sirloin Steaks and a nice Chateaubriand - type roast that makes excellent portion-sized steaks. 
Starting with the bottom-left of the primal, where the muscle has been cut with the grain, is the beginning of the Culotte. This muscle extends from the Bottom Round, wrapping its way down and around the femur but is most tender towards top butt.  In the center of the primal you can see the beginning of the Petite Sirloin Roast, and hidden behind a veil of heavy tissue and silver - Literally where the steer's leg meets the hip - lays the Top Sirloin. 
The first step of trimming down the Top Butt is getting rid of the heavy bone tissue - don't add this to your trimmings, discard this stuff. 
Removing the 'hard break' is just like removing silver skin, though it's much more dense, the principal the same. 
Work the tip of your knife under the tissue and push forward at a slight angle. Finish the stroke by flipping the knife towards you, pulling the tissue taught and cutting it away. 
This is nice, tender meat - when you're trimming the roast down, try not to gouge the meat. Remove only the inedible tissues. 
This triangular muscle grouping on top of the roast isn't terrible, but it makes better trimmings than steak... remove as much of this as you'd like. 
For the untrained eye, this picture makes it difficult to see, but there's a band of 'bubble gum that form in the Thoracic Vertebrae (At the neck and Chuck), runs through the Rib Primal, Shortloin and ends in the Top Butt. This little bit is the last of it, so I usually trim enough meat from the top of it to open a space for my knife to get underneath it to clear it away. 

Expose the meat, but again - do not gouge.
You can follow the fat down and around the Sirloin until you reach the Culotte, at which point just clear the fat away from the top. 

Now to separate the Picana from the heart of the Sirloin. Once the fat is cleared away, the seam is very easy to find and separating these two muscle is a fairly effortless task. However,  it's also very easy to go too far and remove more fat than you need to from the Top Sirloin. When you're pealing the Sirloin away, locate the outline of the Culotte and cut it away as soon as it ends, leaving the fat on to rest of the Sirloin. 

Because of this cut's triangular shape, it's mistakenly referred to as the Tri-Tip, however, that is all together different than the Culotte. 
To clean the Picana / Culotte, begin by removing the silver skin. 

After removing the silver skin, clear away any undesired fat and shape the muscle up but cleaning the edges. 
Once cleaned, you can do whatever you want - roast the muscle whole, cut for kabobs, or cut steaks. Whatever you choose to do, the cooking method will be the same - Hot and fast. 

The line on the right side of the muscle that runs parallel to your current line of sight outlines the Petite Sirloin. You can either seam this muscle out, or cut straight down - either way, this line is your marker. 

This time, I cut straight down to separate the muscle in two. 
Trim away and silver and clean the muscle to your preference. 

Tie the roast for steaks... 
... and cut your steaks - this roast yielded 6 evenly sized steaks. 
For the Top Sirloin, clear away any gristle and silver. 
Once you've trimmed away the gristle, make your face cut about two inches from the hip-end of the Sirloin. 

The picture is a little rough, but this gives you and idea of what it should look like. 

After facing, cut your Top Sirloin Steaks. This roast yielded 5 Top Sirloins. Nice!

And there you have it. The whole Top Butt cost me about $75 - untrimmed it weighed around 9.25#, and here's the bounty. There's about 1.5# worth of Culotte / Picana , 2.25# worth of Petite Sirloin steaks and 4.25# worth of Top Sirloin.
Invest in some some heavy duty butcher paper and this will last 6 months or more in the freezer. If I bought all of this at retail, the price would have been significantly more, plus processing meat is incredibly fun for me, especially at home.

Thanks for sticking around through my dormancy - next post will likely be a tutorial for bringing old knives back from the dead, reconditioning them and a quick lesson on knife sharpening.



  1. Thanks for the awesome post. Do you have any tips on the best way to freeze meat to minimize freezer burn and moisture loss?

    1. wrap it well in plastic wrap and try your best to get all the air out then in butcher paper to insulate it. Place in a deep freezer if you want to keep it for months. The goal is to avoid temperature fluctuation as much as possible. whats happening is that the water in the meat, being a very active molecule even in solid form (ice), is migrating to the surface and evaporating without turning into its liquid form. I think its called sublimation, im not 100% sure on that though. but you end up with a frozen piece of dried meat hah.

    2. Yes water going from solid to gas (ice to evaporation) is called sublimation.

      This was a great guide, I hope to put it to use someday soon!

  2. Great stuff keep up the posts.

  3. Thanks! You saved me...mom to 11...overcome by the temptations of 75lbs of sirloin at Costco. Knives at the ready I made my girlfriends laugh hysterically as I scrolled through your post and followed your lead. Whoot!

  4. I did link you here http://urbanservant.blogspot.com/2012/10/dreaming-of-cow-meat.html....hope you get a little traffic!

  5. Wow Thanks I was buying hole strip but the fat layer got so thick that I was buying more fat then meat so I switched to buying hole sirloin. More meat for the money!