The Leanest Cuts of Beef: A Guide to Selecting Low-Fat Beef

For those looking to cut calories or fat while still enjoying delicious beef, choosing the right lean cuts makes all the difference. The leanest beef cuts provide great taste and nutrition without all the extra saturated fat and calories. This guide covers how to identify the top lean beef options.

What Makes Beef Lean?

The leanness of beef depends on the amount of fat distributed through the cut. Fat content includes both visible marbling fat and external fat that can be trimmed off. Here are the guidelines for labeling beef as “lean” or “extra lean” according to the USDA:

  • Lean beef: Less than 10g total fat, 4.5g saturated fat, and 95mg cholesterol per 3.5 ounce serving

  • Extra lean beef: Less than 5g total fat, 2g saturated fat, and 95mg cholesterol per 3.5 ounce serving

When shopping, check for the USDA lean labels to easily identify low-fat choices.

The Leanest Cuts of Beef

These beef cuts meet the requirements to be labeled lean or extra lean:

Round Cuts

Cuts from the round or rear leg of the cow are very lean due to high muscle content:

  • Eye of round roast/steak
  • Top round roast/steak
  • Bottom round roast/steak
  • Round tip roast/steak

Loin Cuts

The loin area contains tender beef cuts with less fat marbling:

  • Top loin steak
  • Top sirloin steak

Chuck Cuts

Though higher in fat than other cuts, certain chuck cuts make the lean list:

  • Chuck shoulder roast
  • Chuck shoulder steak
  • Chuck arm roast
  • Chuck arm steak

When possible, choose select grades over choice or prime to get even leaner options.

Benefits of Lean Beef

Choosing lean cuts offers health advantages:

  • Less saturated fat and cholesterol
  • Lower calories for weight control
  • Nutrient-dense protein source
  • Rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, and B vitamins
  • Still provides great beef flavor

Going lean doesn’t mean you need to compromise on taste or nutrition!

How to Cook Lean Beef Cuts

To prevent lean beef from turning out dry or bland, use these cooking methods:

  • Marinate – Soak lean beef in an acidic marinade. Tenderizes and adds moisture.

  • Use lower heat – Cook slowly over medium-low heat rather than high. Keeps moisture in.

  • Roast/braise – Slow roasting or braising break down connective tissue for tenderness.

  • Sear then simmer – Brown meat first for flavor, then simmer slowly in broth.

  • Stir fry – Cook thinly sliced beef quickly over high heat.

With the right techniques, lean beef can turn out juicy, tender and full of flavor.

Healthy Ways to Use Lean Beef

Incorporate lean beef cuts into your diet with dishes like:

  • Beef stroganoff with sirloin over noodles
  • Chili made with extra lean ground beef
  • Asian beef and broccoli stir fry
  • Beef kabobs using top round or filet
  • Zucchini lasagna rolls stuffed with lean ground beef
  • Roast beef sandwiches on whole grain bread
  • Eggplant parmesan swapping chicken for sirloin
  • Beef barley vegetable soup with round steak

Choose lean beef as the healthy protein for all sorts of delicious meals.

Buying and Storing Lean Beef

Follow these tips when selecting lean beef cuts:

  • Check labels for “lean” or “extra lean” indicators

  • Choose cuts with minimal marbling and external fat

  • Opt for loin or round cuts most often

  • Look for uniform red color without brown spots

  • Calculate about 4-6 oz uncooked beef per adult serving

  • Wrap raw beef tightly and refrigerate for just 2-3 days max

Choosing the leanest beef cuts lets you transform them into amazing heart-healthy meals. Use this guide to select better-for-you beef when shopping or dining out.

Choosing Lean Cuts of Beef


What is the healthiest cut of beef?

Stick with round, sirloin, or loin. The National Cattleman’s Beef Association top five lean cuts are: Eye of round – 1.4 g saturated fat, 4 g total fat. Sirloin tip side steak – 1.6 g saturated fat, 4.1 g total fat. Top round roast and Steak – 1.6 g saturated fat, 4.6 g total fat.

Which part of beef is most lean?

The leanest beef cuts include round steaks and roasts (eye of round, top round, bottom round, round tip), top loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder and arm roasts. Choose lean ground beef. The label should say at least “90% lean.” You may be able to find ground beef that is 93% or 95% lean.

Is filet mignon lean?

This is the most tender steak, lean yet succulent, with a fine buttery texture. Sold boneless. This steak also meets government guidelines for lean.

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