Colombian beef cuts: how to order from the butcher

Beef cuts

Are you new in Colombia and struggling to order beef from the butcher? We got your back! Learn all about typical Colombian dishes for each beef cut!

The Colombian diet is all about meat! Colombians love their chicken, their pork, their beef, everything; that’s why you will find it on every menu! Also, because of the weather in Bogotá, people tend to eat high-calorie foods to stay warm. But in general, Colombians’ favorite dishes include ajiaco soup which has chicken, as well as other choices such as picada, which is a mix of pieces of beef, pork, pork rinds, and chicken served in a basket. No less popular is lechona, which is a roast pig filled with rice, beans, more pork, and a piece of crunchy pork skin. But let’s be honest, these are dishes that you will eat out in restaurants. At home, it is different – or at least at mine is. I won’t normally cook all this; rather, I go for the easiest recipes with chicken or beef, like goulash, roasted chicken, sauteed meat with vegetables, etc.

Back in my home country, I ordered beef from the butcher referring to the dish I wanted to cook, but when I moved to Colombia I couldn’t order this way anymore unless I was lucky enough to find a Venezuelan butcher. In the beginning, I just explained what I wanted to cook and how it is prepared, and then they gave me the perfect beef cut for that dish; in a few words, I just basically fully trusted the butcher’s choice based on my explanation. But the thing is that both of us are Spanish speakers and to be real, Venezuelan and Colombian food share similar recipes so it was easy. That was until I went to a butcher where I had to be fast in my order. Having this graphic of a cow and all the cuts helped me a lot, so I started remembering the cuts I normally ordered. But sadly, not all butcheries have the graphic.

Now, I don’t know if you are familiar with all the beef cuts in this country of meat-loving experts, but here you will learn to order like one! Before continuing, I’m sorry for the vegans, but this article is for meat lovers! Also, I will divide this article not according to cut, but rather the way the beef is cooked. For example, if it is roasted, baked, or boiled – that way you will know what beef you want.

Roasted /Grilled Beef

Basically almost all beef can be roasted. It is the most common way to cook any meat and also the fastest. 

Depending on the preparation of the dish, this can be a first step to cook it. The beef cuts for this cooking method  can be asado de tira, bife angosto, vacío, cuadril, colita de cuadril, bife ancho (chuletón), punta de anca, lomo fino, muchacho, bota, centro de pierna, costilla, bife angosto, and I can go on and on.

Famous Colombian dishes that you can make with these cuts and preparation are picada, sobrebarriga, and bandeja paisa, among others.

Bandeja paisa
 © Photograph by Sebastián Velásquez

Baked Beef

Baked meats normally are the ones that have bones in them or the ones that are really hard so they required baking to tenderize, although it will depend on the recipe you are following. It’s important that when the meat is in the oven, you check it often to avoid it drying out (adding some veggies can also prevent this).

Meat cuts that have these specifications include: asado de tira, bife angosto, cuadril, punta de anca, lomo fino, sobrebarriga, costilla, muchacho, centro de pierna and bota.

Dishes that can be made with these beef cuts are: bandeja paisa, picada, meatballs, ribs, asado negro (which is not a Colombian dish per se, but is from Venezuela and is my favorite!)

Boiled Beef  

These are some of my favorite cuts because they are the easiest to cook: you just leave them in a pot with boiling water and vegetables and forget about it for hours, depending on the recipe. The meat that is normally used to cook this way are the ones for soup or the ones that need to be tenderized to crumble for “carne desmenuzada” and other preparations. The best part of this preparation is that after you cook the meat, you can leave it for a “sancocho”, which is a soup with multiple vegetables, “costilla” and “lagarto” meat, and other condiments. You can also just use the broth for another dish. 

The beef cuts normally used for these preparations are vacío, sobrebarriga, muchacho, costilla, and lagarto.

You can prepare the following dishes: Caldo de costilla, sancocho, sobrebarriga, carne desmenuzada, tamal, and mondongo (this one is mostly prepared with all the guts of the cow).

 © Photograph by Sebastián Velásquez

You can order meat in all supermarkets like Carulla, Éxito, Olímpica, Jumbo, or Makro. They also have a section with pre-cut beef, but I recommend you ask the butcher directly since they will give to you the fresher meat.

Another option is to experience where most Colombians go: the local markets. Most of these markets also sell vegetables. The most common ones are Frutiver, Fruver, MacRes, Surtifruver, and even the Mercado Paloquemao.

Now you some of the Colombian beef cuts and should feel ready to order from the butcher! 

Let me know in the comment box which is your favorite beef cut and how you prepare it. Don’t forget to share this article with someone who might need it!

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