What’s the difference between Angus beef and “regular” beef? What’s all the fuss about? We’ll give you the scoop, plus some Angus beef recipes.
If you’re a meat eater, there’s no escaping it. The message reaches you everywhere: at the restaurant, at the supermarket, on television. Angus beef. Black Angus beef. Only real Angus beef. What part of the cow is Angus? Why should I buy it? Should I pay more for it?
To be honest, a lot of it is marketing…but a lot of it is simple science. Biochemistry, anatomy, genetics, that kind of stuff. And no, Angus is not a specific part of the cow or one of the cuts of meat. It’s a breed of cattle.
Angus Beef vs. Regular Beef
Actually, Angus beef is regular beef. The name Angus does not imply that the beef is organic, more natural, or of a higher grade. It’s just one of many breeds of cattle, and one that is raised strictly for beef production.
Centuries ago, there was no distinction between dairy and beef cattle; cattle were multi-purpose farm animals. The cows were used for milk, the bulls for drafting and plowing, and all were eaten as beef. Eventually, cattle were bred to emphasize certain traits. Some breeds produced more milk, or milk with a higher fat content, while some put on muscle weight more efficiently and yielded more meat.
Angus cattle are native to the counties of Aberdeenshire and Angus in Scotland, and in most parts of the world are known as Aberdeen Angus. They were bred by Hugh Watson in the mid-1800s in an effort to maximize their black hides, and they turned out to be highly successful beef cattle. (It is believed that all or nearly all of the modern-day Black Angus cattle are descended from Watson’s herd.) There is also a red strain of Angus, and while the UK registers both colors as Angus, they are considered two separate breeds in the United States. In fact, the Red Angus is not sponsored by the American Angus Association and is much more rare.
Angus cattle are muscular and considered medium-sized; Continental breeds such as Charolais and Limousin are larger and leaner. The Black Angus is naturally polled, which means it does not grow horns—a popular feature for people who handle cattle. More importantly, the animal grows quickly, adding muscle mass that is reliably tender and well marbled (meaning it has a significant amount of intramuscular fat). With all of these desirable traits, Black Angus quickly became popular as breeding stock. The breed was first imported to Kansas in 1873, and has overtaken Hereford as the most popular beef breed in the United States. According to the American Angus Association, Angus and Angus hybrids comprise 60 percent of American beef cattle.
Today’s Angus beef cattle are selected on a series of requirements, including weight, maturity and the aforementioned marbling. The superior marbling is what makes Black Angus beef so tender and juicy; in fact, Angus cattle are crossed with Wagyu cattle to produce the most popular beef in Japan. While not as highly marbled as Kobe beef, it is also much less expensive. This type of Angus-Wagyu hybrid has also been marketed as American Wagyu, or American Kobe-style beef.
So is Angus beef worth a premium price? Depends on how premium. Remember, Angus is the most popular beef breed in America, so if you’re buying premium aged beef, there’s a pretty good chance it’s Angus (and Hereford and other beef-specific breeds are pretty darn good, too). But knowing that your beef is specifically selected from the breed with excellent marbling and predictable quality is certainly worth a modest premium, say 5%.
Angus Beef Recipes
Of course, Angus beef cooks up just like any great cut of beef, so there really aren’t recipes specific to it…but it’s a great excuse to pass along a couple of delicious beef recipes.
If you’re cooking Angus Filet Mignon, these basic filet mignon cooking instructions will help you get the results you want.* If you want something a little more special for company, try this elegant Steak Diane recipe.
For Black Angus Sirloins, use these sirloin steak cooking instructions, tailored to the thickness of your steaks.* And this hearty Mushroom Wine Sauce recipe is prefect for highlighting the beefy flavor of sirloin.
And let’s not forget the incredible Angus Sirloin Burger! We’ve got lots of helpful tips to help you cook the best burger all year long.
*As always, USDA recommends cooking to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F…so get out that meat thermometer.