Tuesday, May 22, 2012

CUTS OF BEEF - Acém (Chuck)

Location of acém (chuck) highlighted
One of the most popular and versatile cuts of beef in the Brazilian kitchen, acém is also one of the tastiest and most economical cuts on the entire beef carcass. In English, we call the same cut of meat chuck, and as in Brazil, we use it for pot roasts, braised beef dishes and to make the best quality ground beef.

Acém (or chuck) is technically known as a sub-prime cut of meat meaning that it can be further subdivided into smaller cuts. In English these are known as chuck steak, chuck eye steak, cross-rib roast, top blade steak and others. Brazilian butchers will custom cut similar steaks and roasts, but in butcher shops in Brazil, the cut is usually marketed whole or ground simply as acém.

Acém is cut from the front quarter of the carcass, and basically corresponds to the animal's shoulder. It's the largest cut on this part of the carcass and represents almost a third of the dressed carcass's total weight. The large size of the cut is part of the reason for its relatively cheap price, as a large amount of acém must be produced for each pound of the more noble cuts like filet, loin and sirloin.

Because the animal uses the muscles of its shoulder for movement, acém is not as tender as the noble cuts, which are not charged with getting the animal from point A to point B. It also means that acém has a higher percentage of connective tissue. This higher quantity of connective tissue, which melts into the meat during cooking means that beef from this part of the animal is high in flavor.

Traditionally, Brazilian cooks prefer acém when cooking any type of braised beef dish, and it's the cut of choice for the Brazilian comfort food known as assada da panela (literally - pot roast) which is a piece of beef cooked in liquid over low heat for a long time. Often Brazilian cooks resort to a pressure cooker to lessen the time required for the meat to become tender. Recipes in Brazilian cookbooks also often specify acém when ground beef is used in a dish as its level of fat is neither too much nor too little to make perfect meat loaf (bolo de carne) or meatballs (almondigas).

We'll serve up some Brazilian recipes for this cut of beef in the next few posts here on Flavors of Brazil.

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