French meat cuts

Taste of Savoie demystifies the cuts of meat in France

French meat cuts are somewhat different from their English counterparts but I think I’ve worked them out now, so I thought I’d share my findings. One of the things I love about living in France is that the Boucherie is very much a thriving business in most high streets in towns and villages.  As well as the option of buying directly from the farmers and small farm shops.  The local Boucher’s stall is normally found at weekly town markets.

Lamb Shank at Palace de Menthon
Lamb Shank at Palace de Menthon

French meat cuts were a puzzle to me when I arrived in France ten years ago, but I now feel comfortable visiting my Boucher and ordering most cuts of meat.  Although there are some British cuts that don’t directly translate as the meat is cut differently.

Paleron de Bœuf at Le Viu Restaurant, Palace de Menthon
Paleron de Bœuf at Le Viu Restaurant, Palace de Menthon

French Meat Cuts

As I’ve puzzled over the French meat cuts myself and been asked by friends, I thought I’d put together some explanations of the cuts of meat we find in France – and how they may differ from the English cuts.

Pork

French Cuts of Pork from Taste of Savoie
French Cuts of Pork 

 Les morceaux du porc

  • 01 Échine
  • 02-03 Côte première / côte seconde
  • 04-05 Filet / côte filet
  • 06 Filet mignon
  • 07 Pointe filet
  • 08-09 Jambon et grillade
  • 10 Palette (épaule)
  • 11 Jarret arrière
  • 12 Jarret avant
  • 13-14 Plat de côte / Travers
  • 15 Poitrine
  • Bacon if thinly sliced is poitrine, preserved with salt. The French slice their poitrine fairly thickly to make lardons, so you need to ask for the slices to be ‘fine’ (pronounced ‘feen’). 
  • Poitrine de pork – belly pork
  • Echine –  is between the neck and the first rib above the shoulder – includes the blade bone and spare ribs. 
  • Épaule is shoulder
  • Plat de côtes – where the hand and belly meet
  • Filet de porc  – pork tenderloin

• If you want your joint with crackling, this should be no problem for your local butcher, but you may need to order it in advance. Ask for the joint ‘avec la couenne’ (pronounced la ‘quwen’).

  • joues – cheeks
  • Jarret – ham hock
  • Palette – short cut leg of pork
  • Travers – ribs
Slow cooked belly pork at L’Observatoire

Slow cooked belly pork at L’Observatoire

Lamb:

French Cuts of Lamb - Taste of Savoie
French Cuts of Lamb 

Les morceaux de l’agneau

01 Collier d’agneau 
02 Côtes découvertes
03-04 Côtes secondes / Côtes premières
05-06 Filet / Côtes filets
07-08 Selle / Gigot raccourci
09-10 Poitrine/ Haut-de-côtes
11-12 Épaule / Épaule roulée

  • Gigot d’agneau – leg of lamb
  • Echine – shoulder
  • Côtes – chump
  • Collet – scrag (end)
  • Poitrine/ poitrail – breast
  • Côtelette – chop usually from the rack of lamb, where the British cutlet comes from
  •  Selle d’agneau – saddle
  • souris d’agneau – lamb shank                     
Lamb three ways at L’Esquisse, Annecy
Lamb three ways at L’Esquisse, Annecy

Beef

French Cuts of Beef - Taste of Savoie
French Cuts of Beef 

Les morceaux du bœuf

01 Collier
02 Basses côtes
03-04 Entrecôte et côte de bœuf 
05 Faux-filet
06 Filet de bœuf 
07 Rumsteck
08 Queue de bœuf 
09-13 Gîte à la noix, rond de gîte
10-11-12 Tende de tranche / Poire / Merlan
14-15-16-17 Plat de tranche / Rond de tranche / Mouvant 
18 Gîte (Jarret arrière) 
19 Aiguillette baronne
20 Onglet de bœuf 
21 Hampe de bœuf
22 Bavette d’aloyau 
23 Bavette de flanchet 
24 Flanchet
25 Plat-de-côtes de bœuf
26-27 Tendron / Milieu de Poitrine
28 Gros bout de Poitrine 
29 Macreuse à bifteck
30 Paleron 
31 Jumeau à bifteck
32 Macreuse à pot-au-feu 
33 Jumeau à pot-au-feu 

Steak - Bavette
Steak – Bavette
  • Bifteck/ steak – steak
  • Bavette – undercut – from the skirt, flank steak textured with long muscle fibres
  • Basses-côtes – Chuck Steak more like Silverside
  • Filet – fillet
  • Faux-filet – more like a sirloin
  • Steak à hacher – used for steak tartare and steak haché. Steak haché looks like a burger, but it is good quality minced steak pressed. It is usually freshly minced, which is why people are happy to eat them rare. Not comparable to a beef hamburger.
  • Rumsteak – rump steak
  • Osseline and Onglet – Hanger steak
  • Paleron and Macreuse – Shoulder – good for braising
  • Pot au Feu – think rib/brisket – for braising
  • Entrecôte – fore rib steak
  • Tournedos/ filet mignon – tenderloin steak, a chunk of tender steak, usually served quite rare (Saignant) unless otherwise requested. You can get ‘tournedos’ of lamb, too.
Fabulous Burger at L’Observatoire
Fabulous Burger at L’Observatoire

One thing that I found strange when I first visited the local boucherie was that the only meat that they will mince is beef.  I was once told lamb couldn’t be mince! (but that may have been my ‘malentendu’ (misunderstanding). I was also told it was interdit! but I believe this was for hygiene and food standard reasons.  However having befriended my local boucher he told me that if I ask in advance they will mince other meats but they need notice as they only have one mincer and need to clean it down before using for other meats.  

Braised Beef Cheek from chef Mark at Book4Alps
Braised Beef Cheek from chef Mark at Book4Alps

Other beef cuts:

  • Tête de veau – head of veal
  • Langue de bœuf – beef tongue
  • Gîte (à la noix) – topside
  • Queue – oxtail
  • Cou – neck
  • Tranche – meaning ‘slice’, implies a steak of any meat other than beef
  • Filet/ longue/ aloyau – all words for loin. Loin chop is ‘côte première’
Beef short ribs at the Tennis Club de Carouge
Beef short ribs at the Tennis Club de Carouge

In France you tend to find beef prepared for Bourguignon or Pot au Feu on the label rather than the cut of meat.  Often the labels indicate a recommended cooking method. Any meat that says ‘à poêler’ means ‘for frying’, au four is in the oven, à griller to cook under the grill (or in a ridged pan)

Tartare de Bœuf
Tartare de Bœuf

Tartare de Boeuf a great French speciality and when done right is delicious!  This is high quality raw beef normally hand-chopped and cut from the tenderloin/filet mignon.  It is traditionally served with a raw egg yolk, chopped onion and chive, herbs, capers and mustard, although every recipe is different!

Ordering a steak in a restaurant in France

  • Bleu – Done on a very hot grill for one minute on each side.
  • Saignant – Meaning bloody. Very rare, but cooked slightly longer on the second side than a bleu steak.
  • À point – rare to medium rare. Meaning the steak is cooked a little longer than a saignant (very rare) one.
  • Bien cuit – ‘well cooked’. This level will still often have some pinkness in the middle of the meat. A ‘steak bien cuit’ is cooked until the juices run brown on the surface of the steak.

  • Très bien cuit  – should get you a steak that is totally cooked through! if you can find a French chef that will cook a steak this much!

When ordering lamb or duck you can ask for rosé which means a medium rare.

Magret de Canard at Le Présidial in Sarlat, Dordogne, France
Magret de Canard at Le Présidial in Sarlat, Dordogne, France

Poulet/Chicken

French Cuts of Chicken - Taste of Savoie
French cuts of Chicken
  1. Poitrine – the Breast
  2. Pilon – the lower part of the thigh

  3. Haut de cuisse – the upper part of the thigh

  4. Aile – the wing

  5. Dos – the back

  6. Cou – the neck

Chicken, duck, goose and others:

  • Poulet – chicken
  • Poulette/Poussin – young chicken
  • Coq – cockerel
  • Pintade – guinea fowl
  • Dinde – turkey
  • Volaille – fowl/ poultry
  • Cuisses – thighs
  • Magret – breast
  • Carcasse – carcasse for making stocks and soups.
  • Confit de canard – normally a leg that it is salted and then submerged in its own rendered fat
Suprême of Chicken from Chef Mark at Book4Alps
Suprême of Chicken from Chef Mark at Book4Alps

This post has taken quite some research and I am sure there are many anomalies of meats and cuts I’ve left out. I’ll update this post as I continue on my culinary adventure in France!

Have meat cuts in France left you puzzled? Please leave a comment below if you’ve found this a helpful guide or have anything that you think I can add.

Shoulder of lamb roasted in milk at Le Crypto in Reims
Shoulder of lamb roasted in milk at Le Crypto in Reims

   CAUTION: This blog post does not contain cheese!

Why not pin this reference guide for later!

Taste of Savoie, demystifying French Meat Cuts
Taste of Savoie, demystifying French Meat Cuts

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7 thoughts on “French meat cuts

  • October 23, 2018 at 10:51 pm
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    Oh my… I just showed your blog post to my French boyfriend! As he is the chef in our home, he found your post very, very interesting! You certainly know your meat! Being a carnivore myself, my favourites is the filet mignon / Tournedos (Rossini, please)
    Thank you for sharing
    Louise X

    Reply
    • October 24, 2018 at 9:21 am
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      Wow thank you – that’s great praise!

      Reply
  • October 24, 2018 at 3:31 pm
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    I think this is great and long overdue. All British butchers should be made to study it and learn it. Butchery in Britain is terrible and leaves a lot of meat uneatable. And a lot of the animal is not used for human consumption. .Congratulations.

    Reply
  • October 25, 2018 at 7:41 pm
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    LOL, I wish I could transport this onto my phone for next time I am in France – so comprehensive and it makes a huge difference which bit of meat you are buying

    Reply
    • October 25, 2018 at 8:21 pm
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      I found it very useful when I was researching this post. I hope it helps next time you are in France

      Reply
  • October 27, 2018 at 12:34 am
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    I wish I had this info when I first arrived in 2010, I learnt some of these cut the hard way. It is very strange to me how you can buy Pork fillet, buy never lamb. ? When I asked at LeClerc they told the lamb does not grow big enough! but we see many les muttons roaming the forest in the Summer. Any other answers?

    Reply
  • November 8, 2018 at 4:34 pm
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    This is so useful Caro. Thank you! Xo

    Reply

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