What Is Beef Digital Muscle? A Detailed Guide

Beef is a staple in many households, and there are countless cuts to choose from. One lesser-known cut is the beef digital muscle, also known as the superficial digital flexor muscle.

This muscle is located in the gooseneck heel of the cow and is an extension of the Achilles tendon. While it may not be as well-known as other cuts, the beef digital muscle has a lot to offer in terms of flavor and texture.

In this article, we’ll explore what the beef digital muscle is, where it’s located on the cow, and how it can be cooked to perfection. So, let’s dive in and discover the delicious world of beef digital muscle!

What Is Beef Digital Muscle?

The beef digital muscle, also known as the superficial digital flexor muscle, is a hyper-tendon-y muscle that is located in the center of the gooseneck heel of the cow. It is an extension of the Achilles tendon and is responsible for controlling the movement of the foot.

While it may not be as well-known as other cuts, the beef digital muscle has a lot to offer in terms of flavor and texture. When cut into smaller pieces of stew meat, it looks exactly like oxtail or beef shank. This makes it the perfect cut to braise for a long time (like 6 hours) as it has tons of fatty sinew, resulting in a rich, decadent, gelatinous consistency.

Where Is The Beef Digital Muscle Located On The Cow?

The beef digital muscle is located in the heel of the round, which is immediately above the hindshank. It is composed of two main muscles, the superficial digital flexor (the banana heel) and the gastrocnemius. The banana heel is full of thick veins of collagen and connected directly to the gramble cord, which is the cow’s Achilles heel. On the other hand, the gastrocnemius has a lot of seam fat and silver skin and can be separated into dorsal and ventral sides. The beef digital muscle is a lean, long, and narrow muscle that runs horizontally from the loin and tapers off to midway into the short loin. Due to its location, it tends to be tough, dry, and sinewy, so it is best when cooked for a long time in moist heat. It is an ideal cut to use for beef bourguignon or in soups.

Flavor And Texture Of The Beef Digital Muscle

The flavor and texture of beef digital muscle can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the final grind, forming, fat/source content, patty thickness, cooking method, and holding time. A recent study conducted by Texas A&M University and Kansas State University evaluated these factors and found that selecting specific ground beef patty manufacturing and cooking methods can improve the flavor traits of patties and maximize consumer acceptance.

Patty thickness was found to impact flavor attributes, with thicker patties having more beef identity, overall sweet, brown/roasted, fat-like flavor attributes, umami, salty, bitter and sweet basic tastes, and particle size. Ground beef patties with higher fat content had higher levels of beef identity flavor attribute and umami basic taste. Grind size also impacted patty flavor and texture attributes, but not to as great of an extent as patty thickness and meat source.

Cooking method was found to impact flavor and texture attributes as well. Patties cooked on a George Foreman grill had more oxidized flavors than patties cooked on a flat grill. Hand-formed patties had more beef identity, brown/roasted, bloody serumy, fat-like flavor attributes, umami and sweet basic tastes than machine-formed patties. Holding patties in a steam table for up to 3 hours mainly affected oxidative flavors but had minimal effects on flavor and texture attributes across all treatments.

Cooking The Beef Digital Muscle To Perfection

Cooking the beef digital muscle to perfection requires some patience and attention to detail. Braising is the best cooking method for this cut, as it allows the meat to cook slowly and break down the tough sinew, resulting in a tender and flavorful dish.

To start, season the beef digital muscle with salt and pepper. Heat up a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the beef and sear it on all sides until browned. This will help to lock in the juices and enhance the flavor.

Next, add your desired aromatics such as onions, garlic, and herbs, along with enough liquid (such as beef broth or red wine) to cover the meat halfway. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with a lid.

Allow the beef digital muscle to simmer gently for at least 6 hours until it is fork-tender. Check on it occasionally and add more liquid if needed. Once it’s done, remove the meat from the pot and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing or shredding.

The resulting dish will be rich, flavorful, and perfect for serving over mashed potatoes or with crusty bread for dipping in the savory sauce. With a little patience and care, you can turn this lesser-known cut into a delicious and impressive meal.

Recipes Featuring The Beef Digital Muscle

If you’re looking to explore the unique taste and texture of beef digital muscle, here are some recipes to try:

1. Chinese Braised Beef Shank: This traditional Chinese dish features tender and juicy braised beef in a rich and savory broth that’s full of aroma. The beef shank is slowly cooked in a master sauce with a soy sauce base and various spices until it’s infused with a decadent savory aroma. The braising broth can be used again and again for marinating and braising meat, tofu, and vegetables.

2. Taiwanese Braised Beef Shank: This family recipe guarantees tender and flavorful Taiwanese Braised Beef Shank every single time. You can pair the beef shank with noodles, rice, or have it on its own as an appetizer. Freeze the broth for extra flavorful beef shank every single time.

3. Sataejjim: This traditional Korean dish is made with bite-sized beef digital muscle meat that’s slow-cooked with lots of root vegetables. The beef digital muscle is a tough cut of meat with lots of connective tissues that break down into a rich, flavorful gelatin when slow-cooked. The seasoning is similar to galbijjim (braised short ribs), and you can use Korean radish or other root vegetables for a change.

4. Chinese Braised Beef Shank in Vietnamese Pho: Boil up some rice noodles, heat up some chicken stock with a few slices of ginger, get yourself some raw bean sprouts, thinly sliced onion, chopped scallion, lime wedges, fresh cilantro and thai basil, and throw this beef into the bowl. Voila! You’ve got a pretty good mash-up: Chinese braised beef shank in a Vietnamese pho. Add some Sriracha to the mix, and you’ve got a party.

5. Instant Pot Beef Shank: Rinse off peppercorns and place beef shank in the Instant Pot along with all ingredients. Close the lid, press the [Pressure Cook] button and set to 35 minutes of cooking time. When it’s done, wait another 10 minutes. Slowly release the pressure then open the lid. Take out the cooked beef shank and place into a clean container. Chill for 4 hours, slice and serve. Fall off the bone tender.

No matter which recipe you choose to try, remember that the key to unlocking the full potential of beef digital muscle is to cook it low and slow to achieve maximum tenderness and flavor.