Shoulder to Shoulder: Understanding Arm Roast vs Chuck Roast

June 29, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

The arm roast and chuck roast differ in terms of tenderness, fat content, and more!

I am often asked about arm roast vs chuck roast by friends who are starting to take their cooking a bit more seriously. Fortunately for them - and you - my years at culinary school left me well-equipped to choose meat.

In this post, I will highlight the differences between these cuts and show you how to use each of them. Let's begin!

arm roast vs chuck roast

What is the Difference Between an Arm Roast and Chuck Roast?

Arm roast and chuck roast may describe two different cuts of beef, but they actually come from the cow's shoulder area!

Let me break it down for you:

With beef, the shoulder area of the cow is referred to as the beef chuck primal cut. This is an enormous piece of meat and, as such, the large primal is divided into two subprimals - the shoulder clod and the chuck roll.

The shoulder consists of five sections but only three of these are used for beef roasts or steaks so I'll only be focusing on these. They are the top blade, shoulder center, and shoulder tender.

The other two cuts are referred to as the clod lifter meat and nose are considered accessory meat which is low grade. As a result, this is traditionally used for ground meat.

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roasted meat

The chuck roast cut is from the top blade, which is from higher up on the shoulder. It is pretty tender, but there is a long stretch of tough, connective tissue running through this cut.

In some cases, the butcher will cut sections straight across the top blade muscle. This slice is referred to as chuck blade roast. If the butcher slices lengthwise along the length of the top, removing meat from the center and bottom, then this is known as a flat iron steak.

As for the arm roast, it comes from the shoulder center. This is a large piece of muscle that is separated by connective sinew. The larger section is known as the long head and it is what arm roasts are made from. An arm chuck roast is sometimes known as a shoulder roast because of this.

Here are some other ways that these two cuts are different from one another...

Tenderness

Arm roast is considered to be more tender than chuck roast. As stated above, chuck roast has a tough piece of tissue running through it. Also, in general, the meat is a little tougher. As a result, you have to cook it for a little longer.

Cooking Methods

With the arm roast, the most common method is braising or slow cooking to turn it into a pot roast. This dish is sometimes called a arm pot roast due to this.

Despite this, the meat can be cooked at a higher temperature. As it maintains its tender texture well, it doesn't require as much liquid.

While chuck roast can be slow cooked as well, it is far more usual to oven bake the meat. They are also excellent in beef stews as they are able to tenderize properly. In general, I would advise you to cook this cut on a lower heat and with plenty of juice and liquids.

Fat Content

On average, chuck roasts have more saturated fat and marbling than arm roasts, which have more lean meat. This makes them higher in calories as well. Thus, if you are looking for something healthier, an arm roast may be just the thing for you.

Of course, there are plenty of benefits to marbling as well. It can make the meat more tender. See, when cooked, the marbling begins to melt, eventually melding with the rest of the juices and the meat. In doing so, it creates a flavorful and tender cut of meat.

At the end of the day, however, choice is down to preference when it comes to the levels of fat and marbling.

Price

Of the two, the chuck roast can be considered the more economical cut. It isn't necessarily that chuck roast is cheap - it is more expensive than round bone roasts. However, as arm roasts are more tender, they cost more.

In some instances, though, you may find that marbling holds higher value. If this is the case, the chuck roast may actually be a bit cheaper. It is unlikely that you will notice too much of a price difference between the cuts, though.

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Chuck Roast vs. Pot Roast

There continues to be quite a bit of confusion surrounding pot roast, particularly its relationship with chuck roast.

chopping raw meat

What most people fail to realize is that pot roast isn't a cut of meat, it is a dish. Considering that other cuts of beef tend to go by "roast", I understand why so many people end up confused by the terminology.

However, pot roasts are what you get when you cook chuck roast using slow cooking methods. The result is a tender dish with a strong beef flavor.

Is Arm Roast Any Good?

This is a question I get quite often because not a lot of people are familiar with a beef arm roast. Chuck roast, on the other hand, is quite a bit more popular.

I'm also asked:

Is a beef arm roast tough?

Well, as you can see from the above section, the arm roast is considered to be a lot more tender. It also has a top-notch beefy flavor. As such, it is the superior piece of beef for cooking and eating.

Can I Substitute Arm Roast for Chuck Roast?

Yes, you absolutely can substitute arm roast for chuck roast. After all, the two have quite a bit in common with one another and even come from a similar part of the cow.

That being said, I would like to warn you that arm roast isn't as tough as chuck roast. Therefore, when you are cooking this cut in an oven, Dutch oven, or even slow cooker, pay attention to the cooking time. I would cut down on it a little as the meat doesn't have to be cooked as much.

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Where Can You Find Chuck Roast and Arm Roast?

It is fairly easy to find both cuts, although chuck roast is certainly the more common cut of meat. Most supermarkets should carry these cuts and if not, a good butcher's shop will be able to help you out.

When choosing either cut, I would look into a smaller butcher shop for better quality. In general, there is a lot more care in how the cows are raised, offering up better texture and taste. These butchers are trained better as well which means that you will have the perfect thick slices for cooking.

The key when selecting chuck and arm roast, though, is freshness. Always buy the freshest meat possible. And, only ever buy the meat a couple of days before you are planning to use it. Yes, you can freeze the meat so that it will last longer, but the taste and texture might not quite be the same.

With slow cooking, though, you may be able to get back some of the flavor. Still, I always say that fresh is best.

Well, these are the differences when it comes to chuck roast and arm roast. While the differences may not seem all that great, it is important to appreciate the subtleties between the two cuts. It is only by being able to discern between the two that you can cook each strip of meat as it should be made.

You may not be able to spot the variations right away, but give it time. The more attention that you pay, the easier that you will realize why you should be choosing one cut over the other. Before you know it, you will be a pro in no time at all!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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