The following 7 tips from The Meatcutter will help you in selecting the best beef cuts possible. Keep these in mind when you purchase your next cut of beef at the grocery store or butcher shop.
1. Read the label on the package or ask the Meatcutter for the information.
On the label, the Primal Cut of beef is listed under the word Beef.
The Primal Cut labeled Loin or Rib indicates a tender cut of Beef.
A T-Bone Steak is cut from the Loin and a Rib-Eye is cut from the Rib.
The Primal Cut labeled Chuck, Round or Flank indicate a less tender cut of Beef.
2. There are 3 main Grades of Beef.
A. The Best - USDA Prime. This beef has the most marbling. Most Prime graded beef is sold to restaurants and is very rare in grocery stores or butcher shops. In my 30 some years experience in meat cutting, I've seen only one beef that was graded Prime! Only 2% of all beef graded in U.S. achieves the Prime Grade.
B. The 2nd Best - USDA Choice. This beef has a good amount of marbling, but less than USDA Prime. This grade is what you want to look for at the grocery store or butcher shop. When buying quarters or sides of beef, you will also want know what Yield Grade the USDA Choice beef is. Yield Grades run from #1 ( the best) to #5 ( the least best). The Yield Grade is basically an indication of how much waste and excess fat a beef has.
C. The 3rd Best - USDA Select. This was formerly known as USDA Good. This beef has less marbling than USDA Choice. It has fewer calories than USDA Choice, but it may ( usually) not be as tender, juicy or flavorful as USDA Choice. USDA Select is cheaper for the grocery store or butcher shop to buy, and they may or may not pass this savings on to you. On the average, Select is 5 to 7 cents a lb. cheaper than Choice when purchased by the store. Wal-Mart Supercenters almost always carry USDA Select beef
3.Beef should be a bright, cherry red, without any gray spots. Vacuum packed beef will not be cherry red until the package is opened and the meat allowed to "bloom". This "bloom" occurs within 5 to 10 minutes, and is caused by the air (oxygen) reacting with the meat.
4. Beef steaks and roast should feel firm, not soft or mushy.
5. Make sure the package does not have any excess liquid on the tray. This liquid is usually not blood. When beef is slaughtered, 99% of the blood is drained from the carcass immediately. This liquid in the tray is usually moisture that has leaked out the meat. This moisture may indicate that the beef cut has gotten above 38 to 40 degrees for a period of time, and usually will not taste as good as a well chilled beef cut.
6. Make sure the package is cold, and the wrap is not punctured or torn.
7. Check the "sell-by" date on the label, and purchase only on or before that date.***
Here's an extra, money saving tip. Often times the butcher shop or grocery store will freeze an "expensive" beef cut on the day of the "sell-by" date if the beef cut wasn't sold. Often times you can purchase the meat for 30 to 50% below the previous prices. The meat will still just as good as it was before it was frozen!
Last Updated - Friday, September 03, 2010 09:24 PM