Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Choosing Meat: For Beginners Only!

When I was younger my grandparents raised cows and I remember are freezer always being stocked with beef but after my parents got divorced, we ate more chicken or ground beef and occasionally a rump roast for Sunday Dinner.  I married a man who was born and raised on Steak and Potatoes.  I still remembering asking my husband what his favorite place to eat was and he would say his Dad's BBQ.  His dad does make an EXCELLENT steak.  So trying to be a great wife, I thought I could buy steaks one night for dinner.  To my surprise there are a lot of options at the supermarket for a steak.  So I opted for chicken and just enjoyed when my father-in-law cooked steaks.  I have tried to learn a few things a long the way and thought it would be a great post to do a little more research on and share with you.  I am going to stick to beef on this post!

TIPS for buying Beef! 
For Beginners Only!

Choosing the "RIGHT CUT" is based on several variables, some of which are cost, cooking, and quality.  Beef cuts are divide into two main categories the front and the back.  The front cuts includes the shoulder, leg and flank.  It is usually the cheaper beef.  It is best to cook low and slow.  These are also good when marinating or stewing.  Common names are top round, bottom round and top sirloin. The back of the cow is where the more tender meat is.  They are the rump, rib and loin.  These are usually called the "Luxury" cut because they are more expensive.  They are best cooked quickly and over high heat.  These are preferred for grilling.  Common names are filet mignon, New York strip, tenderloin, porterhouse, rib eye and T-bone.

When selecting meat use some of your senses.  Meat should not SMELL rancid. (DUH!)  Meat should be firm not tough or soft to the TOUCH.  Meat should LOOK dark red or cherry red not brown. Cool fact: When it's first cut, beef's color is closer to violet than the traditional cherry red we're familiar with. The meat begins to turn red shortly after being cut when proteins inside the meat begin to react with oxygen molecules.  Little to no blood in the package indicates the freshest meat.  

"A quality grade is a composite evaluation of factors that affect palatability of meat (tenderness, juiciness, and flavor)." The USDA made 8 different grades for beef even though we commonly only use 3.  The highest grade is Prime, Second is Choice and then Select. Most restaurants use prime. Supermarkets usually sell choice and select. So you can look for the USDA seal on packaging. 

Other helpful tips I learned:
  • Beef that is frozen is only good for one year
  • Ground Beef and pork that is frozen is only good for 6 months
  • Frozen smoked meat is only good for 6-8 weeks
  • It's ok to have some fat on your beef, fat is what gives it flavor, otherwise you need to baste it. (You can read more about marbling in the sites below)
  • The less the butcher has to do the cheaper the meat is. (skinless, boneless all cost more)
I highly recommend reading these sites to give you more information on learning about buying meat and don't hesitate to ask questions to the butcher.

Ten Tips for Buying Meat

The Color of Meat

Choosing the Right Meat

Enjoy browsing your Meat Department or Local Butcher Shop!
Jan Pin It

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