Picking the best steak at the grocery store.
Second rule of cooking: use the best quality, freshest ingredients available to you.
Click here if you need a refresher on the first rule of cooking.
Hunting down the best, tastiest, and freshest ingredients makes up about 60% of my job as an executive chef at MCL. Tough and flavorful work, but someone’s got to do it. Our customers reap the real benefits of my painstaking labor.
So we covered how to select fresh produce. Now we’ll take a look at how one should go about finding a great slab of beef.
- Firm is good. Good beef is firm to the touch with a slight spring-back effect when you remove your finger. If your finger indentation stays after you pull your finger away, you should walk away. The longer meat sits, the more moister it looses. Doctors even use the same test to tell if patients are dehydrated. Same basic principal applies with most meat, poultry and fish.
- Good, fresh beef is red. Packaging should be wrapped tightly. Near airtight. Any brown discoloration is a telltale sign the meat has been breathing a little too much air. Air is bad.
- Always read your label. Not only to see when the meat was packaged but to be on the lookout for meat treated with carbon monoxide gas. Gas mixtures are used to help the meat retain the red coloration until you remove it from the packaging. Sneaky.
- Look for USDA grade beef. It’s your best bet.
Here’s a breakout of meat grades from highest to lowest quality:
- Prime: Highest quality. Is harder to find and is priced accordingly. Only about 2.9% make the grade.
- Choice: High quality. More available in restaurants and markets.
- Select: Still good. Just won’t be as juicy or tender.
Click here to learn more about USDA grading.
How to choose a cut of meat:
Different cuts will carry varying levels of fat and tenderness. Higher quality cuts will be most tender. Example: Filet Mignon is the pinnacle of tenderness, and subsequently, price. But, hey, maybe you like to chew on the firmer texture of a New York Strip or the fattiness of a good Rib Eye. Meat cut choices are very personal.
So whether it’s Filet, Chuck, Sirloin, Flank, or Rib – the world is your oyster. Well, you know what I mean.