Top 9 Steak Buying Tips
- Select the right steak for your meal.
- Get to know your butcher.
- Purchase the best quality meat.
- Buy steaks from the butcher’s counter, not from the pre-packaged section.
- Check the color, touch, and smell of the meat.
- If you need to, take a closer look at pre-packaged meat.
- Check for marbling.
- Look for thick cuts and buy cuts that are close in size.
Select the right steak for your meal.
You should have some idea on the type of steak you need before you go to the supermarket. At the very least, have some idea on how the size and quantity you will need, as well as your budget. You should also know how you are going to prepare the steak.
Get to know your butcher.
Befriending the butcher in your local supermarket isn’t just about having connections. It can make it a lot easier for you to make special requests whenever you need one.
Moreover, you can always get expert advice from the butcher on what to buy for your guests or family members. A discount may be too much to ask for, but at least you will get an idea on how much you need to spend given your requirements.
Purchase the best quality meat.
Buy the most premium meat that your budget allows. You have six choices of meat—USDA prime, USDA choice, USDA select, USDA standard, USDA commercial, and USDA utility.
USDA prime, which is the best grade meat, is hardest to get not only because of its price because only 2.5 percent of all beef in the country is good enough to be graded as prime.
If you can, purchase the next best-grade which is USDA choice. There are also different grades of USDA choice. Ask your butcher about it.
Buy steaks from the butcher’s counter, not from the pre-packaged section.
Supermarkets usually have a section where unpackaged meat is sold, and a refrigerated section where pre-packaged selections are on display. You should buy from the former, and avoid getting steak from the pre-packaged section.
Usually, the section where unpackaged meat is sold has premium grade meat as well as those from private labels. By buying from this section, you can work with the butcher in selecting your steaks. On the other hand, buying from the prepackaged selection isn’t advisable because you are not sure what is on the other side until you have opened the meat.
Check color, touch, and smell of meat.
The color of fresh cut meat is purplish. But it becomes bright red because oxygen reacts with the meat pigments. This is also the same color that you’ll see in steaks sold in the supermarket. Buy a meat that has a rich, deep red or burgundy color.
If there’s a foul smell in the meat, then don’t buy the steak. For sure, the meat is not fresh. A fresh steak has a slightly meaty smell, but it is never stinky.
Of course, you can’t touch a packaged piece of meat. And the butcher will not let you touch the steak. But when you get home, touch the meat. If it feels sticky to the touch, then it is likely to be past its prime.
If you have to, take a closer look at pre-packaged meat.
In times when you have no other choice but to buy prepackaged meat, pay attention to the steak itself. If there’s excess liquid in the Styrofoam tray, then it may indicate that the meat has been sitting around too long. Don’t buy steak which is packaged in cracked Styrofoam case.
Check for marbling.
Marbling or intramuscular fat is the dispersion of fat within the lean meat. It gives the steak flavor and tenderness. USDA prime beef has the highest marbling grade, while USDA select has very minimal marbling.
When cooking steak with less marbling, you’ll have to monitor the meat closely and cook it a little less to keep the meat as tender as possible. Cuts with more marbling, meanwhile, can be grilled with high heat for best results in flavor and tenderness.
Look for thick cuts and buy cuts that are close in size.
You want steaks that are least an inch thick because these won’t overcook easily. This also explains why you’d rather skip pre-packed meat because it can be hard to see how thick the cuts are.
Try to find and buy cuts that are close in size so you can finish cooking your steak at the same time.
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