It's summertime, and if you're anything like us, you have grilling on your mind. But before you run off to the grocery store for some extra delicious steaks, read up on our tips below.
We've crafted a list of five critical questions to ask your butcher before you check out, and boy are we glad we did! Origin, grade, and even when and where to store it can drastically change the flavor and quality of your tasty entrée.
Time to become the ultimate master!
What grade of meat should I purchase for my dish?
Did you know there are different grading systems for different meats? Beef has three different grades: USDA Prime, USDA Choice, and USDA Select; while poultry has three grades, too, but they're A, B, and C. When talking to your butcher, it's nice to have some basic knowledge of the grades, so we went ahead and broke down the beef grading system for you:
"USDA Prime" has lots of marbling and is considered to be the highest grade. What is marbling? It's the white lines of fat you see in the steak. The general consensus is the more marbling, the more flavor, hence the highest grade. Cooking these steaks is easy. You can roast or grill them and they will still be juicy, tender, and delicious!
"USDA Choice" is next in line. Consider this the middleman in the group. There's still a decent amount of marbling, but not too much. Because it doesn't have the same fat content as "USDA Prime," its suggested cooking method is different. People will tell you braising or stewing with liquid is the best way to get this type of beef nice and tender.
"USDA Select" contains the least amount of fat and they call this "lean." Because it doesn't have the fatty flavors of "USDA Prime," you'll want to marinate this meat when cooking.
Even though you know beef's grades now, there's still a lot to learn about other meat grades. So don't be afraid to ask!
How was it raised?
As we learn more and more about the foods we're eating, many of us find where our meat is raised to be super important. Not only is it useful when determining quality, but also sustainability. You really hit the jackpot when the meat is local, too!
How should I prepare the meat before cooking?
For example: Many steak recipes suggest bringing the meat to room temperature before grilling, or, certain cuts may require a marinade to help tenderize the meat. You have pros at your fingertips, so use them. They're there to help!
How long should I store it for?
Should it be kept in the freezer or refrigerator? Is it best store in air-tight containers or plastic bags? All these questions require knowing about the meat both when it's raw and cooked. You may learn you've been storing that frozen beef incorrectly for way too long.
What are the best cuts for the way I like to cook?
This is super important. If you want to make steak, but are planning on stir-frying, the butcher may suggest something totally different from the meat he or she might suggest for fancy dinner. And many times, you'll end up saving money!