When buying a good cut of meat, there are several things to take into consideration besides the price per pound and the expiration date. Beef is actually graded and stamped on the sales label.
USDA Prime beef is the best. They are tasty, tender and the most expensive.
USDA Choice is next and offers a high and low Choice. USDA Choice is average and less expensive than the Prime, so it is tasty, especially in a pot roast, but not as expensive as the top of the line steaks.
USDA Select is the low quality grade. It is not as tender or as flavorful as a Choice or a Prime cut of meat and is best used in gravies, casseroles or other dishes that do not rely on the flavor of the meat for a tasty meal.
Now that you know what to look for on the label, what do you look for inside of the package?
-Look for meats that are red in color. Avoid meat that has a foul odor or is grey or brown in color, and never buy meat if it is slimy.
-Look for marbling throughout the meat. This is grains of fat that offer moisture and flavor in every bite.
-Ask the butcher, they are happy to teach you about their craft and will disclose great information such as when the best day or time of day their counter offers the best selection and/or pricing.
-The tender meats come from the lazier section of the animal. Muscle toughens the meat, so choosing cuts that are not from the shoulder or lower legs will not be as tough.
-Always keep meats in the refrigerator until ready to cook and never reuse utensils or platters that have come in contact with the raw meat until they have been washed with hot soapy water.
-Choosing a cut of meat depends on the recipe. The quicker the cooking time the better grade of meat should be chosen. If you are marinating a meat, a lesser expensive cut will do the job satisfactorily.
-If you are having a cookout and have steaks planned for the menu and don’t know what you are buying, seek the advice of a professional. Or, have your guests bring their own cut of steak while you provide all of the other menu items. Many outdoor dinners are now conducted this way because of the rising cost of beef. Also, do not be offended if your guests prefer to also oversee the grilling of their own steak, as this is one of the hardest items to cook to order unless you have had years of successful experience.