The Internet has changed almost everything we do and how we do it, including how to buy beef. Not only can we enjoy steaks in steak houses and restaurants, we can also order steaks online.
Due to this trend, many businesses offer mail order steaks, such as Omaha steaks. Yet, no matter how we purchase beef, the first step is to know which kind to buy and what makes the best steak, well, the best.
When we buy beef, the very first two things that concern us are quality and price. The quality of a steak is basically determined by 3 aspects: its juiciness, tenderness and texture.
If you want the most tender and flavorful steak with the finest texture, USDA Prime is your top choice. The second goes to USDA Choice; and the third, USDA Select.
USDA is the acronym of the United States Department of Agriculture. It grades the beef meticulously with a system that essentially measures the maturity of the beef and the amount of marbling fat. Then the measurement gives the quality rating of the beef.
Normally, the most marbled, the youngest, the juiciest and most tender beef gets the higher rating; the less marbled, older, coarser beef gets the lower rating. In meat, age matters. It can determine the texture of the beef, and also affect the flavor of it. Younger beef has light red color; its texture is also finer.
In conclusion, USDA Prime beef has both the highest ratio of marbling and the youngest maturity of beef. It may explain why USDA Prime is most flavorful with the most tender and finest texture; and why it's most expensive. The silver and bronze trophies go to USDA Choice and USDA Select respectively.
USDA graded beef has eight levels; the highest three are the ones mentioned above. They are what we normally see in supermarkets. Then goes the lesser two, the USDA Cutter and USDA Canner. Like burritos? They are in there, and also in hamburgers, frozen pot pie dinners and other processed food products.
Tip: When buy beef, keep in mind that USDA Prime beef doesn’t equal Prime beef. When you see the word “Prime”, it doesn’t necessarily mean USDA Prime. Be aware of the “catchy word” and the "catchy brand", for example, “Angus beef” may not mean “black Angus beef”.
Beef prices vary. Buy USDA Prime when you’re able to have the luxury. Only about 2% of the beef is rated as Prime each year. That’s why most of us hardly have the opportunity to have it. Top steak houses and restaurants offer it with a price.
USDA Choice is pretty good, too, less expensive than the USDA Prime and more available. When shopping, looking for beef with fine texture, light color and firmness. If you buy beef online, choose reputable businesses since you won’t be able to touch and see. I personally like Omahasteaks.
USDA Select is lean and requires more chewing. Normally we like lean meat. But in terms of flavor and texture, it’s not a good idea. If you don’t mind the chewing or have a way to make it tender, it costs less.
Stay away from meat that passed its selling date or has excessive moisture.
Aged beef is preferred. Some people like dry aged beef better than the wet. It’s a concern of personal taste.
Don’t buy any meat that is gray in color. And light red is better than deep red.
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