(Wondering what the butcher knows?)
Aged Rib Roast
Beefed-Up Meat Loaf
Pan Seared Rib Eye
Pepper Strip Steak
Salted Beef Tenderloin
|How to Buy
Before you begin cooking, pick the cut of meat that best suits
your dinner plan.
- Tender, less lean cuts are perfect for the grill and are
delicious plain or dressed up with sauces.
- Leaner, chewier cuts become more tender and delicious
when marinated, thinly sliced, and grilled quickly or
- For any cut of steak, look for red meat with white fat
that is marbled evenly across the grain.
- Prime grade meat (the highest grade) is tender and
highly marbled. Unfortunately, prime grade is expensive and
difficult to find. The average supermarket carries choice
grade meat as well as the less flavorful, and less tender,
- The best steak you can buy is dry-aged in special meat
coolers to develop the flavor and tenderize the meat. Most
beef, however, is wet-aged, if aged at all, in vacuum-packed
bags for one to four weeks. This process improves the
tenderness of the beef, but does not improve the flavor.
Testing for Doneness
The best way to tell if a steak is done is to (carefully!) touch
or squeeze the meat itself.
- Rare meat feels a bit like the texture of the flesh
between your thumb and index finger; medium meat has a
slight spring to it; well-done meat is firm.
- You also can check by cutting a small slice into your
meat with a thin knife.
- If you have an instant-read thermometer, the internal
temperature for rare steak is 125 to 130 degrees,
medium-rare is 130 to 140 degrees, medium is 140 to 150
degrees, and well done is 165 degrees.
Beef Defined : Beef, the meat of an adult (over 1
year) bovine, wasn't always as popular as it is today. America has had
cattle since the mid-1500s, but most immigrants preferred either pork or
chicken. Shortages of those two meats during the Civil War, however,
suddenly made beef attractive and very much in demand. Today's beef
comes from cows (females that have borne at least one calf), steers
(males castrated when very young), heifers (females that have never
borne a calf) and bulls under 2 years old. Baby beef is the lean,
tender but not too flavorful meat of a 7- to 10-month-old calf.
packers can request and pay for their meat to be graded by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA). The grading is based on three factors:
conformation (the proportion of meat to bone), finish (proportion of fat
to lean) and overall quality. Beginning with the best quality, the eight
USDA grades for beef are Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial,
Utility, Cutter and Canner. The meat's grade is stamped within a purple
shield (a harmless vegetable dye is used for the ink) at regular
intervals on the outside of each carcass. USDA Prime and the last three
grades are rarely seen in retail outlets. Prime is usually reserved for
fine restaurants and specialty butcher shops; the lower-quality grades
are generally only used for sausages and in cured and canned meats.
Ideally, beef is at its best--both in flavor and texture--at 18 to 24
months. The meat at that age is an even rosy-red color. If the animal is
over 2 1/2 years old it is usually classified as "well-matured beef"
and, though more full-flavored, the meat begins to toughen and darken to
a purplish red. Slow, moist-heat cooking, however, will make it
To store fresh beef: If the meat will be
cooked within 6 hours of purchase, it may be left in its plastic-wrapped
package. Otherwise, remove the packaging and either store unwrapped in
the refrigerator's meat compartment or wrap loosely with waxed paper and
keep in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to 2 days for ground
beef, 3 days for other cuts. The object is to let the air circulate and
keep the meat's surface somewhat dry, thereby inhibiting rapid bacterial
growth. Cooked meat should be wrapped airtight and stored in the
refrigerator. Ground beef can be frozen, wrapped airtight, for up to 3
months, solid cuts up to 6 months.
For questions on beef, call the
USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 800-535-4555. See also
baron; brains; brisket; chuck; club steak; delmonico steak; entrecôte;
filet mignon; flanken; flank steak; heart; kidney; kobe beef; liver;
london broil; minute steak; new york steak; noisette; porterhouse steak;
pot roast; prime rib; rib; rib roast; rib steak; round; shank; shell
steak; short loin; short ribs; sirloin; skirt steak; sweetbreads; t-bone
steak; tongue; tripe; veal; and Beef Chart.