How to Pick Out the Perfect Beef Steak - This American Plate

With all the self-proclaimed “steak experts” out there, surprisingly few know how to choose the best steak in the bunch. Depending on the grocery store and meat department, butchers either line them up neatly on a plastic tray or prepackage them. When shoppers sort through the various cuts, the vast majority look for the freshest, leanest cuts. The more meat, the more to eat.

That’s not how to pick out a steak

When butchers cut a loin into steaks and present them, steaks have that brilliant red and white that people love. But the reason for the brilliant red is that blood still sits in the steak and has not seeped out. That might not sound important, but butchers know that every day, a steak loses roughly 10% of its weight as blood and water seeps out. The $10 porterhouse a shopper purchased because it looked so red? $1 of that purchase went for blood.

One of the greatest tricks ever pulled by the grocery and meat industry is touting the phrase “Pure Angus Beef.” It means nothing when categorizing steak quality. When looking for steak, ignore the claims of “Angus” or “Black Angus” or the like. Grocery stores (almost) always sell Grade A beef, so what a steak lover looks for is whether the beef is “Select” or “Choice.”

Although many claim “Prime” tastes best, rarely do grocery stores or meat markets carry it, since the cost is so high. Usually “Choice” beef represents the best and for most meat eaters, the difference is negligible. What is the difference between these grades of beef? Several factors decide this, but the greatest factor is marbling, or the small ribbons of fat that run through a steak.

So let’s take a walk to the meat counter and see what the perfect steak looks like.

First off, the best cut a person can buy is the ribeye steak. Not strip steak or sirloin or even beef tenderloin, but ribeye.

At the meat counter, there’s a selection of ribeye steaks, all marked “Choice.” As a customer browses through the steaks, they knowingly ignore the most brilliant red and white steaks. Instead, way at the bottom, they see a dark red steak. It looks a little dry and a deep maroon rather than red. Thin ribbons of fat run through the meat.

That’s the steak to buy

Ask any butcher or chef. The highest quality meat and the most expensive is dry aged beef. Find that at a grocery store (often times these are even marked down because shoppers do not know better) and walk home with a $20 steak at a bargain price.

Bon Appétit!


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