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10 Things To Look For When Buying Steaks

Buying steaks can be a daunting process for the average cook. It could seem that you’re spending lots of money on something that will end up in the trash, but if you know what to look for and how to cook it correctly, you’ll end up with a dish that you can impress anyone with.

In case you don’t know, the best steaks are from cows younger than 24 months because their meat is tender and still has a lot of flavors – GTA Meats. But other cows such as the American Angus are traditionally raised for their marbling, which is the white lines of fat that runs through the meat.

American Angus cows are usually between 36 months and 48 months old, although they can be younger or older. This all goes to say that buying steak isn’t as simple as looking at a price tag!

Here Are 10 Things You Should Look For When Buying A Steak:

1) Colour

Look at the color of beef. The leaner cuts such as Sirloin and Tenderloin should have a cherry-red color while Rib Eye and New York Strip Steak would have a brighter red hue with some traces of white marbling throughout the meat. It’s also important to note that meat that looks brown is usually a sign of dryness or aging.

2) Marbling

Marbling is the white flecks of fat within the meat that is responsible for adding flavor to the steak. As with beef color, Rib Eye and New York Strip Steak will have more marbling than Sirloin and Tenderloin cuts. Look for ribbons of white marbling throughout the meat because this makes for an excellent cut.

3) Texture

You should not be able to feel any gristle or connective tissues in your steak when you touch it, so always feel for this before buying. If they’re there, simply place them back on the countertop because people who know what good steaks taste like will definitely pass by these.

4) Fat

A good cut should be full of fat within the meat which helps keep it moist while cooking. As well as that, fat absorbs flavors extremely well which is why meat needs to have some fat in order to taste good. It protects the meat during cooking and adds that beautiful glaze you see on those steaks from the grill.

5) Grain

Cuts with running lines of fine grains are leaner (and usually more expensive) than those without them. This is simply an indication that the animal has less intramuscular fat, which means that there will be less tenderizing marbling within the muscle fibers, resulting in tougher meat…not necessarily bad if you like your steaks on the chewy side though.

6) Ridges

Look for ridges as opposed to a “flat” piece of meat because that way, you can see how much fat is within the steak and therefore have a better idea of what it will taste like.

7) Bone-In vs Bone Out / Wet Aged / Dry Aged

When steaks are packed this usually means they were processed in a factory and given additives or wet-aged with water so they would weigh more and increase profit margins for the company which prepared them.

If possible, always buy dry aged steak from your butcher because this allows natural enzymes to break down proteins at their own pace while giving off a more intense flavor profile than if you were to cook a wet-aged steak.

8) Thickness

If you want a great piece of meat, always buy at least an inch and a half thick. The thicker the steak the more time it has had to marinate so it will have more flavor and less chance of being overcooked because there is just that much more beef to cook through.

9) The Whole Picture

It’s important to look at the whole picture when you buy steak because it should all be there. You want that beautiful marbling, good color, texture, and smell all in there before purchasing the meat so that when you get it home, you can take it out of your fridge and enjoy cooking with something wonderful.

10) Quality Markings

If possible, always ask for a “Quality Marking” grade on your beef or pay attention to these grades when buying outside the U.S. These grades are based on several factors including marbling (which is self-explanatory), age (Rib Eye will have more marbling than say Sirloin which is younger), fat cover (the more fat, the better the grade), meat color (red for younger beef) and maturity. Prime is obviously the best of all these grades, followed by Choice, Select, and then Standard.

To Sum Up

While this list isn’t definitive or infallible it will give you some idea of what to look for before buying bulk steak cuts. However, don’t stress over finding all of these factors. If you can find 4 or 5 of them, you have a pretty good cut to work with. Just make sure that the meat is red and has no blemishes or spots.

The meat from cows that are fed on grass has far superior flavor to grain-fed animals but is harder to come by. If you can find a local butcher, they may be able to tell you where the beef comes from and if grass-fed is available.

Of course, if you have your own butcher who delivers straight to your door, then it’s great for you. For everyone else though it’s important to know what good steak looks like so that there are no surprises when you’re buying your meat.

As far as the price is concerned, this largely depends on where you live. If you live in an area where everything is shipped long-distance then your beef will come with a higher price tag because of the carbon footprint, whereas if you’re closer to the source (a cattle ranch for example), then there isn’t as much transportation involved in bringing the product to you, resulting in a cheaper price.

Good quality meat is often expensive because it takes more care and time to produce than the lower grade cuts. This means that farm animals are given better living conditions and fed for longer thanks to which they grow bigger and faster.