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Choosing Meat...

Ok so here's a discussion thread I do not see very often. How do you choose your meat, particularly steaks? I read about "good marbeling" and you can see from my icon I think I know what I'm talking about, but I've never been shown or read a book that illustrates exactly what "good marbeling". Moving on to other meats, pork, lamb, chicken, etc...I just choose what is on sale. Even though price is my primary criteria for choosing meat, I am certain there are better beats within the "sale" category than others. (i.e. one steak may have better marbeling than another).

I understand marbeling to be the amount of fat that is within a cut of particular meat. Is this understanding correct? Can you have too much marbeling? What is appropriate?


Comments

  • When choosing beef such as chuck or brisket, etc., I go with Choice grade. When choosing a steak, I almost always go for Prime. 

    When Egging, why diminish the final result by using less than optimal meat? 

    Just my opinion.....

    Springram
    Spring,Texas


    LBGE and Mini
  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 9,213
    I buy whatever is the nicest available. I know that it will be cheaper than eating it at any restaurant.

    Marbling is the amount of intramuscular fat. The more fat, the better the flavor and tenderness.

    Grading is done by USDA inspectors at the Meat Packer's and is voluntary on the part of the MP. It deals with the color, texture, grain, fat content and distribution. Prime is the "highest grade", then choice, then select for what you may see at the grocer. There are 8 grades total. The next two grades are what you're getting at McDonald's and in canned products(Standard and Commercial), the bottom three are not really seen in food service operations.

    Take a ribeye. It isn't about the thick fat on the edge of the meat. What you want is the striations throughout the muscle tissue. This is what melts and gives the buttery tenderness and flavor.
  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 9,213
    Edit: I won't buy anything below choice. If I am taking in that amount of calories, I am going to make it worthwhile. That's why I don't drink cheap booze or eat crappy chocolate.

    Here is a photo showing the striation difference:

    image
  • 500500 Posts: 1,222
    I'm having trouble getting Mrs. 500 to choose a well marbled steak over one that isn't.  Her feelings are that the marbling is fat, and fat is fat that she doesn't want to eat, because she is making healthy choices.  I'm fine with trimming some of the edge fat off a steak or roast or Boston Butt, but I want that internal fat marbling and she doesn't.  Are there any numbers as to how much more fatty a well marbled cut is over a leaner cut?
    Large BGE; Midlothian, Virginia
    I like Pig Butts and I can not lie.
    "Barbecue is a journey, one meal at a time."
  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 9,213
    edited February 2013
    Here is a chart on percentages, care of The Virginia Polytechnic Institue and State University

    Relationship Between Chemical % Intramuscular Fat, Marbling Score, and USDA Quality Grades
    % Intramuscular Fat    USDA QG   Degree of Marbling/Marbling Score
    < 2.30StandardTraces/ 3.0-3.9
    2.30-3.00
    3.10-3.99
    Select-
    Select+
    Slight / 4.0-4.9
    4.00-5.79
    5.80-7.69
    7.70-9.89
    Choice-
    Choice0
    Choice+
    Small/ 5.0-5.9
    Modest/ 6.0-6.9
    Moderate/ 7.0-7.9
    9.90-12.10
    >12.10
    Prime-
    Prime0
    Sl. Abundant/ 8.0-8.9
    Mod. Abundant/ 9.0-9.9
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 16,041
    for me better grades dont always work, i prefer a good choice ribeye over a prime piece, both in texture and taste
  • SkiddymarkerSkiddymarker Posts: 5,899
    edited February 2013
    for me better grades dont always work, i prefer a good choice ribeye over a prime piece, both in texture and taste
    Generally, what you like is what you like! Prime is worth more, even though it has more "fat" because it tastes better and the beef has been finished in a more expensive manner. Some just don't like prime and are happy with a select. Do what makes you feel good. 

    PS - @Eggcelsior - great info, I was looking for my chart and you had one already posted....Thanks
    Delta B.C. - Vee-Gan: old Indian word for poor hunter. 
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 4,260
    For illustrations of very fatty meats, try some searches for Kobe/Wagyu beef, Mangalitsa pork, or otoro tuna. Those set the bar for the most extreme marbling. They also usually set the bar for expense. Such meats are really a luxury item, and probably something you would not want to eat all the time for sustenance unless you really needed thousands of calories of fat while trekking across the  antarctic. But, most people are satisfied w. fairly small portions, just a few ounces, which slightly off-set the price.

    A good general reference on meat quality is at "Ask the Meatman." 

    Meat quality is a pretty complex issue. How old was the animal? How was it packaged and stored? Was it raised primarily to be used as food (a difference between a milk cow and one just intended for meat)? Hard to know those when buying at many markets, particularly if the meat has been processed a lot.

    Also, prices fluctuate a lot. Were herds too big, and needed to be reduced? Cheaper meat for awhile. Was there a drought, making feed harder to come by? If so, higher prices and perhaps less fat than is desirable.

    I would recommend concentrating on finding methods that are appropriate to various cuts. For instance, frying pieces of a perfectly fine stewing chicken will result in meat and skin that is more like rubber. A quick sear that is good for cooking a steak will leave a beef cheek about as chewable as leather. But both beef cheeks and stewing chicken can make wonderful food with a little extra work. So, cuts that require a little more time and skill cost somewhat less just because there isn't as much demand, not quality.





  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 16,041
    edited February 2013
    for me better grades dont always work, i prefer a good choice ribeye over a prime piece, both in texture and taste
    Generally, what you like is what you like! Prime is worth more, even though it has more "fat" because it tastes better and the beef has been finished in a more expensive manner. Some just don't like prime and are happy with a select. Do what makes you feel good. 

    PS - @Eggcelsior - great info, I was looking for my chart and you had one already posted....Thanks
    mmmmm 45 day dryaged ribeye and 45 day dry aged porterhouse.... both are choice ill take these over prime any day

    image

    image

    image
    :D
  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 9,213
    edited February 2013
    I would too. Dry aging adds a whole other element not considered in the marbling equation. Have you dry aged Prime as well to compare the two in equal fashion?
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 16,041

    I would too. Dry aging adds a whole other element not considered in the marbling equation. Have you dry aged Prime as well to compare the two in equal fashion?
    never had prime dryaged, cant see making the jump from 20 bucks a pound for the great piece of choice dry aged. non dry aged i like the choice ribeye over the prime any day of the week, if it were  a strip steak i want the better grade, if it were tenderloin im not impressed with any grade be it select choice or prime (ill marinate it anyways)
    :))
  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 9,213
    Damn.IT must be nice finding dry-aged choice at the store. I can only get dry-aged prime for $27/lb
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 4,260
    500 said:
    I'm having trouble getting Mrs. 500 to choose a well marbled steak over one that isn't.  Her feelings are that the marbling is fat, and fat is fat that she doesn't want to eat, because she is making healthy choices.
    Not to suggest something that might lead to an argument, specially on Valentine's, but avoiding all fat is not a healthy choice. There's been pretty good evidence that a lack of Omega-3 fats leads to heart disease. You might offer your wife totally grass fed prime beef (expect wallet shock), which, while fatty, has similar benefits for heart health as eating salmon.

    Also, serve the beef w. a big leafy salad and some whole grain bread sticks. Both of those will block the fat from being absorbed. An expensive way to have tender and tasty, but not fat adding.
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 16,041
    500 said:
    I'm having trouble getting Mrs. 500 to choose a well marbled steak over one that isn't.  Her feelings are that the marbling is fat, and fat is fat that she doesn't want to eat, because she is making healthy choices.  I'm fine with trimming some of the edge fat off a steak or roast or Boston Butt, but I want that internal fat marbling and she doesn't.  Are there any numbers as to how much more fatty a well marbled cut is over a leaner cut?
    do some googling on

    Risks of Eating a Low-Fat Diet

    then go get a nice steak with marbling and cut some excess fat off unless you want to "eat healthy" and increase your chances of cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, low vitamin absorption, low good cholesterol levels, kidney and liver disease etc. one of these days the nutritionists are going to swing 180 and say the opposite and its probably because all these studies seem to be proving them wrong.

    :))


  • Very helpful illustration.

    Eggcelsior said:
    Edit: I won't buy anything below choice. If I am taking in that amount of calories, I am going to make it worthwhile. That's why I don't drink cheap booze or eat crappy chocolate.

    Here is a photo showing the striation difference:

    image

  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 11,554
    Under 3% of all beef is graded "prime".  Most of that goes to upscale restaurants and hotels.  Only some grocery stores will carry prime, and they're usually upscale. 

    Generally, the beef gets more tender the farther you get away from the hoofs and horns.

    Choice is a good choice for steaks.  Veal cuts, like short ribs, can be much more tender after a low and slow.  Grass-fed will be leaner and fat is healthier (more omega fatty acids), but we're conditioned to like corn fed, or corn finished.  A good compromise is grass fed corn finished beef.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    New Orleans, LA - we know how to eat 

  • Ok so reading through a lot of these threads....do you all dry age beef yourself or do you just buy it from a butcher already aged?
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 11,554
    Ok so reading through a lot of these threads....do you all dry age beef yourself or do you just buy it from a butcher already aged?
    I do both.  Cooking dry aged ribeye from Whole Paycheck tonight.   I've dry aged before too.  Check out drybagsteak.com
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    New Orleans, LA - we know how to eat 

  • Thanks NOLA, is the taste diference between beef i buy at the store and dry aged that great.
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 11,554
    Dry aging does two things - makes the meat more tender and reduces the moisture (concentrating the flavor). 

    You'll get a change in flavor, partly, and I'm not certain how to quantify this, because you get some molds and funk growing on the outside of the steak.  Those can be different from one environment to the next.  The drybags (I haven't used them but want to) keep much of that funk off the meat - which could be a good or bad thing.  One thing they do do is reduce the amount of trimming, if you trim, needed to make the outside of the steak less unappealing to SWMBO.

    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    New Orleans, LA - we know how to eat 

  • MikeP624MikeP624 Posts: 292

    I just trust my butcher when it comes to picking meat. 

    My butcher will often tell me if the choice or prime would be better.  Often he suggest the choice if it looks well marbled.  He says you won't be that big of a difference between good choice and prime so it is not worth the extra cost.

     

  • +1 on asking the butcher to help choose.  With an egg and GrillGrates, no need for me to do Prime or CAB beef unless a competition.  I love that I can make cheap meats taste awesome on the egg.  I find it very entertaining that I can make a choice sirloin on an egg taste better than a prime filet done on a gas grill :)
  • In the last year i have come to the conclusion that where i buy my meats makes a MAJOR difference in the finished product.  Agreed, as stated above, the best meats are not even available to the "average" local market.  For many years most of my shopping is at Sam's or Costco, mixed with the other local grocery stores.  Locally raised and butchered meats are so far and above my past suppliers - it is unbelievable!!  Example is the chicken!  At my local Sam's Club i would buy a package of two- whole chickens say for nine bucks.  Right off the bat, i know they have been frozen, because i have bought them at times when they were still frozen.  Next is the amount of waste i cut off these chickens, most of it is pure fat!  Now consider the color?  The Sam's Club chickens are a dark yellow, where my local bought chickens are what i call "bone white"???  Understand i was taken back by this the first few times i bought them!!  The next thing i realized, the local chickens were never frozen, and they were much smaller than the Sam's Club product - no steroids!!  I didn't have those big chunks of fat, hanging inside.  And when i dress the chicken for cooking, the local product was cleaned inside, where the Sam's club product contained parts that should have been removed!  When i started to balance the costs of these two products, the local product cost MORE!!  But how much "MORE"?  The local product was $1.24 a pound, Sam's Club was $.99 a pound.  So on a typical meal for my family i may spend an extra fifty cents per person.  The taste difference is NO comparision ---- WHY? ---- fats - steroids - frozen (and defrosted how many times?) - and sorry to say, my Sam's Club has a track record of selling out of date product!!  Now, i am concerned with what i learnt about "CHICKEN"!  So i start buying the pork butts, they were smaller in the local market - but fresh, local meats.  What a difference!!  When i trip and stumble on anything "good" i MUST prove it wasn't just a "whim" that something tasted better --  i must prove it -------- ASK MY WIFE !!   But the point i am making is i learnt the advantage of buying local meats  --  for us eggers it makes a difference, it did for me.... 
  • A year ago we were having 10 friends over for dinner at our lake house in Jamestown, KY on new years eve. I called the only butcher in this small town and ordered 12 inch and a quarter rib eyes. I said these are USDA choice, right? He said they were select but were looking pretty good. I should have known better. Night before new years I did a taste cook. Chewey and no flavor. I changed the menu and wound up using them for "expensive" beef stew and jerky. Lesson learned.
  • I have a butcher that my family has been using for about 30 years. Most of that time we've been buying organic, free range, grass fed beef. By definition, that beef is MUCH leaner than USDA graded beef. I would never buy prepackaged beef in a grocery these days. Ever been to a feed lot? Just the smell will change the way you look at beef forever! Same too with a swine farm.
  • U_tardedU_tarded Posts: 1,213
    Beyond grading marbling etc I will poke bend etc. things like hard fat won't get tender, tough pork chops get tougher. Centex used to always say buy the brisket with the most bend soft to start soft to finish is my theory now.
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