Buying good quality meat particularly beef can be very frustrating. Beef differs in quality far more than other kinds of meat. Unfortunately, reliable local meat shops are closing up and we are sometimes forced to choose among the limited selections that the supermarket has to offer. If you are lucky enough to have access to a good butcher shop, make sure that you befriend the owner or the butcher. If this is not an option, and you need to make do with beef cuts that you can find in the grocery, here are some tips that you can follow in buying good quality beef.
- Good beef has a fresh, dark red color. Color is a good indicator of the quality of the meat. Make sure that you choose the cuts with a normal red color rather than those that are quite dark red. This indicates that the animal experienced a high degree of anxiety right before it was slaughtered. As a result, the meat will be stringier and tougher.
- Look for moderate and even marbling in the meat. The white parts in between the fibers of the beef meat are called marbling. The more white parts that you see, the higher the fat content in that particular cut. This affects the taste of the beef and is particularly noticeable in broiled or roasted beef dishes. The more marbling, the juicier and more tender the cooked beef turns out. Unfortunately, too much fat is not so good for the health. If you are watching your fat intake but still want a juicy steak, it is advisable that you go for a moderate amount of marbling.
- Fresh meat should be firm to one’s touch. If you are buying meat at the supermarket, make sure that you give it a slight pinch to tell if the meat is sufficiently dense. Fresh meat should have some give but not squishy. Mushy meat is a sign that flavoring or preservative has been injected into the flesh.
- Always check the beef’s packaging. It is always an advantage if you can purchase beef straight from the counter. However, if you have to settle for getting the meat that has already been packaged, it is best that you check the packaging thoroughly. First, check out the sell-by date. Never buy meat that has already passed the indicated date. Next, check if the packaging is intact. Avoid buying cuts that are wrapped in broken or taped plastic. The package should also have very minimal moisture and blood inside.
- Quality grade is a good basis but does not automatically mean that you are getting the best cut. Prim cuts are the meats with the highest amount of intramuscular fat and cost the most. It is great for steaks and roasts but can prove too expensive if you are going to use it on your beef stew. The more practical approach is to base your choice on what part of the cattle the meat has been cut from rather than the assigned grade. Go for cuts that come from the loin and rib sections. Consider also how you will be cooking the beef.
Food safety is the most important factor that one should consider. It is imperative that you take enough time to check and ensure that you will be serving the healthiest meat you can possibly find.