1. When grocery shopping, buy meats last. Bacteria will multiply at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. You don’t want to expose steaks or any meat to room temperatures for extended periods. They must be kept as cool as possible until refrigerated or frozen.
2. Buy from the butcher’s counter if you have the time. Prepackaged steaks are convenient and quick, but steaks are always best when freshly cut.
3. Know the USDA Grades of beef. Look for the USDA label. If steaks or roasts do not carry the official USDA label, it hasn’t been graded. Only three USDA grades are sold to consumers: In order of highest quality they Prime, Choice, and Select. Read more about USDA grading.
4. Beware of deceptive labeling. If it’s not USDA labeled, it hasn’t been graded. Some stores will name ungraded meat with its own enticing label such as Blue Ribbon Prime, Top Choice, Premium Select and other clever names.
5. What to look for when buying raw steak. Highest rated quality are those cuts containing an abundance of flecks of fat (marbling) and harvested from young cattle (about 2 years old). Look for a bright cherry-red color. Dark red may indicate older beef or cuts that have been in the package for an extended time. Never buy steaks that are grayish or with brown spots Steaks should be firm to the touch, rather than soft.
6. Check packaging. Check for the USDA label. Check the “sell by date”. Make sure there are no holes or tears in the package. Excessive juice in the package could indicate it has been improperly storage or is past optimum shelf life. Make sure the package is cold.
7. Check the “per pound price”, not the package price. Grocery stores are good marketers. They know that many people buy meat by the lowest package price assuming it is better bargain. Although a thinner slice of steak carries a small package price, it may in fact have a higher per pound price for the same type and quality of steak.
8. Careful not to buy more than you need. Meat on sale could be an indication the steak is fast approaching its “sell by date”. Besides, you do not want to keep meat in the refrigerator for more than 2 days or frozen for more than a couple of months. The longer meat is kept frozen, the more it is susceptible to freezer burn and wastage. Read “Importance of Cold Storage ” and Safe Freezing of Beef“.
9. Bone-in or without bone. There’s great debate on whether or not a bone adds flavor to a steak or roast. That’s rather subjective to each consumer’s taste. However, you can’t eat the bone, but its weight is built-in to the per pound cost. Often it is much less expensive to buy steaks without the bone.
10. By all means, make friends with your butcher. They are more likely to suggest cuts that you may not otherwise be aware of or suggest economies that do not affect quality Don’t be afraid to ask questions, request special cuts or a particular thickness of steak.
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