7 Tips for Picking Perfect Steaks
- “Look at each steak carefully. If you want it to be juicy and tender for cooking on the grill, you want lots of little white flecks of fat in the meaty part (it’s called marbling). The flecks melt away during cooking, adding to the meat’s flavor. You also want it to be an even thickness at least 1 inch thick.
- Don’t trim that fat of the steak. The fat helps to keep the steak moist and hold its shape during cooking. It also enhances the meat’s flavor. Once the steak is cooked, you can trim off any excess fat before serving.
- Chuck and Round are tough guys, Rib and Loin are the not tough. If the words “chuck” or “round” are in the name of the steak, it will need to be marinated and then slowly cooked in liquid to be tender. Don’t even think of throwing a chuck steak on the grill. If the word “loin” is on the label, or the butcher tells you that a steak is cut from the loin (a strip steak, porterhouse or T-bone), these will be the most tender. Same goes for the word “rib,” as in rib-eye or rib steak. These can be cooked quickly — on a grill, in the oven or on the stove in a pan.
- Know your grades of steaks. The lower the grade, the leaner and tougher the beef. Prime is the top grade. As far as consumers are concerned, there are really only two grades: choice and select. Choice is the higher grade of these two.
- Enhanced? Natural? Organic? Know the difference. “Enhanced” beef means meat that has been injected with additives (such as flavoring, tenderizer or a salt solution to increase moisture). “Natural” beef means it’s been minimally processed without additives, colors or preservatives. Certified organic beef must meet the USDA’s 2002 national organic program standards, meaning cattle must be fed entirely with organic feed, must not be given growth hormones or antibiotics and must have access to pasture.
- Want a perfectly cooked steak? Buy a thermometer. There’s nothing better than an instant-read thermometer for making sure that steak is perfectly cooked. It does away with all the guesswork about timing.
- And the award for Best Steak goes to . . . the rib-eye steak.
Ask a butcher what his favorite cut of steak is, and the boneless rib-eye gets the nod. In terms of juicy flavor and tenderness, the rib-eye has it all, says Bill Fuchs of Wagshal’s. “It’s not quite as tender as the loin, but it has a richer flavor. It’s my favorite,” Fuchs says. Adds Irion: “When they grade the beef carcass, it’s the rib-eye they look at to determine the quality of the meat. You won’t go wrong choosing a rib-eye