Here are some value information.
The other day we are at a grocery store looking to buy meats to preparing for our healthy meals. We noticed a guy who was extensively looking at different meat cuts and have a hard time comparing prices and quality. Then he approach and asked the question. “Which meat is better to get?”
We had the same question long ago and believe it or not the right information made the whole difference. We wrote extensively in the past about this subject part of the Food Quality and Consumer Protection Agency School and because todays science and technologies allow to make studies with accurate data, we are able to become better cooks and chefs
It is also important to know that the grade of meat( Select also called Commercial , Choice , Prime ) then the type of cut ( shoulder, flank , tenderloin ect) have a direct impact in the way meat should be cooked and it`s final result.
1 “Select” grade meat also called commercial meat is the lowest grade what you can buy and most of it on the market have to do with the age of the animal , the type of feed and the breed. Commercial meat does not require to carry a label and you may not see one. The reason is select meat is because comes from an older animal and does not contain enough meat marble . Best cooking method for this grade because of type is the meat is increased amount of time at low temperature ( 135F to 140F ), lower than that will allow bacteria to grow and not enough heat to break down the connective tissues. Most meat cooked in different methods will end up in a tough texture.. There are several methods that may help to keep the meat soft like marinate or mechanically tender meat will help to break the tissues in the meat,. This grade is in almost every store like Kroger, Albertson, Winco , Trader`s Joe etc.. and is priced lower. Those stores may also carry ” choice” quality meat which we will explain next.
2 “Choice” grade meat . Is a superior quality grade meat that has to do with the type of animal bread, age of the animal and the type of feed. This quality of meat is the most popular meat used along most restaurant who keep their prices affordable, still want to offer some quality to their customers, choice meat can be cooked in different ways and because is a higher quality of meat can be used in different cooking applications with good results. Short cooking like searing, grilling give good final results and meats do not need to be cooked for extensive times at low temperature.You will probably find the name choice on the meat package because the store want you to see it and improve sales at higher margins.
3. Prime quality, is the top of the line considered meat, a superior quality. The term prime is not to be confused with the type of cut prime rib, is the quality that is established in slaughter houses, quality of meat is higher because of the age of the animal, type of feed and the marble grade. This meat is higher in cost as well and mostly reserved for high quality restaurants. With this grade of meat the cooking techniques can vary because the quality of meat allow a multitude of cooking methods to be applied and keep the meat tender. This meat is used most likely for steaks cuts, prime ribs, fillet mignon etc., where short time cooking techniques are required to be applied. final results are superior comparing with commercial or choice grade meats because the marbles in the meat ( distributions of fat in meat) is higher. You will definitely find the quality marked on packages like USDA Prime
Be aware of the type of cuts of meats when you make your choice for the type of meals you wanna prepare. This has to do with the muscle in beef or other animals which may be extensively use and build for resistance like shoulder, butt or leg meat those should be use in ground meat applications, roasts , beef tips, cooking methods that allow extra amount of time at low temperatures like . braising , roasting will be some example.
Tender meats like sirloin, top sirloin, prime rib , tenderloin , loin and other type of meats coming from a short, small muscle that is not extensively used can be used in short cooking applications like searing, grilling with good results.
On a short summary a good cook needs to know the quality of meat is working with plus the type of cut in order to make best decision in cooking.
Understanding the anatomy of the animal carcass will also help in choosing the right cut for the right cooking application because as we explain the tougher meats are the one that comes from muscles that are extensively used.
There are extensive materials if you want to continue studies about this subject. Grades of meats in USA are explain here