You want to buy the best beef for you and your family but sometimes the meat case can be confusing! Appearance, grade, selecting the right cut for the right cooking method and how much to buy are all important factors. Here are a few tips that make selecting the best beef easy.
- Select beef with a bright, cherry-red color. The exception is vacuum-packaged beef. Beef that is vacuum-packaged appears a dark, purplish-color because all the air has been removed from the package. When the package is opened and the product is exposed to air, the beef will turn a bright red color. This also explains why the center of raw ground beef is sometimes darker than the outside. The outside is exposed to air while the inside is starved for it.
- Look for beef that is firm to the touch, not soft.
- Make sure the package is cold and has no tears.
- Choose packages without excessive liquid.
- For highest quality, purchase beef before the sell-by date.
Grading is an indication of tenderness, juiciness and flavor. It is based on the amount of marbling (flecks of fat in the lean) and the age of the animal. The higher the grade, the more tender, juicy and flavorful the cut should be.
There are eight quality grades for beef, although only the top three are usually identified and sold at retail: Prime, Choice and Select.
Prime - The highest grade in the U.S. meat grading system. Prime has the most marbling and is produced in limited quantities. Prime beef is most commonly sold in fine restaurants, specialty meat markets and is exported to upscale restaurants in foreign countries.
Choice - Choice has less marbling than Prime but more than Select. It is typically found in the service meat case at your local grocery store.
Select - Select has the least amount of marbling of the top three grades, making it leaner but possibly less tender, juicy or flavorful than Prime or Choice. Select is most commonly found in the self-service meat case at your local grocery store.
Quality Grades are excellent keys in determining the eating satisfaction of middle meats - T-bones, ribeyes, tenderloin. The higher the grade, the higher the chance that the steak will be perfect. When it comes to end meats - the chuck and the round cuts - quality grade is not as meaningful. In other words, purchasing a Select brisket generally will provide as much eating satisfaction as a Choice brisket if both are cooked the right way. That's because proper cooking methods can equalize these end meats regardless of quality grade. This tip means you can buy Select roasts, briskets, and round steaks and get great eating satisfaction at lower costs simply by knowing how to prepare them properly.
Cuts of Beef
There are more than sixty different beef cuts in the meat case today. In fact, many of these cuts have several different names which can make the meat case very confusing. For example, did you know that a Kansas City Steak is also known as a New York Strip or a Top Loin Steak? To ease any confusion, this area of our website provides information on several beef cuts. Click an area below to view photos, common names, cooking recommendations, recipe links and more for cuts from each area. You can also use the search field below to search for information on a particular cut.
According to the USDA Food Guide Pyramid, a serving size of beef is three ounces, cooked and trimmed. This equates to a deck of cards. When determining the amount of beef to purchase for a meal, you can estimate the amount needed based upon this serving size suggestion. The following chart estimates servings per pound, based on a three-ounce portion.
How Much to Buy
|Beef Cut||Servings/Pound |
(3 ounces cooked trimmed)
|Steaks||Chuck Top Blade||3|
|Steaks||Rib, Ribeye||2½, 3|
|Steaks||Tenderloin, Top Loin, boneless||3½, 4|
|Steaks||Top Sirloin, boneless||3½, 4|
|Steaks||Top Round, Round Tip||3½, 4|
|Roasts||Ribeye||3 to 3½|
|Roasts||Eye Round, Round Tip, Tri-Tip||3½ to 4|
|Pot Roasts||Arm, Blade, Shoulder, boneless||2½ to 3|
|Pot Roasts||Brisket||2½ to 3|
|Other||Beef for Stew||2½ to 3|
|Other||Short Ribs||1½ to 2½|
For example, 1 pound of flank steak will yield 4, 3-ounce cooked portions.