Unless you’re fortunate enough to have your own butcher deliver to your door like us here at The Stone Grill, you need to know how to spot quality meat when you see it. Quality steak is paramount is you’re going to enjoy your own steak on a stone or eat the steak the normal way.
Without good ingredients, it’s much more difficult to create a good dish!
With that in mind, we talked to our chef about what he looks for when he is selecting ingredients. Steak isn’t going to be very impressive unless the meat looks the part!
1. Whole meat butcher
We always look for butchers who work with whole animals. While that may sound a little daft, it means they know where the meat comes from, what it was fed on and how it was reared. That all makes a difference to the taste. Plus, these butchers know their business and are more than happy to offer advice, suggest new cuts, new recipes or otherwise help you make good decisions.
2. Red meat
While it may sound obvious, you should only ever buy steak that is deep red. Pink meat is usually from very young beef and grey or brown colouring means it could have been on display for too long. For the very best results, choose rich red meat with the right amount of marbling for the cut and that looks moist and tender.
Just be aware that grass fed beef can be a darker red than corn fed. As long as the colour looks good, it should be okay.
3. Counter not packaged
When we are buying steak at home, we always buy from the counter rather than going for the pre-packaged stuff. While there is nothing inherently wrong with packages, you only get to see one side of the meat. Buying from the counter opens up the assistant’s expertise, offers the change to see the other side of the meat, to smell it and inspect it before you buy.
Steak is an expensive meat, so why would you not make sure you’re getting the best value for money?
4. Marbling matters
Marbling is made from thin layers of fat that permeate the meat. These render under cooking to give a lovely rich flavour. Depending on the cut you’re going for, marbling is an important part of buying your steak. The best marbling will be thin layers of fat among rich red meat that just looks good. If the marbling is off white and is amongst rich red meat, you should be on safe ground.
Of course, not all cuts include marbling, so use colour, smell and texture to help make your decision.
5. Names don’t matter
Marketing is everywhere and most of it is meaningless. Food producers come up with all sorts of fancy names to give you the impression of quality and the reassurance you need to buy that product, Most of the time it means nothing. Labels such as “Butchers Select” or “Top Choice” or “Prime Cut” mean nothing. They are just names.
When buying steak there is no name that beats all. It’s down to how the beef was raised, what it was fed on, how it was aged and how it looks. Don’t be taken in by marketing. Work with a butcher you trust and take their advice. It will be repaid in taste!