Want to learn how to cook the perfect steak? Well before you can cook steak, you gotta know your beef. Here’s a quick primer to teach you everything you want to know about your favorite meat.
The outside appearance of a piece of meat is crucial to a great tasting steak. The best steaks will have a bright red color with thin streaks of white fat which are evenly distributed throughout the meat. This is what’s known as marbling. The more marbling the meat has, the less tender but more flavorful the meat is.
The cuts of steak can be divided into three sections, The rib, short loin, and the sirloin. The rib section is made up of the roast, rib-eye steak, and back rib cuts. These cuts are the least tender. In the short loin we get the tenderloin t-bone, porterhouse and top loin steak cuts. Lastly, the sirloin produces the top sirloin and sirloin steak cuts. Normally, the most tender cut is the tenderloin. This is where your delicious filet mignon comes from. The most flavorful cuts are the rib-eye or rib steak cuts.
How Beef is Aged
Beef is made up of fibrous connective tissue which holds the muscle together. When you age the your beef, you allow its natural enzymes to break down this tissue which helps it self-tenderize. There are two different methods of aging.
Dry Aging Beef
Dry aging neef is an expensive and time consuming process. The meat is stored in a temperture and humidity controlled cooler for up to six weeks. The temperature must be between 34-36 degrees with 75% humidity. Dry aging requires very good ventilization which causes moisture to evaporate from the beef and improves the meat’s texture and flavor. During the dry aging process, the meat will lose up to 20% of its weight.
In this method, the beef is stored in a vaccuum sealed plastic container and is tenderized using its own juices. With wet aging, there is no evaporation and thus no moisture is lost.
Grades of Meat
Only the top three grades of meat are sold in the United States. Grades are based on many factors, but the primary one is the amount of marbling. The more marbling, the higher the grade. Prime is the best grade of meat and makes up about 2% of the beef produced in the US. You usually find it at the high scale butcher shops and fine restaurants. It has the most tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. Most meat you find in the local butcher shop is rated Choice. While they might have less marbling than Prime, the quality of Choice is still quite good, plus it is more affordable. Select is the last grade and it is primarily found in your local supermarket.