The selection process is crucial. It begins with fresh sides of beef that usually come from the Midwest. Only those cattle graded PRIME by the United States Agriculture Department are even considered. It is then important to examine the color, fat conformation and bones.
The color must be pink with an even conformation of fat dispersed throughout. This is referred to as marbling. If selected, the loin is brought back to the store where the dry aging process begins.
The prime beef is kept in a temperature controlled cooler where air circulates around them. After the meat is properly aged, it is brought up and butchered for you.
Dry-aging is a process by which meat is tenderized. The meat will be hung in a cold locker with a temperature of 32 to 38 degrees for three to six weeks, which breaks down the fibers and makes the meat tender.
The presence of grains of fat in a cut is called marbling. In prime cuts, the marbling will be fine and will generally travel in one direction. Big pieces of marbling don't tenderize the meat as well.
Quality meats carry a GRADE. This is the level of quality of the meat you buy as determined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Although there are several grades, only three are commonly used.
Lower-quality meats are usually sold without a USDA stamp, and often carry meaningless names like "market choice". If meat doesn't carry a USDA Grade don´t waste your money on it. The most common grades are:
The highest and best-tasting grade of meat. Prime is characterized by even marbling and a layer of creamy fat. It makes up only about one-and-a-half percent of meat coming out of the wholesale markets.
This is the medium grade choice and is what you'll usually find in the supermarket. Since there s a wide range of quality within this category, look for the primary clue to quality marbling.
This is what you find in many canned products.
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The staff of John’s Meat Market is always available to help with your selection, but it can't hurt for you to brush up on some of the terminology. Don't worry though, there isn't a test at the end!
Regardless if it is beef or lamb, all animals have the same basic arrangement. The parts you get from the forequarter - the front legs, neck and breast - tend to be less tender and are best used for braising and stewing.
The hindquarter sections - the back legs, loin and ribs - are more tender and great for grilling, roasting, and soups. This is where your filet, sirloin and round are found.
Some common cuts of meat are:
These cuts come from the rib or loin section. You will most often hear this term when refering to lamb, pork and veal.
Derived from the neck and shoulder blade areas, this is best for slow-cooking and chopped meat.
The rib bones of a lamb or pork loin tied into a circle.
This huge cut includes portions of the tenderloin and top loin and contains the T-bone. Tenderloin and NY Strip Steaks.
Oyster cut London Broil pictured. This meaty cut comes from the hind section connected to the tender sirloin. .
The shank comes from the leg of a cow, pig or lamb. This is the cut used for osso buco.
The area located in the center of the back between the ribs and the sirloin has two main sections: the tenderloin and the NY Strip. Very Tender!
A tender cut of meat located near the rear section of the back, behind the short loin. This is usually made into steaks or roasts.
Though skirt, which comes from the diaphragm has a lot of flavor, best when marinated.
Also called a New York steak, New York strip steak or shell steak. The strip is a part of the top loin. A boneless steak.
Filet mignon comes from the tenderloin which is the top of the loin in beef. It is the Most Tender cut.
This front part of the short loin yields the tastiest Roast - Can be cut into Rib Eye Steaks and Cowboy Steaks.