Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wonder Killer, First Edition, Side of Beef

I cannot take credit for the “Wonder Killer” name [the link wasn’t working when I linked it – I think her archives are screwy, so um…maybe it will work one day]. It came from pamie. Pamie is an author from Katy. I’ve read 1 ½ of her books. She is currently striking, but was a writer for Samantha Who?

That aside, you should know the gist of wonder killing. People cannot wonder around me. At least not outloud. If you ask a question, you should expect an answer. I just can’t fathom the idea that you might want to sit around and enjoy the mystique surrounding something that it so easily answered. I generally will not rest until you have your answer. So I am a killer of wonder. Go ahead, wonder something. I will kill it.


So, were you wondering about buying a side of beef?

Me too! My carcass of beef buying:

1. Lets start with the grade.

Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter, and Canner are all grades of beef.

Prime is generally what restaurants serve, although it is available in some grocery stores, it’s not available in all of them and they will only have a limited supply. They will also take your first born child in exchange for any steak you buy that is in this grade. It has the most fat-marbling, and therefore the most taste. (I’m talking about steaks here, not ground beef.) This is meat that can be eaten with salt and pepper and that’s it. It’s that good and that tender. I haven’t found a butcher who sells it retail yet.

Choice and select are what most grocery store butchers have in their cases what you have to ask for them to cut for you. They may have a few piece pre cut and wrapped, but not many. Choice is a step down from prime in the fat marbling and select is a step down from that. Select tends to be very lean and as such are pretty tough pieces of meats. Most people prefer this because they are concerned with the fat content, but a person who is after taste, will want something with a little more fat in it, like choice or prime. Choice cuts of meat can do the salt and pepper thing too, but the price will not be your first born, but your second born. Select cuts may require some marinade to help break down the tissue in order to have the tenderness that a good steak should have, they might actually just want money for these.

Standard and commercial are going to be the meats that are out on the aisle in the grocery store, they are often sold as “ungraded” or “brand name.” These steaks are often very lean and almost absolutely require marinade. Don’t be skimpy.

Utility, cutter and canner are seldom sold directly to the public and are most often what is used for hot dogs and bologna. And dog food.

So your grade decision is based one several things. 1) What your butcher carries. 2) How you feel about taste vs. nutritional fat content.

2. Grassfed vs.Grainfed.

Most meat you buy at the grocery store is grainfed, unless it says otherwise.

Grassfed beef has some health benefits. It’s lower in saturated fats, it’s higher in beta carotene, and it contains Omega 3 fatty acids (yes, the fish ones). Sources say it also has a slightly gamier taste to it, (mmm…tastes like Monopoly!) it cooks faster because it is lower in fat, and it’s very easy to over cook it because of that. People who like it swear by it and say all kinds of nasty things about hormones and antibiotics and feedlots about the grainfed beef.

Grainfed beef has the flavor we have all come to know (and love). Depending on where you buy, “grainfed” cows may be pastured up until a few weeks before slaughter, they are then taken in and penned up and fed only grain, to fatten them up for slaughter (up those carbs, to up the fats)– sometimes these are called grain finished, that’s not to say that ALL grainfed cattle are treated this way – some are for sure treated far worse, and I’m sure some are treated better. Grainfed beef is juicer and more tender because it is higher in fat.

So the decision on grainfed vs. grassfed is going to be how you feel about fat, and how the cow was treated.

This was not all we learned. Different names of cuts of meat, what they’re good for, I didn’t veer much into the organic stuff, but that’s another hot button topic. Clearly I do not have the space to go into organic methodology or cuts of meat in this segment. Do you need a “Know your cuts of meat” primer?

I will tell you this, despite some of my hippie ways, we landed on Grainfed, Choice.

More info here: Ask the Meat Man
And here: USDA

Got any wonders you want killed? Email me or leave me a comment.


The Modernish Father said...

Maybe you should abandon The Plan and just become a meatologist. Or a personal beef shopper. I think that might be a viable career option here in Texas.

Your recent posts have left me very hungry and very sad that The Wife doesn't eat red meat.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't this guy know by now that you research EVERYTHING you do, 'til there's nothing else to know but what researchers are trying to find out?

I'm jealous that you're so together. Way to go!

Luv ya!


Kristine said...

Oh, he's well aware of my research-i-ness.