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How to Purchase the Best Steak: Answering The Two Most Frequently Asked Questions

When you come into Mineola Packing to purchase steaks, we’re going to ask you two questions, without a doubt:

  1. What grade of steak are you looking to buy: choice or select?

  2. How thick do you want your steaks cut?

Honestly, ordering custom cut steaks can be a little intimidating. So for many of our customers, these questions lead to some buying-induced panic. We want to help make all of our customers better consumers, and that starts with understanding what the question is and how the answer may impact your eating experience. The tips and information below will hopefully help you select the best steak, whether you’re buying in a grocery store or from your hometown meat market.

Let’s start with number 1: what grade of steak are you looking to buy?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) assigns beef quality grades to beef carcasses. The carcasses are judged on perceived tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. The USDA uses indicators, such as the age of the animal and marbling, to determine how each carcass will be graded. The grades are Prime, Choice, and Select. Prime beef is usually reserved for hotels and fine-dining establishments, so you'll typically be choosing between Choice and Select steaks.

Choice beef is typically better for fast and hot cooking, like grilling. By nature, choice beef will also have more fat. When we start cutting steaks, we usually have to take the fat in order to achieve the rich, juicy, tender flavor that we want. Most folks don’t mind it, but it is important to know what to expect. Choice steaks also tend to be more expensive, so select steaks can be a really good value. Select steaks will also provide a really good eating experience, but the steaks may not be quite as tender as choice beef. Let’s be clear though- it is possible to have a really good select steak or a really bad choice steak.

Now to question 2: how thick do you want your steaks cut?

When we talk about steak thickness, we’re really talking about how we like our steaks cooked. If you prefer your steak medium-doneness or above, cutting a thinner steak will allow you to achieve your desired doneness, without overcooking any part of the steak. If you prefer your steak less than medium, a thicker-cut steak will allow you to keep the center of the steak from becoming too done. We consider standard cut steaks to be one inch, and we recommend keeping your adjustments between ¾ of an inch to 2 inches.

For the record, our family prefers one inch choice rib eyes seasoned with a little salt, pepper, and garlic.

We hope this information will help clear up some of the confusion at the meat counter! As always, if you have any questions, please reach out to us! Thanks for reading!

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