Grade, cut, color and texture are all factors when picking out a steak.
To prepare a scrumptious steak, it's important to know what makes for the tastiest meat.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture helps consumers by grading the quality of beef. Steaks are either choice, select or prime, the highest rating.
Grading is based on marbling, or how fatty the meat is. Fattier steak is generally more flavorful and tender, said Paul Lombardio, meat clerk at Previte's Meats & Provisions in Weymouth, Mass.
Marbling isn't everything, though.
“As far as I'm concerned, it's not so much the grade as it is the color and texture, though marbleization does play a factor,” said Greg Hay, general manager of the Hilltop Butcher Shop in Weymouth.
Steak shoppers should look for a pink hue as opposed to a dark red, he said, and the meat should be firm to the touch.
Different cuts of steak come from different parts of the animal. Rib eye, porterhouse, T-bone, tenderloin and sirloin come from the back; round steak comes from the leg; and skirt and flank come from the underbelly.
“For flavor, no question: The rib eye is best,” Lombardio said. Hay added tenderloin and boneless sirloin strip steak to the list of tastiest and most tender cuts.
Flank or round steaks, which come from a leaner section of the animal, tend to be tougher, Lombardio said.
Other than the type of cut, the way you prepare a steak can determine how tender or tough the meat is, Hay said. The longer you cook the steak, the tougher it will become.
“I would never, ever cook a tenderloin well done,” he said.
To let the meat's flavors emerge, Hay recommends seasoning your steak with just salt and pepper.
A steak's flavor can depend on what the cow was fed.
“No question, corn adds to the flavor and texture of the meat and makes for a better steak,” Lombardio said.
Steaks from grass-fed cows have a tendency to be chewy.
Animal breed also plays a factor in flavor, Lombardio said.
“Certified black Angus - that's the cream of the crop right there,'' he said.
Ashlee Fairey may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.