Make it Count: Choosing a piece of meat

A butcher walking around a curtain of meat in a Guatemalan butcher shop next to an open-air street market.

Meat is a great source of protein, if you aren't afraid to use your canine teeth… (Photo: Flickr)

Shopping for nutritious meals takes careful attention these days, and if choosing a good piece of meat is part of your grocery store ritual, it pays to know what to look for. Considering that meat can be a relatively expensive way to introduce necessary protein into your diet, you’ll want to make sure that you are choosing wisely. It helps to have a good butcher who knows how to serve customers the best cut of meat available, but lacking that, here is a trio of tips straight from The Kitchn that should help you when you are choosing a choice piece of meat.

Choosing a piece of meat means understanding quality

Choosing a piece of meat straight out of the case can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. While some varieties will send you diving for basic credit check loans, that isn’t always the case. Simple yet wise techniques that have stood the test of time are as follows:

  1. Spotting a good cut – This is a tell-tale sign of just how good butchers are and how much pride they place in their work. If the cuts of meat on display vary greatly in size and thickness, that’s a bad sign. Furthermore, the cut lines should be smooth, rather than jagged and uneven. If the meat looks like it has been ripped away from the carcass by a hungry lion, you aren’t getting the best meat craftsmanship for your dollar.
  2. How eye-catching is it? – Depending upon what kind of meat you’re looking to buy, the color will of course vary. But if you’re looking for fresh, juicy meat, look to the color. It should stand out in vibrant tones and be uniform. Discoloration can mean that the meat has been mishandled or is close to spoiling (a BIG waste of your shopping dollar).
  3. Reading the grain – If you’ve ever seen a closeup of muscle fiber (remembering those high school biology and physiology textbooks), you know that it’s grainy. A fresh piece of meat should have a grain that appears to be relatively tight and uniform. If it seems loose or less than uniform, the problem could be a bad butcher who miscut the meat. It could also simply be less than prime quality meat to begin with.

A few words on fat

Prime cuts tend to have high fat content, although a “choice” prime cut will have less. Chuck from the ribs and shoulder are the fattiest, whereas round and loin cuts are the leanest. Fattier cuts of beef like rib eye are generally less expensive and more tender, but they are also less healthy. If you’re looking for a healthier red-meat substitute for beef, buffalo and ostrich are tasty, if more expensive. Fish and chicken are certainly options to consider if you still want to garner protein from meat. Those meats tend to be much less fatty than beef.


The Kitchen

Harvard School of Public Health

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