Executive Chef Cenobio Canalizo at Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C. is offering tips on the most important questions to ask the butcher.
1. Is it wet aged or dry aged?
Dry-aged beef can be described as having a roasted, nutty flavor, while wet-aged beef can taste slightly metallic and lacks the same depth of flavor but can be more tender. Chef Canalizo says most chefs will agree that dry-aged has the better flavor but is more expensive. When you see the word “aged” followed by a given amount of time, and there is no reference to wet or dry, you can safely assume that it is wet aged beef. Wet aging is leaving the muscle to rest in a plastic bag in a refrigerated room.
2. How long was it aged?
Chef Canalizo prefers 21 days. Longer is not always better. As the meat decays when its being aged it can develop a moldy smell and taste. All beef needs at least 3 weeks to start to tenderize. Naturally raised beef needs more than 6 weeks because the animals are more mature when they are processed. In fact, the reason most supermarket beef is tough is because it is not sufficiently aged.
3. Is it corn fed or grass fed?
What a cow eats can have a major effect on the nutrient composition of the beef. Grass-fed usually contains less total fat than grain-fed beef, which means that gram for gram, grass-fed beef contains fewer calories. According to AuthorityNutrition.com, grass-fed beef may contain slightly less total fat than grain-fed beef, but a lot more Omega-3 fatty acids and CLA, which are both very beneficial for health.
4. How much fat has been cut off?
Chef Canalizo recommends having a quarter inch of fat on top of the steak for flavor. Many people choose cuts with less fat and less of that “marbling” appearance (the intermingling or dispersion of fat within the lean). Chef says the fat adds flavor, helps to tenderize the meat and much of it is “cooked out”.
5. How many ounces is it with the bone?
When purchasing meat for a holiday party or any event, Chef Canalizo recommends 14 ounces (bone included) per guest. Chef recommends requesting cuts closest to the bone. The meat is sweeter and there’s more flavor.
6. What’s the grade/quality of meat?
From best to worst: USDA Prime, USDA Choice and USDA Select.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a quality grade is a composite evaluation of factors that affect palatability of meat (tenderness, juiciness, and flavor). These factors include carcass maturity, firmness, texture, and color of lean, and the amount and distribution of marbling within the lean. Beef is graded in two ways: quality grades for tenderness, juiciness and flavor; and yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass.