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Buying Beef at the Grocery Store

This article was written collaboratively by Keith Underwood and Stacy Scramlin.

Selecting the proper cut of beef for the type of dinner you want can be a challenge.  Many retail stores carry over 20 different beef cuts in the fresh meat retail case. The tremendous number of choices available to beef consumers offers a cut for any meal, but can also leave the most confident consumer puzzled as to the proper cut that should be purchased in order to make a great steak, fajitas, or old fashioned pot roast.  Below is a guide to help you select the ideal beef cut for your occasion.

  • Steaks – Beef steaks offer a tender, flavorful eating experience for the consumer and are easy to prepare. The best steaks are typically from the rib and loin of the beef carcass. The most common beef steaks are the ribeye, New York strip, Kansas City strip, sirloin, top sirloin, tenderloin, and flat iron or top blade steak. There are some other steaks that are good but are relatively new which include the Delmonico steak, Denver Cut, and the tip steak. Another great option, if your retailer carries it, is the tri-tip. This can be cooked whole as a roast or sliced against the grain to make steaks. The suggested preparation method for steaks is high temperature (350-600°F) cooking such as grilling, broiling, pan frying. However, avoid these cookery methods with round steaks, chuck steaks, and eye of round steaks because it will result in a tough, dry steak.
  • Roasts - Many great cuts from the round and chuck offer a more economical option than steaks. You will commonly find chuck roasts, arm roasts, blade roasts, ribs, bottom round roast, top round roast, eye of round roasts and briskets at grocery stores. Low temperature cooking with moist heat such as pot roasting, braising, stewing and barbequing is recommended for these cuts.
  • Fajitas - Skirt steak, flank steak, and hanger steaks can be used fajitas or thinly sliced beef strips. These cuts are best when marinated and cooked at high temperatures (350-600°F) and then sliced thin against the grain of the steak.
  • Kabobs – A common cut used for kabobs would be the sirloin. Pieces from the chuck or round may be used as well; however they usually need to be marinated to improve tenderness. These are typically grilled on skewers with your favorite vegetables.

If you are struggling with this decision please don’t be afraid to ask the person behind the meat counter as they work with these products every day and have knowledge of the beef they sell.

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