Choosing Beef and Grades of Beef: Prime, Choice, Select
If the USDA beef grade shields and the difference between "Prime"
and "Choice" are a mystery to you; we can help with some simple
explanations and photos.
For quality, the USDA grades beef for tenderness, juiciness and
graded beef is an abundantly marbled to
moderately abdundantly marbled (the amount of fat interspersed with lean
meat) beef, produced from young, well-fed beef cattle. The
marbling makes the beef very tender and juicy. It is usually sold
to restaurants and hotels, but Costco and some grocery stores
also carry it.. While it is more expensive than other grades, Prime
beef roasts and steaks are excellent for dry-heat cooking such as
broiling, roasting or grilling.
graded beef is also high
quality, but has less marbling than Prime beef; typically
"moderate" marbling. Choice neef roasts and
steaks from the loin and rib will also be very tender, juicy, and
flavorful. These are sold at most grocery stores. These cuts can also be cooked with dry heat
, braised, roasted or even simmered.
graded beef is less marbled and leaner than
Choice or Prime grades, more like "slight" marbling. , but does
not have the juiciness and flavor. It is best to marinate them before cooking;
or alternatively braising to improve tenderness and flavor.
Flank steaks and London broils are typical of this.
- Below these grades are also Standard and
Commercial grades of beef. These are usually sold as ungraded
(meaning there is no grade shield on them) or as
store brand meat.
- Utility, Cutter, and Canner grades of beef
are even lower, but are seldom seen by the public, as they are
used to make
ground beef and processed products.
So which grade should I buy?
Keep in mind that the grading scale is a spectrum and it is
subjective. So you can find some cuts of steaks labeled as
"Choice" that have as much marbling as some "Prime" cuts. In other
words, if you look through the steaks in the store, you will find
some Choice steaks that are as good as the Prime steaks.
When shopping for beef and steaks look for finely dispersed
marbling and color. The best cuts of beef will have
“cherry red” color,
Marbling: more dispersed marbling and fine texture.
Darker color? That generally means it came from older-age cattle
and also has a more coarse texture.
Just like beef, there are five grades for Veal: prime, choice,
good, standard, and utility.The standards are the same, except that
due to the young age of the animals, the veal will look a light
grayish-pink to light pink, rather than a bright red. It should be
fairly firm, and velvety in texture. Chops can be cooked by
roasting, grilling or broiling.
Click here if you would like to see a
22 minute long
educational video about
the beef grading process . The video covers the entire
process from farm to table and dwells on the grading process..