How to Choose Supermarket Steaks
Can you actually taste a mouthful of succulent steak every time you pass by the meat section of your local supermarket? If you answered “Yes” to that, you may very well take the prize for being an ardent steak lover, except that your love for steak cannot be complete unless you are aware of what to look for in the packaged steaks available in the supermarket.
Steaks from the supermarket vs. the butcher
While true meat connoisseurs usually scoff at the idea of buying supermarket steaks instead of getting them from the butcher’s shop, let’s face it – it is not always possible to do your meat shopping from the butcher’s shop. To begin with, butchers are becoming a somewhat extinct species nowadays. Even if you do manage to locate one close to where you live, it means an extra trip, which is not such an enterprising idea especially if you are pressed for time. Consider how much time it would save you to do all your groceries from the supermarket in one go.
Tips to buy supermarket steaks
Most of the bad reputation that supermarket steaks have earned is because of the lack of a standardised meat quality. You may have noticed that even though you buy steaks from the same cut of beef, pork or lamb, their appearance and post-cooking results are not always the same. With these tips, however, you will be able to pick out quality steaks, each and every time:
Check the fat content
And by that, we mean check that there is a good amount of fat surrounding and interspersed within the steak portion you are buying. Although this might be completely against your doctor’s advice or any crash diets you may be following, the fact remains that fat does make a steak much juicier. The fat on the outer edge of the steak not only ensures succulence, but also helps it retain the shape while it is being broiled. You can get rid of the excess fat before serving.
Marbling, on the other hand, not only lends moisture to the steak, but is also a primary component to the deeply rich flavour it acquires after cooking.
Give the colour a closer look
Colour is considered to be a distinguishing factor between grass-fed and grain-fed meat. Grass-fed meat typically has a deeper red colour than its grain-fed counterpart. The best way to observe the difference in colour is to place a pack of grain-fed steak besides a pack of grass-fed steak.
Apart from the meat’s colour, you will also notice a marked difference in the way the fat content on both portions appears to be. Grass-fed beef, for instance, has a yellowish hue in its marbling, while grain-fed beef comprises intramuscular fat that is usually white or creamy-white in colour. Make sure that there are no brownish spots on the fat lining within and outside of the steak.
Colour is also a marker for the freshness of the meat. Fresh meat is a lighter shade of red right after it is cut. Once exposed to air, however, the meat acquires a darker red colour due to the way the myoglobin in meat reacts with the atmospheric oxygen. This is why meat that has been in cold storage for long develops a darker shade of red.
Another thing that the meat’s colour can tell you is the age of the animal from which it has been taken. Darker meat indicates that the steaks come from an older animal, increasing the likelihood that it will be tough to cook. Brighter coloured steaks, on the contrary, are a sign that the meat has been extracted from a younger animal.
Be wary about the steaks’ thickness
When buying steaks, a general rule of thumb is to choose ones that have a thickness of at least one inch. Since they are grilled at high temperatures, a thinner steak cut is likely to become overcooked and turn chewy after cooking. The fact that supermarket steaks are pre-packaged means that you have to be especially observant of the thickness of each meat slice. You will also want to ensure that the steaks you are buying are all evenly thick. Uneven thickness of steaks can lead to unequal cooking, which can result in partially overcooked or undercooked steaks.
Pick steaks as the last item on your grocery list
At a temperature below 5⁰C (40⁰F), the bacteria in meat can start multiplying at a greater speed. While the meat section at the supermarket is refrigerated to prevent bacterial growth, the rest of the supermarket is at room temperature. For this reason, it is best to pick your meat items at the end of your trip to the supermarket. Additionally, make sure that you refrigerate or freeze the meat as soon as you reach home.
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