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How to compare different cuts of beef

March 2, 2009 7:02:28 AM PST
Along with all the various cuts of meat, there are three grades when choosing beef: Choice, prime and select. Choice has the highest amount of fat and is usually served in restaurants. Prime and select are found at the grocery store, and select is the leanest and often most economical, perfect for our budget-conscious life.

"They have less fat in them, so that's why they're a little bit budget-friendly, that's why they're cheaper. They don't have a lot of marbling going on, and the marbling is what tenderizes the meat while it's cooking," said Cooking Light chef Billy Strynkowski.

Strynkowski says bottom round, hanger steak, tri-tip and flat iron are terrific when handled properly.

"You like to marinate these cuts of meat, you like to give them a good sear, put them on a grill or a pan, and make sure you slice them a little thinner than usual, but the flavor is still going to be outstanding," Strynkowski said.

And like the shoulder steak, it is important to marinate and to fork the meat with fever to break down the muscle fibers to tenderize, but again there's rules.

"We never like to marinate with oil because oil kind of sears, seals in the flavors. We don't like oil. And then when you put it on the grill, there's flare up," Strynkowski said.

Use acidic juice or vinegar with spices to breakdown the tough stuff, but use those sparingly.

"Acid always tenderizes. The only thing you have to make sure is that acid cooks too, so just a little drop of balsamic vinegar or a squeeze of orange juice or lime juice will go a long way. You don't want a puddle in the marinade," Strynkowski said.

Almost half the beef we eat comes from burger, but buying it can be confusing. How can something that says its 85 percent to 90 percent lean be almost 50 percent fat? Strynkowski says the percentage of fat is the percentage of fat inside the meat.

The percentage of fat inside the meat is measured by the total weight of the meat, so per serving, you could be getting a lot more than the 7, 10 or 15 percent advertised.

Choose the lowest fat percentage possible for chili and meat sauces, and be sure to drain well after cooking.

Keep a lower fat burger moist by adding chopped mushrooms or black beans for less fat and more flavor.


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