7 Most Important Things to Look for When Buying Meat

cow beef

Do you find yourself buying pre-packaged meat at the grocery because you wouldn't know the first thing about buying meat straight from the deli? Don't be a stranger to your local deli! Here are the seven most important things to look for when buying meat.

Right cut: Let's start with the basics. There are two general types of cuts of meat: working cuts and luxury cuts. A luxury cut of beef or pork will come from the back of the animal (i.e., rump, rib, loin) and is more tender than a working cut. A working cut will come from an animal's shoulder, leg or flank. Any beef labeled "marinating," "stewing," "top round," "bottom round" or "top sirloin" will be a working cut. Working cuts need to be cooked slowly on low heat, while luxury cuts can be cooked quickly on high heat. Any beef or pork labeled "grilling," "tenderloin," "porterhouse," "rib eye" or "T-bone" will be a luxury cut. (via AskMen)

Bone in or out? Bones can be tricky because they are great heat conductors, but it's such a pain to trim meat off the bones. Of course, you can buy boneless meat, but it will generally be more expensive than meat with the bone in. Not only are bones great heat conductors (which results in shorter cooking time), but they also help make great soup stock. Some even claim that cooking meat with bones gives the meat a more intense flavor. (via AskMen)

Service: Service, or the butcher's term for how much work went into preparing the meat, is an important factor in the meat-buying process. The more service the butcher puts into a piece of meat, the more expensive it will be by the pound. So you will usually want to look for meats with less servicing, unless you need a lot of service done beforehand. (via AskMen)

Photo Credit: Qatar Loving
(Photo: Qatar Loving)

Marbling: Fats get a bad rap when it comes to meat. Of course, you don't want extremely fatty meat, but you do want to look for a well-marbled meat. A good piece of well-marbled meat will have small white flecks dispersed throughout, which means the meat will stay moist, juicy and tender while you're cooking it. Extremely lean cuts of meat will dry out quickly while cooking and have less flavor. (via AskMen)

Firmness: You do not want your meats to be soft. The firmer, the better. Fresh meat should be firm, not tough or soft. A good, literal rule of thumb for fresh meat is to poke the fleshy part of your palm right below your thumb. That is how fresh meat should feel. A slightly obvious tip is to smell it. If it smells bad, don't buy it! (via AskMen)

Color: Different kinds of meats will obviously be different colors. Fresh beef will be a dark red or cherry red. You'll want to avoid brown colored beef, which is a pretty good indicator that it's been sitting there for a while. Fresh cuts of chicken and pork will be pink. You'll want to avoid gray chicken and pork for the same reason you'll want to avoid brown beef. (via AskMen)

Grade: The USDA offers eight grades of meat: prime, choice, select, standard, commercial, utility, cutter and canner. You will most likely be buying choice or select, while restaurants and hotels use prime. Most utility, cutter and canner grades are used in ground beef and hot dogs. (via AskMen)

As always, stick to smaller portion sizes when cooking. A portion should be about the size of your palm and the width of a deck of cards. Fresh veggies are always a good side dish when it comes to meat. Try one of our favorite recipes, Skinny Pineapple Teriyaki Pork Chops with some asparagus on the side!

>>Read more: Quick Cooking Tips: Meats