According to statistics from the US Food and Agricultural Organization, beef is the third most popular meat in the world. It’s no wonder—it is an ever-present protein across meals that people eat daily. However, beef is also high in saturated fat and can raise your cholesterol levels and chances of heart disease.
If you are watching your weight or are at risk of high cholesterol levels, here are five essential tips to buying the right sort of meat the next time you go grocery shopping.
#1. The Butcher
Always look for butchers who care about the quality and size of their products. With butchers like this, you will find that cuts from the same part of the animal are about the same size and thickness.
Well-butchered meat also guarantees that it will be clean and fresh when you purchase it. Some local butchers offer grass-fed beef delivery services, so once you find a trustworthy seller, you may not even have to leave the house.
#2. The Cut
The part of the animal defines the cut. The best part of the animal is its back—the loin, rump, and ribs. These parts are a lot softer and easier to chew. The front parts—the shoulder, flank, and legs—have much tougher meat. However, these front parts are usually smaller in quantity, making them a bit harder to get and some of the most expensive portions on the butchers’ shelves.
As expected, the higher-end cuts are also easier to cook and make some of the tastiest steaks and grills.
#3. The Appearance
When selecting your cuts, you should also be looking out for bruises, dirt, discolorations, and any broken bones. The meat should be completely free from any of these signs, which, if present, could be signs of poorly stored meat. If you are buying beef with the skin, also look out for tears or any exposed flesh. Beef’s natural color is bright red, and you should not accept anything less.
Once the meat has been on the shelves for longer than usual, it starts to look brown, greenish, or grey. You should avoid meat that looks this way. It is not fresh. The meat should also look fleshy and not too dry nor too wet. Most importantly, the beef should look and feel tender and juicy.
#4. The Smell
Fresh meat has a slightly acidic smell. If the meat smells unhealthy or any other way, please avoid it altogether. It would be best if you smelled your choice of meat before you head to the counter. The smell is the easiest thing to notice. It should hit you once you walk into the butchers’ store.
Fresh meat is neither too tight nor too soft. It just has the right balance of stiffness. You can test it out yourself by poking it gingerly with your fingers. When pressed, it should slowly start to come back to its original shape after a few seconds.
If your meat doesn’t return to its original shape or it feels too hard when poked, then it might be already going stale.
The Bottom Line
These five tips are essential to picking the best and healthiest cuts anytime you go meat shopping. Following through with each of them means that your supply of meat is always fresh, allowing for more flavorful steaks and meals.
Lastly, once you purchase your beef, ensure you get home as soon as possible to refrigerate or freeze the meat. This precautionary measure ensures you retain it’s freshness and tenderness as much as possible. The longer it stays outside, you run the risk of getting stale meat.