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Eat

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Rib Eye Steak

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 | Tags: ,

Many people enjoy steak as a regular part of their diet. To make sure we bought the right cut of meat for a "Cowboy in the Kitchen" steak rub recipe, we learned about various cuts of beef, what to look for when choosing a rib eye steak, and we also did a taste test, of course!

The Basics

  • The location of the cut of beef on the cow’s body determines its flavour and tenderness, and more importantly how it should be cooked.

    • Cuts closer to the legs and head are tougher (and thus good for marinades), while cuts toward the middle are more tender.

    • The tastiest (but not necessarily the most tender) cuts come from the rib or chest section, and include the rib eye and rib steak. They are very well marbled (a good meat to fat ratio) and flavourful because of the rib bones.

    • The most tender (but not necessarily the most tasty) cuts are from the loin section, which is between the chest and the rump. It’s also the most expensive, but not as flavourful or marbled as the rib section. Cuts include tenderloin, filet mignon, strip loin/New York strip, t-bone, and Porterhouse.

  • The grade of the beef is determined by a standards agency in Canada and based on eating quality and palatability.

    • The main grades in Canada are Prime, AAA, AA, and A. The US equivalents are Prime, Choice and Select, respectively.

    • Other grades like B, C, D, and E are not used for consumption other than canning.

    • Grades are assigned according to a variety of criteria, including meat colour, fat colour, muscling, and texture. To earn Grade A or above, meat must be bright red with white (not yellow) fat and firm in texture.

    • The only difference between the A, AA, AAA, and Prime grades in the judging criteria is the degree of marbling: the more marbling, the higher the grade. This means Prime and Grade A beef have the same quality of characteristics, but Prime has more marbling.

  • Marbling is the amount and distribution of fat within the meat muscle. The more marbling, the higher the grade, and the more tender, flavourful, and juicy the beef. Prime, the best grade in Canada and the US, has lots of marbling, and is also the most expensive.

  • When shopping for steaks, consider these tips:

    • Beef is aged to prepare it for consumption, resulting in a more tender cut. Aging basically breaks down the connective tissue using the beef’s natural enzymes. It can be done either wet or dry.

      • Dry aging is less common because it is more costly, takes longer (10-28 days) and decreases the weight, and thus the value of the meat. The weight loss means that dry-aged beef is more expensive, pound for pound, since it contains less water. However, dry-aged beef is renowned for being more tender and flavourful than wet-aged beef.

      • Wet-aged meat is vacuum-sealed and aged for only a few days.

    • Look for bright medium red to dark pink meat. Avoid anything that is grey or brown. If the meat is a dark ruby red or purple, it means it’s been previously frozen or poorly stored.

    • Buying steaks from a butcher can make a difference in quality and taste. Butcher shop beef is usually stored in a refrigerated case unwrapped, where it is exposed to the open air, resulting in a more tender steak.

    • At the grocery store, avoid pre-wrapped steak that look wet. Look for a matte finish as opposed to a shiny, moist appearance.

    • Bone-in steak is often recommended since it is more flavourful and tender.

    • The fat cap left on the steak makes it more flavourful and tender. Look for a smaller fat cap, however, since you don’t want to pay for the weight of the cap.

  • Once you purchase your beef, store it well in the refrigerator in its original packaging, or freeze it tightly wrapped in aluminum foil or freezer paper. Ground beef can keep frozen for 2-3 months, steaks up to 6 months.

  • To defrost your beef, you have 3 options:

    • The best way is to plan ahead and leave it in the fridge for 1-2 days, depending on the size. (Larger cuts require more time.)

    • If you don’t have that long, try submerging it in its original package (well-sealed) in a bowl or sink of cold water, changing it every 30 minutes. Smaller items take about 1 hour, while larger cuts will take 3-4 hours.

    • If you’re really short on time, a microwave will do, but it’s the least recommended defrosting method since it can lead to uneven defrosting and potential bacterial growth if you don’t cook it right away.

  • Marinating tenderizes meat by breaking down the connective tissue and muscle. The best cuts of steaks to marinate are lower fat cuts or tougher cuts such as flank steak, flat iron, skirt, round, hanger or sirloin. Expensive cuts should not be marinated since it will make them mushy in texture.

Other Considerations

  • Nutrition-wise, all types of beef provide 14 essential nutrients plus energy.

    • A 3 ounce serving of lean beef provides 20+% of the daily recommended protein, vitamin B12, selenium, phosphorus, and zinc; 12-18% of the daily recommended iron, niacin, vitamin B6, and riboflavin; and all 20 amino acids.

    • Lean beef is also high in Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), which leading cancer researchers found plays a major role in cancer prevention.

    • Organic/Grass-fed beef has even higher nutrition qualities, being lower in fat and 2-6 times higher in Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as 4 times higher in vitamin E.

  • Kobe (pronounced koh-bay) beef is the most exclusive beef in the world, costing over $100/lb. It is famous for being even more pampered than organic, grass-fed beef.

    • To give you an idea of the quality, the Japanese grading system for beef is a scale of 1-12, based mainly on the marbling. Most Kobe beef falls between 8 and 10 on the scale (12 is very rare). US/Canada’s Prime grade Prime would fall at around a 4!

    • The cattle get a daily massage with sake. The theory behind this is that mellow, relaxed cows make better tasting beef, and the sake massage enhances the coat of the cattle, which leads to more tender beef.

    • The diet of Kobe beef cattle is strictly controlled and during the final fattening process. They’re fed beer and sake! It is believed that beer consumption during the summer months enhances the cattle’s appetite.

TEST CRITERIA

To test the cookbook Cowboy in the Kitchen, we were on a visit to BC’s Stump Lake Ranch, known for producing some of the best beef this side of the border. We asked the cowboys to help us test three different kinds of premium rib eye steaks. We tested:

  • Prime Grade: $24.99/lb
  • Certified Organic: $27.59/lb
  • Kobe Beef: $231.33/lb

Taste Test

  • The Kobe was like butter. It just melted in your mouth. It was delicious and extremely rich-tasting, but a bit too fatty for some of our testers.

  • The Prime Grade actually had a better balance of fat and meat, was juicy and tender, and produced a better overall flavour.

  • The organic tasted leaner and meatier than the other two, chewier, with a slightly grassy flavour.

OUR TOP PICK

While it was a treat to taste the Kobe, we preferred the Prime Grade overall. Don’t be afraid to try different types of beef and experiment in your recipes.

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  • Lisa

    Awesome post! Thank you for this. I have always wondered what the different grades of beef meant (and also what all the different cuts are about). Thank you for clarifying all that. I think it’s great that the information you have is Canadian as I’m constantly getting confused by hearing American references but they don’t necessarily apply to our food supply in Canada. Love your show! Wish there were more shows like it!

  • KikiMa17

    I agree! this post was great! When are you girls coming back for season 5?!?

    • annaandkristina

      Hi KikiMa17, we are still waiting for the green light from OWN Canada to get going on Season 5 of Anna & Kristina’s Grocery Bag. Feel free to drop them a line to let them know you’re waiting for more! http://ownca.oprah.com/Contact-Us.aspx