Page 29 - Barbecue News Magazine
P. 29

But let's face it. Most folks buy meat at the grocery store along with everything else on their shopping list. Grocery stores usually get pre-cut meat shipped to them from a central warehouse. There isn't much choice in steaks. But some stores still have butchers on premise. Find them. The head butcher is usually on duty early morning through early afternoon. They often get in early to greet the deliv- ery trucks. Stop at the counter and ask for the head butcher or the assistant. Don’t be surprised if your butcher is a woman. One of mine is, a grad from Michigan State. Intro- duce yourself. Chat her up. Ask about delivery days and times. Swap recipes. Tell her about Get the direct phone number of the butcher department. Ask her about her favorite cuts and what she thinks are some of the best meats she gets. Ask if she can special order USDA Prime grade ribeyes or less popular cuts like beef tri-tip or whole packer briskets. Set yourself
apart from the crowd.
One day, bring in a slab of ribs you’re proud of and leave it for the butcher staff to enjoy with lunch. Show them you’ve got the chops and they’ll get you the best chops.
Soon after you meet her, while she can still taste those ribs, call in an order. Most groceries don’t stock USDA prime grade so if you can af- ford it, ask her to get you some. Or ask for “top choice”. That’s the best grade of USDA choice.
Bone up on beef grades so you know the lingo. Don’t be in a hurry, and be willing to pay full price for the best cuts. Ask her to cut you some ribeyes 1 1/2 inches thick, my favorite size, big enough for two. My butcher has been known to set aside the pick of the litter for me, even when it is on sale. Don’t be afraid to ask your butcher for help.
Pick meat carefully. Don’t just grab the piece closest to you. Linger over the meat counter and concentrate. Look at the
evenness of the cut. If one end is thinner it will overcook. Look at the exterior fat. You’ll want to remove most of it, so find cuts with the least waste. Look at the marbling. Pick the meat with the best marbling. If you don’t know what marbling is, read my article on meat science, even if you do know marbling, read that article anyway.
Open butcher display cases work fine, but the bottom steaks and chops may be cooler and fresher than the top pieces. Compare the different packages. Look for liquid in the package. This is called purge and is often a sign that the meat has been frozen and thawed. This moisture and flavor cannot be replaced. Avoid meat with a lot of purge. Pay attention to the dates on packaging. “Sell By” date tells the store when to remove products from the shelf. “Best If Used By” or “Use By” dates tell you when you should eat or
freeze the product. These dates are not related to safety, just quality. And you can no longer rely on the color of meat if it is prepackaged because some grocers now sell red meat packed in a carbon monoxide or nitrogen atmosphere with spe- cial plastic films on the package to prevent browning. Remember, the dates are meaningless once the package has been opened and ex- posed to air and bacteria.
There are a few days right after slaughter when rigor mortis makes the meat tough, but that is gone by
the time the meat arrives in your store. As meat ages, en- zymes and oxidation change the flavor. Pick the most re- cently cut steaks and chops. Yes, beef can improve with aging, but it has to be aged properly. Beef seems to be best after about 28 days only if it is packed in Cryovac, that thick, vacuum-sealed plastic. It will not keep that long if it is just shrink-wrapped onto a styrofoam tray with air in- side. To learn more, read my article on aging beef, pork, poultry, and most other meats. The fresher the better. They do not improve with age.
Read the fine print when you shop. Try to avoid meats la- beled “enhanced”, “flavor enhanced”, “self-basting”, “basted”, “pre-basted”, “injected”, or “marinated”. They can have salty brines injected, as much as 10 to 15% by weight. Why pay 10 to 15% more for salt water? In addi- tion, kosher meat has been heavily salted in the koshering process and although the salt is rinsed off the surface, much of it seeps in. Many of these pre-salted meats feel mushy when cooked because the salt denatures the pro- teins. You do not need these additives if you prep and cook the meat properly. If you want salt, you can add it yourself. If you cannot find a butcher who sells unenhanced meat, ask if she can special order it for you.
Shop safely. Most microbes do not grow well at temps
      JUNE 2021 - 29

   27   28   29   30   31