How to Pick the Best Steak
Truth be told, the idea of the “best’ steak is a matter of personal preference. Perhaps your favorite steak is one with a good bit of fat content throughout (you’re our kind of person!), or maybe you prefer a leaner cut of meat (you’re also our kind of person!). Either way, there’s a perfect steak out there for you, just waiting to be tossed on the grill. Finding out exactly what that is might take some trial and error — oh no, the tragedy of having to eat steak! — but we’ll lend a hand in your juicy journey by showing you what to look for when picking the best steak.
Know the USDA Grades
The easiest way to assess steak at a glance is through the USDA’s beef grades, which reflect a cut’s overall quality in terms of flavor, tenderness, and juiciness in conjunction with a cattle carcass’ yield. Among other factors, a steak’s grade is based largely on marbling, or the amount of intramuscular fat throughout the beef. We aren’t talking about the thick chunks of fat running along the edge of a steak — the fat content that matters is dispersed in the flesh and looks like white flecks or clumps. Marbling is crucial for flavor and juiciness because the fat not only melts down into deliciousness when cooked, but also helps distribute juices when finished.
Steaks found in markets and retail scores come from the top 3 USDA beef grades: Prime, Choice, and Select. Prime sits atop the others with moderately abundant or slightly abundant marbling; Choice marbling can be moderate, modest, or small; and Select beef features only slight marbling. The 5 lesser grades are incredibly lean, which is why such beef is typically used for ground meat or advertised as store-brand steak. With this in mind, determine your ideal marbling ratio and use beef grades to point you toward the appropriate steaks.
Consider the Cut
We don’t expect you to memorize the anatomy of cattle — trust us, it’s not easy — but you’ll be a smarter shopper and more satisfied feaster if you’re familiar with the different cuts of beef. That way, you can identify whether a ribeye or a skirt steak better fits your preferences, and which types of steak should marinate overnight before hitting the grill grates. There are 9 primal cuts from every cattle, so don’t assume that every piece of steak brings the same tenderness and flavor.
Look for Aged Steaks
Scientifically speaking, an aged steak is a more tender and delicious steak. Aging beef allows the natural enzymes to break down muscle tissues within the meat, a process that tenderizes steaks to their fullest potential. Whether a steak is dry-aged or wet-aged has a negligible impact on its quality; the aging process is almost entirely about time. Best results come from steaks that age at least 21 days, though they can pick up additional flavor and tenderness if aged for longer.
Unfortunately, the majority of retail stores don’t advertise how long their steaks are aged; even so, it’s generally for a week or less because of limited storage and inventory turnover. Your local butcher or market will probably be more forthcoming about their aging practices, which should be closer to the optimal 21-day threshold anyway.
Let Us Do the Work for You
Knowledge of beef grades and cuts will guide you toward success when roaming the grocery store or market, but you’ll still face some uncertainty. For instance, did you know that roughly 70% of all cattle can qualify as Choice beef? Or that 2 steaks labeled as the same cut can vary in flavor and tenderness depending on how they were trimmed? Factor in the unpredictability of how long retail stores age their steaks, and you can never be too sure of the quality of over-the-counter beef.
Fortunately, BBQGuys USA Premium Cuts steaks remove all the guesswork from picking the best steak. Every single cut is sourced from either Prime or Top Choice USDA Midwest Angus Beef, a heartland breed known for its exceptional flavor, then hand-selected by skilled butchers and cut into plentiful portions. We wet-age our steaks for 28 days — a week longer than usual — before vacuum-sealing and flash-freezing them to ensure quality maintenance during transit to your doorstep. You’ll find superior quality and consistently high marbling across our entire selection, from boneless ribeyes to T-bone steaks and more. Because we believe picking the best steak should be as easy as making a few clicks.