Picking the right type of meat is not something that can be rushed. It takes patience, passion and the perfect eye and knowledge to pick the right cut of meat you need. If you walk along the meat aisle at your local grocery store, you’ll see what looks like a lot of the same things. How do you know which cuts are for braising and which ones are better for steak?
It is always easier to shop for meat when you know what exactly you are looking for and when you can identify it. There are a few characteristics of meat that are simple to understand and look for when you shop for meat, which will help you choose the right cut for any occasion.
First, let’s look at the type of meat that are generally sought after.
Tender cuts are usually taken from weak muscles with lesser activity. There are 3 main things you need to look for when you select a tender cut.
Steaks can be divided into two classes – fatty or lean steaks.
Fatty steaks (higher marbling) usually are thicker and have a higher flavor profile but on the flipside can also be quite leathery and difficult to consume if not cooked properly. Meat with extreme marbling is usually best when shaved thin (as in carpaccio), or chopped up (as in tartare).
Lean steaks on the other hand are very tender and easier to chew, however is weaker in terms of the flavor department. A good example of a lean steak is filet mignon. When shopping for steaks, it’s often best to seek a happy medium between lean and fatty although this is entirely up to your preference and taste.
Tough cuts absolutely need to have the following characteristics when being chosen:
If you are looking for that piece of meat that will melt in your mouth and leaving you wanting more, make sure the cut that you have picked at least have 3 out of the 4 features listed above. A great example of a tough cut is brisket. When cooked low-and-slow, it will reward you with a succulent and tender braised texture.
In summary, the main areas one would or SHOULD consider when choosing meat are: