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4 Things To Consider When Choosing The Best Beef For Your Next Steak Dinner
When was the last time you put a piece of beef into your mouth and it tastes so amazingly different? It could be at a friend’s house or in a new restaurant that you are trying for the first time.
Could it be the sauces they use to marinate the beef or the way they cook the beef that made it tastes so good? More often than not, the difference lies in the quality of the beef itself.
Unknown to many, not all cattle are born (and raised) equal.
There are various types of cattle that we get our beef from like the Shorthorn, Longhorn, Hereford, Black Angus, etc. and one breed famously stood out amongst all: The Wagyu cattle.
Wagyu, which literally means “Japanese Cow” in the Japanese language, is famous for its extremely marbled factor (the reason why beef melts in your mouth) that made it highly sought after despite its higher price tag.
However, different grades are present even among this prized Wagyu beef category. So how do you make sure you choose the best possible beef when you are making your next purchase?
Let us give you 4 simple points to look out for when buying beef for your upcoming home gathering.
Type of cut
Seeing how big a cow can be, there is meat to be taken from almost every part of the animal. Since different muscle parts of the animal are being used with a different intensity when it was alive, the toughness of these parts will also differ accordingly.
The more commonly seen parts will be the flank, shank, loin, sirloin, and rib-eye.
The flank is one of the toughest parts and is at the abdominal area of a cow. It is usually being used for stir-fry or braising in our Asian dishes with other ingredients.
The shank is the leg of a cow and it can be quite tough to chew on since it is a part that was being used frequently. It is popular to use it in soup or stew.
Both the loin and sirloin are at the back of the cow and are a popular choice due to its relative tender nature. They are both good choices for grilling and commonly presented on the menu as T-bone steak, sirloin steak, etc.
The ribeye is one of the finest cuts from the rib area and it is in high demand due to its tender and high marbling nature. Like sirloin and loin, rib-eye is best to be used as steaks and commonly done medium-rare or medium.
Marbling of the beef
The marbling of beef refers to the fats found within the meat and between the muscle fibres. This is the main reason why some beef will have that melt-in-your-mouth factor when you sink your teeth into it.
For authentic Japanese Wagyu beef, they are being graded by the Japanese Meat Grading Association (JMGA) before being exported out from Japan; with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest grade of Wagyu beef that presents the highest concentrate of marbling, best colour, firmness, and texture.
There is also the “yield” grading for Japanese Wagyu where only cuts with a 72% or higher percentage yield will achieve the “A” grade and the lower percentage ones being given a B or C. This made the best grade of Japanese Wagyu beef being graded the highest A5.
Do not confuse it with the subcutaneous fat though. Subcutaneous fat is the layer of fats you find between the skin and meat, and are commonly trimmed away instead of being consumed.
Colour of the beef
The colour of fresh beef should be a bright cherry red.
Usually, when the meat is first cut open, it presents itself in purplish red and, with the exposure of the air to a type of protein (myoglobin) found in the muscle, slowly turn to a nice cherry red. This kind of red usually lasts for around 3 days before it turns to a darker brownish red.
Colour can also be determined by the age, diet, type, and exercise the cow gets. As animals age, the myoglobin level increases, causing the meat of an older animal to looks darker than its younger counterpart.
Well exercised parts (tougher) also can look darker in colour because of the increased myoglobin level in it.
Country of Origin
There are just too many kinds of cattle breed that we are getting our beef from and, if you are looking for the breed that has the highest marbling, Wagyu may be your best bet.
However, as mentioned previously there are even grades among Wagyu, so how do you select your Wagyu? The “nationality” of the Wagyu beef will be something to look out for.
Although Wagyu (which literally means Japanese Cow) beef originated from Japan, Australia has managed to mass-produce “crossbred” ones in recent years. This type of Wagyu from Australia is graded with a system that is very similar to the Japanese one, which has a range of 1 to 12 (A5). However, instead of going up to a maximum quality score of 12 like the real McCoy from Japan, the Australian system only goes up to 9 max.
It isn’t common but there is a small amount of America-raised “Wagyu” beef in the market as well. These beef are graded by the USDA Grading System that comes in only 3 categories: Select, Choice, and Prime. A Grade 12 (A5) Wagyu beef in the Japanese grading system would be in the Prime category under this grading system.
For “Fullblood” Wagyu beef that comes from Japan, apart from being graded by the most stringent grading system before being exported, it is also packed with the distinctive umami flavour that made it taste so heavenly just by simply grilling it on its own without the need for any marinating.
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