The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the body that grades steak and certifies them as safe and high quality. These quality grades are widely used in the beef industry as a language that makes business transactions easier. Both sellers and costumers highly benefit from the great efficiency offered by these grade standards.
There are three main types of USDA steaks – Prime, Choice, and Select. This article is going to talk specifically about USDA Choice Steak.
What Makes Great Steak
Before we talk about USDA Choice Steak, let us first have a look at the factors that make good steak. There are two main things looked at to determine the best beef – marbling and age.
Also referred to as intra-muscular fat, marbling is the most prized feature in steaks. It is mostly characterized by streaks of fat between the muscle tissues. When you cook the steak, the fat melts away, offering your meat with unparalleled tenderness, and a rich flavor.
Another important element often looked at when analyzing the quality of steak is age. Younger steaks offer more flavor and tenderness than older cuts. It is because of this factor that most Choice and Prime cuts come from steers 1 to 3 years in age. You can know the age of the steak you want to purchase by simply looking at the color, as steaks turn to a darker color with age.
USDA Choice Steak
Anyone that has gotten a chance to enjoy USDA Choice Steak understands that it is tender, juicy, and has an outstanding flavor that makes it unique from other steaks. Choice of high quality, but has a less marbling compared to Prime. However, it is widely available to customers in restaurants and supermarkets. In fact, it accounts for about 50% of all graded beef in the United States. Choice steak can be cooked with either moist or dry heat methods without leading to excessive dryness. Consumers are free to grill, roast, bake, or fry this beef, as well as braise and stew it.
As a general rule for grading beef, the younger the beef and the greater the marbling, the better the grading. High marbling simply means that beef has more fatty tissue, providing a more juicer, tender, and flavorful experience. On the other hand, younger beef means it has a finer texture. USDA Choice steak comes in the middle category, and thus has modest marbling.
Choice steak might not be the cut, like Prime, but it is still a high-quality steak. It is rated just below the Prime, and is readily available in most restaurants and grocery stores. A Choice steak will at most times have the same reddish-pink color of Prime, but has a lower level of marbling. The amount of marbling that a Choice steak has can vary widely and depends on the exact place it is cut. Therefore, it is always a good idea to inspect the Choice steak you purchase for the marbling it contains.
Preparing USDA Choice Steak
For the best possible results with USDA Choice Steak, you should consider preparing it through dry-heat cooking methods. This is because they mostly utilize fat or air, like grilling, roasting, and broiling. You can also consider simmering or braising, to achieve a perfectly cooked USDA Choice meat, guaranteed to melt in your mouth.
Buying USDA Choice Steak
If you are at the supermarket or grocery store, and are looking to buy quality beef, be sure to choose the one with the official “USDA Choice” sticker on it. Be wary of a package with just a “Choice” sticker on it but does not have the official USDA certification. This is because it can potentially be labelled wrongly. Since shoppers do not have a way to confirm whether the grading is true and accurate, this can leave room for deceitful labelling tactics.
If you are a steak lover, then you need to understand that the USDA’s grading system is the main standard for all things concerning beef. For those individuals that have no understanding of how beef is graded, the distinct grades can be quite mystifying. Some supermarkets, suppliers, and restaurants are also not helping the situation, as they do their best to serve you inferior steak.
To ensure that you are getting the best steak, you should be aware of how the USDA’s system works. With the information provided in this article in regards to USDA Choice Steak, you should be better placed to ensure that you are getting the best possible steak for your meals.