Getting Value in the Meat Department
Last season, Rachael showed you how to pick produce, and now she's headed to the meat department, where top butcher Ray Venezia shares his tips for getting the bet cuts of meat and the biggest values.
Ground chuck: At 80 percent meat and 20 percent fat, Ray suggests using this for meatloaf or chili.
Ground sirloin: Ray recommends using this for hamburgers instead of the commonly used ground chuck. He explains, "You would want to go with a bit leaner product where you can cook it thoroughly and get to 160 degrees yet still have flavor without any issues."
The number one concern Ray hears is that ground meat may be a bright color in the package, but the inside of the meat is often darker. "That's supposed to happen," he says. "The leaner the meat is, the darker it will get on the inside. The meat is only red from the air hitting it." In fact, you should be concerned about your chopped meat if it's not dark on the inside!
Storage tip: Use chopped meat the day it is purchased or freeze it immediately for later use to maintain the freshness. "Do not let it sit a day or two," Ray advises.
Value tip: When stores have a sale on meat, of course it's a great opportunity to stock up on it. But according to Ray, it's also the ideal time to get it fresh. "That's your best chance to get a nice fresh piece of meat because it's flying out of the store," he explains. "That's when it's at its best."
Picking a good package: "You want to see nice clarity in the plastic film and a bright color to show you that it was cut fresh, and to see that the package is nice and clean," Ray suggests. "When you start to see the blood in the bottom of the package, if the meat is not quite as bright, or if the package is not as clear, then this is a package that's been kicking around. It's been handled, people have been touching it -- it might have been in a carriage and put back into the case ... you want to stay away from the package so that you get the most of what you're paying for."
Choosing choice or prime cuts: "You don't necessarily always have to have prime," Ray says. "There are a lot of cuts in 'choice' that are very well marbled and very reasonable in price because they're off cuts: skirt steaks, hanger stakes, they're great items. They're very kid-friendly [like teriyaki marinades] ... and they're not very expensive because they're not your mainline steak items."
But if you're in the mood to splurge, Ray suggests going with prime cuts. "If you want that top-end steak -- that NY strip steak, the rib steak -- you are better off spending a little more for the prime," Ray suggests. "With the prime you're going to get better value, because you're going to get what you pay for. You're going to be talking about that steak for days."
Ask for help: Ray suggests going to a shop with a butcher where you can request a piece with no bone and minimal amounts of fat. The fat doesn't add to your taste, it only subtracts from your pocket book. You'd rather have a piece that's trimmed down."
Look at the numbers: Compare the boneless price per pound to the price with a bone -- you can't eat the bone but you're still paying for it!
Only Online: Extra Tips!
• Top sirloin is great for kabobs, which can be portioned easily for a light meal. It's also rich in nutrients -- just 3 ounces of lean beef provides more than 10 percent of the daily requirements of protein, zinc, iron and B-vitamins.
• Top round London broil is a very common low price sale item. Just marinate for tenderness and this affordable cut can be a very flavorful, tender cut of beef.
• Roast beef is also often overlooked these days but most cuts are very reasonably priced and make an easy, satisfying meal for a family.
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