Whether you are shopping for the right cut of meat for a meal with family and friends, looking for the perfect centerpiece for a new recipe, or purchasing a cut of meat for a special meal that you are preparing for yourself, knowing what to look for in a cut of meat will have a big impact on the final product. At Nick’s of Clinton, our full-service meat counter offers the highest quality cuts of meat at affordable prices, and our butchers are available to help you select the perfect cut of meat for whatever dish you are planning. As you browse our meat counter, here are some tips to keep in mind when looking for the right cut of meat. If you have questions or need assistance, our butchers are happy to help!
Picking the Right Piece of Meat: What’s Your Objective?
The first thing to think about when choosing the perfect cut of meat is your end goal. For example, are you shopping for a meat that is being used to show off a marinade? Are you on a budget and searching for something that is delicious but won’t break the bank? Or, is flavor your number one priority, and is cost no object? Perhaps you are experimenting with a rub, or are looking for meat that you can feature as part of another dish–such as a salad or a pasta–rather than serve on its own.
You won’t be able to pick the best piece of meat for whatever it is you’re preparing until you have identified your objective. Here are some tips to help get you started:
- Thin cuts of meat are great for rubs, so try a flank steak.
- If you are looking for something that you can throw in the crockpot and not have to worry about all day, you’ll want a roast.
- Pork and beef ribs (and other on-the-bone meats) are known for their ability to soak up flavor.
- For cooking using a dry method, such as smoking, go for a larger cut of meat, like brisket or pork shoulder.
- If you are on a budget but still want to find cuts that can hold flavor, try chicken wings.
- If you are going for really flavorful, really juicy, and really tender, and if price isn’t an issue, then you may want to treat yourself to a porterhouse steak.
Features to Notice When Selecting the Right Cut of Meat
Once you understand what type of meat you are looking for–i.e. steak or ribs or chicken, etc.–the next thing to focus on is the different features of different cuts of meat. While our butchers can certainly assist you, the three most important features of a cut of meat are marbling, grade, and color.
- Marbling refers to the amount and pattern of fat in a cut of meat. In most cases, having fat on a cut of meat is a good thing, as it adds flavor and keeps the meat from drying out when cooking. If you are unsure about how much fat is ideal for the recipe you are preparing, just ask our butcher!
- At Nick’s of Clinton, we always sell meat that is fresh and high-quality. Whether you are shopping at our store or somewhere else, though, it’s important to know what the color of a cut of meat says about its quality. Color is an indication of how long it has been since the meat was processed – in other words, how fresh it is. Beef should always be a deep red in color; browning indicates that it has been sitting on the shelf for one too many days. Poultry and pork should both be pink in color. Avoid poultry that’s turning white or brown and avoid pork that is turning brown.
- The grade that a cut of meat receives is based on factors that impact the quality of the meat, such as the age of the carcass, texture, and amount of marbling. Grades are assigned during the butchering process. The highest grade is Prime, followed by Choice and Select. Poultry also is graded, but only A-grade poultry is sold in grocery stores. Pork is not graded. If you are looking for a tastier, more expensive, finer cut of beef, go for Prime or Choice.
Get Help from Our Butchers
If you have more questions about picking the right cut of meat, please feel free to ask our butchers directly. We are more than happy to assist you in selecting the perfect cut for whatever dish you are preparing. We look forward to chatting next time you are in our store! Visit us today or call us at (301) 843-4825.