Meat Lover’s Guide
Beef up your butcher counter confidence and cooking know-how with the help of four Bay-area experts.
Above left: T-bone, Above right: Daron Mosley
Daron Mosley of Mosley’s Meats breaks down the process of selecting and preparing the most popular cuts of steak.
This steak, which contains meat from two of the most prized cuts of beef, is named for the t-shaped bone running down its center. Like the porterhouse, a regular T-bone steak contains a New York strip and a filet (or tenderloin) cut. Compared to a porterhouse, however, a T-bone steak has a much smaller filet.
“A T-bone is a really flavorful cut. These days, people tend to gravitate towards the boneless cuts, but a bone is always a good choice because it adds flavor," says Mosley. "The best way to cook a thick steak like the T-bone is to sear it right over the coals for about two minutes on each side, then switch to indirect heat for six to eight minutes.”
The large porterhouse steak contains two choice cuts of meat on one steak. But cut further back on the short loin, the porterhouse has a thicker tenderloin cut than the T-bone.
NEW YORK STRIP
When boneless, this cut is also known as a New York strip, strip steak or Kansas City strip steak. It’s best to eat a New York strip on the rare side, as it’s a leaner cut and has a tendency to dry out. Daron Mosley likes to crumble bleu cheese over his New York strip to add a different flavor.
FILET (OR TENDERLOIN)
When boneless, this cut is also known as a filet mignon. “But, to me, a filet on a porterhouse is better than a filet off a tenderloin because the surrounding bone and fat add even more flavor,” says Mosley.
The rib-eye is one of the fattier cuts of steak, since it comes from the front quarter of the animal. But when it comes to steaks, fat equals flavor. If you like a well done or medium well steak, choose the rib-eye. Since it is a fattier cut, you can cook it really slow without drying it out.
The boneless rib-eye is a popular choice among steak eaters, but buyers have a couple other options:
- Cowboy cut / club steak: a bone-in rib-eye
- Tomahawk steak: a rib-eye with large rib still attached
“This is a hunting camp steak and a tailgate steak. It’s nice and thick and can feed a lot of people without breaking the bank. A sirloin is so thick, if I have a big group over I’ll cook a big sirloin, slice it up and dish out some sautéed mushrooms on the side. You’ll want to sear a sirloin on high heat for a couple minutes then move to indirect heat: Since this steak doesn’t have a lot of fat, it can dry out if you try to cook it slow.”
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
- The white pattern of intramuscular fat on a cut of beef is known as marbling. “Many people make the mistake of looking for the reddest, brightest piece of meat, but what you want is a pale-colored steak with marbling running throughout. Marbling is flavor.”
- “With any steak, I never like to use a sugary marinade because it’ll be more likely to burn. I season my steaks with a little olive oil and Mosley’s dry rub and let it sit out for at least an hour before I put it over heat. I never put a cold steak on the grill.”
John Shelkofsky, meat manager at Rouses Market Spring Hill, educates roast lovers on choosing and preparing roasts for the oven.
Looking for a roast that can be sliced thin to feed a hungry crowd? If so, your best bet is an oven roast, which is cooked uncovered in the oven without any added liquid. Only a few roasts are suitable for the oven, so it’s important to know your options: prime rib, tenderloin, a rump roast, a top sirloin roast and an eye-of-round roast are your best bets.
Many people don’t realize that a rib-eye and a prime rib are the same meat — the only difference is that a rib-eye is cooked as a steak and the prime rib is cooked as a roast.
“It’s hard to mess up a good prime rib," says Shelkofsky. "I like to inject mine with Tony Chachere’s Roasted Garlic and Herb Marinade and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Before cooking, sprinkle it with whatever seasonings you like and put it in the oven for 4 or 5 hours at 275 degrees. Finish by putting the oven on a low broil to brown the outside of it.”
TIP: “When buying a prime rib, it’s important to get at least a choice grade of meat. If a cut is too lean, it’s easy to overcook.”
Whether you’re dropping a pot roast in the crockpot or sliding it into the oven, Chuck Childress of Farm Fresh Meats in Robertsdale has you covered.
Roasts that come from the tough front quarter of the animal can be tenderized when cooked at a low temperature over a long period of time. A pot roast is cooked with liquid in a covered pan, either in the oven, on the stovetop or in a slow cooker and generally produces beef that shreds easily with a fork. “If I’m making a pot roast, I’ll brown it first in the skillet then put it in a crockpot at a low temperature with some beef broth for about 4.5 to 6 hours," says Childress.
TIP: “I always recommend meat off the forequarter, such as the chuck and the shoulder roast, because it has more flavor and more marbling.”
“This is your go-to choice for a carrot and potato pot roast. It’s a really marbled muscle that just falls apart when you take a fork and shred it.” Other popular pot roasts include a shoulder roast and a brisket.
Johnny Fayard with Greer’s Markets dishes out some advice on picking out that perfect beef tenderloin.
Because it’s taken from a muscle that is rarely worked or stressed, the tenderloin is one of the most tender cuts of beef. When cut into steaks, the tenderloin produces the coveted filet mignon.
“Before I put a tenderloin on the grill or in the oven, I’ll sear it on the stovetop with a little olive oil. That’ll seal in those juices that you would otherwise lose on the grill or in the pan. That’s the secret," says Fayard. “After cooking any piece of meat, let it rest for about five minutes before serving or carving in order to let the juices redistribute throughout the cut.”
HOW TO PICK THE BEST TENDERLOIN
- You want to make sure you get a piece of meat that’s consistent in size and doesn’t taper. If it’s not very uniform in thickness, chances are it won’t cook evenly.
- With a tenderloin, you’ll want to see cross marbling: streaks of white fat running north and south as well as east and west.
Depending on the cut of meat a butcher chooses to grind, the amount of fat within a portion of ground beef will vary — as will the price. Use the lean-to-fat ratio (i.e. 85% lean / 15% fat), which is printed on a package of ground beef, as a guide.
Regular ground beef (typically 75/25): This less expensive, juicier option is suitable for burgers, tacos and spaghetti sauce.
Ground chuck (typically 80/20): Since ground chuck holds it shape while cooking, it’s just right for meatballs and meatloaf.
Ground round (typically 85/15): Perfect for dishes that call for a beefy flavor but don’t allow drippings to drain off, such as casseroles.
Ground sirloin (typically 90/10): Since sirloin is so lean, try it in low-fat meals where beef is just a complementary flavor and not the main star. Since lean beef can dry out quickly, it’s best used in soups or sauces.
Sold on beef? Then check out the bulk packs at Whiskey Ridge Cattle Company in Robertsdale. There are 19 packs to choose from, including the 400-pound Whole Darn Cow! option all the way down to their 12-pound sampler pack. Whiskey Ridge Cattle Company • 27600 County Rd. 64, Robertsdale. 964-6328
Farm Fresh Meats • 22057 HWY 59, Robertsdale. 947-7385
Greer’s Downtown Market • 851 Government St. 432-0100
Greer’s Market • 75 S. Section St., Fairhope. 928-8029
Mosley’s Meat Market • 4678 Airport Blvd. 344-5764
Mosley’s Fine Meats • 699 HWy 98, Daphne. 626-1942
Rouses Market • 4350 Old Shell Rd. 380-0020
Rouses Market • 6729 Spanish Fort Rd., Spanish Fort. 621-0552