Which one of the 8 beef grades should you choose?

Pot roast

With holiday parties revving up, we thought it might be a good time to help people choose their meat carefully by looking at what beef grades really mean (at least in the U.S.). The USDA uses eight grades of beef, which are rated by tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. With the help of an article from Fooducate, here’s a quick run down on the beef grades the USDA uses and what that grade means when you’re choosing and cooking your beef:

Here are the three grades you should look for:

  1. Prime grade is almost never found in supermarkets. This beef is produced from young, well-fed beef cattle. It has abundant marbling and is generally sold in restaurants and hotels. Prime roasts and steaks are excellent for dry-heat cooking (broiling, roasting, or grilling).
  2. Choice grade is still of high quality, but has less marbling than Prime. Choice roasts and steaks also do well with dry-heat cooking. Many of the less tender cuts, such as those from the rump, round, and blade chuck, can also be cooked with dry heat if not overcooked, but are better braised.
  3. Select grade is very uniform in quality and normally leaner than the higher grades. It is fairly tender, but, because it has less marbling, it may lack some of the juiciness and flavor of the higher grades. Only the tender cuts (loin, rib, sirloin) should be cooked with dry heat. Other cuts should be marinated before cooking or braised.

The following grades should only be approached with care – usually these will not deliver a satisfactory result:

  1. Standard grade is frequently sold as ungraded or as “store brand” meat.
  2. Commercial grade is much the same as Standard grade.
  3. Utility grade is seldom, if ever, sold at retail. It is used to make ground beef and processed products.
  4. Cutter grade  – same as above.
  5. Canner grade – same as above.

Fooducate goes on to ask: Want to take a guess what quality grade the beef is in your fast food burger or deli meat gets? And if you’re having trouble remembering the grades to choose, they recommend memorizing the acronym PiCkS (Prime, Choice, Select) when buying beef.

Of course this gives us an excuse to run a photo of a beautiful beef pot roast – here’s a recipe for pot roast with caraway and apples, originally printed in Christopher Schlesinger and John Willoughby’s How to Cook Meat, that  Adam Roberts reprinted in his (EYB-indexed) blog, Amateur Gourmet.


Post a comment

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!