Determining the quality of the beef you serve plays a vital role in ensuring your guest’s satisfaction.


When Chefs serves quality beef, they help so that one that does not drown the body of unhealthy and potentially dangerous substances. After all, we are what we eat, and for meat-eaters, we are what our food eats. We ingest the components in the meat itself. 


These include:


  1. The components of the animal feed. 


Most industrial farms feed animals with grains instead of grasses and other foods they would naturally eat. In addition to having carbohydrates and proteins, grains such as soy and corn are also formulated with nutrients that help speed animal growth for market value. Unfortunately, soy and corn cause gut issues in people and contribute to food intolerances. 


  1. The dangerous pesticides from the feed given to the animal.


Conventional farms often use pesticides, exposing the grasses where animals graze. When the animal meat is eaten, these pesticides accumulate in the human pancreas, disrupting hormones causing health issues. 


  1. Antibiotics are given to animals.


Animals raised in a stressful environment are more prone to illnesses requiring antibiotics for treatment. Animal meat loaded with antibiotics can harm the human gut microbiome. Especially if large amounts of animal protein are consumed. 

Another reason quality beef plays in consumer satisfaction is that in the hands of a good chef or cook, quality meat tends to yield a better outcome of the final product, presentation and taste-wise.


How is quality meat determined?

The two main things to examine are the cut and the grade. 

Chefs know that understanding the beef’s cut and grades can guide them with which specific cooking technique the meat can best be used. Hence will improve the quality of what is on the menu. 


1. The grade of the meat


The grade describes how much marbling is there in the meat. Marbling is the white flecks of intramuscular fat. It is called such that the fat in lean muscle resembles a marble pattern.  Marbling is essential as it affects meat’s tenderness, texture, juiciness and flavour. 

It is important to note that intramuscular is not the same as intermuscular fat, the fat between the muscles. Intramuscular fat is the one that is typically trimmed off, and it doesn’t enhance any of the valued traits of quality meat. 


The following are the different grades of meat:


  • Prime beef – has abundant marbling as it is produced from young, well-fed beef cattle. Beef with this grade is excellent for dry-heat cooking such as grilling, roasting or broiling. Due to this trait, it tends to be the most expensive.
  • Choice beef – has less marbling than Prime but is still considered to be of high quality. 
  • Select beef – has less marbling than Choice beef and is very uniform in quality. It usually is tender, but as it is leaner, it may lack some of the juiciness and flavour of the higher grades. Beef with this grade can benefit from marinades. 
  • Standard and Commercial beef – these have the least marbling and are frequently sold as ungraded. They are typically used to make ground beef and processed products.


Here in Australia, beef grading is determined by Meat Standards Australia (MSA) Grading. MSA is one of the three predominant grading systems, including US and Japanese. To understand the different grading systems, check out this article from MeatNBone that differentiates one from the other. It also poses an interesting point that sometimes, grading does not have the final say in beef quality. 


2. The cut of the meat


The cut describes which part of the animal the meat comes from. 

Note that there are three categories of beef cuts: primal, subprimal, and retail. 

  • Chuck – comes from the neck and shoulder region of the cow. Chuck cuts tend to be tougher as they have a lot of connective tissue. Best cooked in wet heat and more extended to tenderise the meat. 
  • Brisket – comes from the cow’s chest below the neck and shoulder. It has a lot of marbling as it is still somewhat fatty. Best cooked low and slow. 
  • Rib – comes from the middle of the cow, where the classic rack of ribs comes from. Typically best grilled or smoked, but Prime Rib is better cooked low and slow in the oven. 
  • Plate – comes from the front belly region of the cow below the ribs. Skirt steak and bone-in short ribs come from the plate region. Although this cut is fattier, it has more cartilage, needing a longer cooking time. 
  • Short loin – comes from the cow’s back behind the rib section and can be considered tender cuts. It’s where the cuts such as porterhouse, t-bone, strip steak, and New York strip are taken. Best cooked in dry heat.
  • Flank – it is the back of the cow’s belly. It is the leaner part of the cow, therefore thin and tough. Best cooked for a shorter amount of time at higher heat. 
  • Sirloin, Top Sirloin, and Bottom Sirloin – The main cut closer to the butt is Sirloin. It is then cut into subprimal sections known as top Sirloin and bottom loin. This section is also where the tri-tip comes from. Sirloin steaks have many flavours but are not as tender as the short loin cuts. 
  • Tenderloin – another subprimal of the Sirloin and the tenderest part of the cow. Best cooked in dry heat as they cook quickly due to being tender. 
  • Round – comes from the cow’s hind leg and is often divided into subprimal called the top round and bottom round. The bottom round is also sometimes used to make roast beef.
  • Shank – comes from both the forearm or foreleg of the cow and is very tough meat. Best cooked braised, in soups and stews to tenderise the meat. 


RELATED READ: Sourcing Ingredients For Your Restaurant: Meats


Using the proper cut for the suitable dish will help ensure things come out the way you want them and for a sensible cost. 

For example, Tenderloin seems to be the most desirable cut when grilling because it is already tender, but it needs to be marinaded first. With the understanding of grades and cuts, one will know that Tenderloin comes from a very lean part of the cow and therefore lacks marbling. When beef lacks marbling, it also lacks juiciness and flavour. So when cooking Tenderloin, it should be marinaded for the best flavour and not for a long time to avoid drying it out. 

Or, to save costs, use Prime or Choice for your entrées, but Select for thinly sliced beef on a sandwich. 


In Summary:

Understanding the cuts and grades can help chefs make the most sense for the dishes on the menu. 

It helps them from making errors in choosing ones that will be more costly for a dish when an alternative cut or grade can be used.


That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!

Ciao for now,


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