Prime v.s. Choice Beef

Prime v.s. Choice BeefIf you are someone who consumes beef with any regularity, you have most likely seen the USDA Prime or USDA Choice grade symbols either on the package or as part of an advertisement. But, do you know what they really mean? The easy answer would be to say that the USDA Prime option is the better cut of beef…which would only sort of be true. You could have a cut of USDA Choice that can be as good or sometimes even better than Prime. So how do you choose?

The guidelines the USDA uses to determine what is Prime, Choice, or Select beef all revolve around two words, marbling and abundant.

Marbling is the easy part. Marbling is the amount of fat that can be seen within the cut of meat. The more fat marbling, the better the flavor.

Abundant is a little more complicated. A cut of beef can have moderately abundant marbling, slightly abundant marbling, moderate marbling, slight marbling, and everything else in between. It’s enough to give someone a headache.

To help soothe the ache, below is a quick guide to the two most popular grade, Prime and Choice:

USDA Prime
USDA Prime beef refers to high-quality cuts of beef with slightly abundant to abundant marbling. Though Prime beef can now be found at more and more food retailers, Prime beef is most often sold to restaurants and hotels. Prime beef is high quality and tender and comes with a price tag to match. Prime roasts and steaks are best suited to roasting or grilling.

USDA Choice
USDA Choice beef is also high-quality tender beef but with less marbling than Prime. Choice roasts or steaks that come from the loin and rib areas will be very tender and have great flavor with a much more affordable price tag. The less tender Choice cuts will come from the round section. These are the cuts that are better used for braising or slow roasting.

The grade of beef you choose wholly depends on you, what you are cooking and what your budget can allow. There is no right or wrong option. A lot of times it depends on the person preparing it.

If you ever get the opportunity to try a bit of each option side by side I encourage you to experiment and see if you can tell the difference.

How to Grill a Perfect Steak
Here are our instructions for grilling a steak to perfection.

First, bring the steaks back to room temperature. Remove them from the refrigerator 20 minutes before grilling and allow them to sit, covered.

Heat your grill to high.

Brush the steaks on both sides with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.

Place the steaks on the grill and cook until golden brown and slightly charred (about 4 to 5 minutes). Turn the steaks over and continue to grill:

  • 3 to 5 minutes for medium-rare (internal temperature of 135 ºF)
  • 5 to 7 minutes for medium (internal temperature of 140 ºF)
  • 8 to 10 minutes for medium-well (internal temperature of 150 ºF).

Transfer your steaks to a cutting board or platter. Tent them loosely with foil and allow them to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing. This gives the juices time to reabsorb back into the meat and makes your steak more tender and juicy.

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