The course, taught by Founder/Chef Melanie Barsuk, covered USDA grades, the cuts of beef in the United States, and cooking techniques.
US Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors assign a grade to each beef carcass during processing based on the meat's maturity and level of fat marbling. These factors are good indicators of the meat's tenderness and flavor.
|USDA Beef Grade||Description|
|The highest grade of meat containing the greatest degree of marbling. Higher priced because it is produced in very limited quantities. (Blue packaging at Costco)|
|Grade that is generally sold at retail stores. Preferred because it contains sufficient marbling for taste and tenderness but is less costly than Prime.|
|Lower-priced grade of meat with less marbling than Choice. Do not buy and do not be fooled by 'fancy names'.|
She warned us many grocery stores will try to hide the fact that they are selling Select Grade meat by giving it a fancy name. For example, Von's only carries Select Grade meat but refers to it as 'Rancher's Reserve'.
A primal is one of the eight cuts of meat from the carcass during butchering:
The primal cuts are further broken down into subprimal cuts and then into portions known as fabricated cuts. These cut names may vary by region so when buying beef focus on the primal cut.
When shopping, you want the raw beef to be a light, rosy color. Dark meat is an indication of an old cow. Avoid packages containing excessive blood (purge) which may be a sign of dry/cottony meat.
We learned it's important to allow frozen meat to thaw to room temperature before cooking.
Chef Melanie recommended a combination of dry (stove) and moist (oven) heat for cooking protein. When BBQing, grilling is dry heat but closing the lid changes it to moist.
She recommended a Finger Test to identify the degrees of doneness. The meat will gradually get firmer as it cooks. To gauge how well done the beef is, poke the center of the steak and then use the comparison table below:
|Touch Test Steak Cooking Chart|
|Will feel like the fleshy part of your palm right below the thumb when your palm is open|
|Will feel like the fleshy part of your palm right below the thumb when your middle finger and thumb touch like an OK sign|
|Will feel like your forehead|
By focusing on USDA Grade and primal cut, we were able to look past the confusing names and identify quality cuts.