Guide to Meat: Selecting the Best Meat


Prime Meat — The best choice for every recipe
Dry Aging — the key to perfect flavor and tenderness
Color and Texture
Marbling
Meat to Avoid


The quality of meat is the same in every section of the animal´s carcass. A prime steer yields all prime cuts. The same is true for the choice and select grades.

Prime quality beef has better flavor and texture — this includes the less expensive cuts chosen for pot roasts, stews and casseroles. Even in variety cuts such as oxtails, sweetbreads and calves´ brains, the quality of the meat affects the taste of the final dish.

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Lobel´s of New York dry ages all of its fresh USDA Prime meat to perfection by holding it in coolers at a temperature of 34-38 degrees F. We age beef for four to six weeks. Veal and lamb are young, delicate and tender, and are hung in our coolers for no more than a week.

Aging produces beef that is naturally tender and flavorful. Nothing the cook does to add flavor in the kitchen is a substitute for starting with properly aged meat.

There are two types of aging: Dry aging and wet aging. Dry aging is the choice of the discriminating chef. The wet aging process involves sealing meat in airtight Cryovac bags. Wet aging does less to enhance flavor and tenderness than dry aging.

Dry-aged meat is increasingly difficult to find because the process is expensive and time-intensive. During dry aging, the meat´s natural enzymes act as a tenderizer, breaking down the connective tissue that holds the muscles. At the same time, the evaporation of moisture improves texture. Dry aging continues until a thin coating develops on the meat surface. The coating seals in flavor and juices during aging, and is then trimmed off. Loss of weight results from the evaporation of moisture and from trimming, and both of these processes add to the cost of dry aging meat.

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Beef
Look for beef with a minimum of outer fat. The fat should be creamy in color. The bones should be soft looking with a reddish color. The meat should be firm, fine-textured, and a light cherry- red color.

Lamb
Meat from high-quality young lambs is fine-textured, firm and lean. It is pink in color and the cross sections of bones are red, moist and porous. The external fat should be firm and white and not too thick. In older lambs the meat is light red, the fat is apt to be thicker and creamy in color, and the bones may look drier, harder and less red than those of younger lambs.

Veal
Prime-quality veal should be from almost white to a very light pink. The flesh should have a firm, velvety and moist look (but not watery). The bones should be small in width and fairly soft to the touch. They should be bright red, as though full of blood. The fat covering the meat should be slight and whitish in color.

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Marbling is the network of fat that runs through a cut of meat. Some people refer to marbling as "graining." The best marbling is distributed through the meat with the fineness of a cobweb. The marble acts as a lubricant, dissolving into the meat as it is cooked. The silky, tiny threads in the best Prime meat dissolve evenly and produce juicy, tender results.

Beef
Prime meat has a delicate interlacing of fat, which assures a high degree of tenderness.

Lamb
Lamb does have a degree of marbling. This is barely perceptible in hothouse or baby lamb but becomes more obvious in older varieties.

Veal
There is some marbling in veal, but you can hardly see it, due to the whiteness of the meat. Marbling only occurs in the rib or loin sections.

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Lobel´s recommends that you avoid buying meat with any of these characteristics:

  • Fat that is yellowish or gray
  • Meat with absolutely no marbling
  • Meat that has a deep red color
  • Meat that has a two-tone coloration
  • Meat with a coarse texture
  • Meat with excessive moisture
  • Meat that is too fresh because it has not been aged properly

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© Lobel's of New York