Today we look at three different grades of steak and conduct a taste test to determine which New York Strip has the most impact on flavor. The different USDA beef grades are select, choice and prime. Let’s put these grades to the test!
USDA Beef Grades
When you go to the store you can typically find beef sold in three different grades: USDA select, USDA choice and USDA prime. Typically, select being the least expensive and prime being the most expensive. Most of the meat that you buy at the store will either be graded as select or choice. Once you learn the subtle differences in grades of steaks, you can make decisions that work best for your palette and your pocketbook.
There are some big differences in between the grades of beef. The first thing I want to do is bring your attention to the steaks, which are all New York strip steaks. On the right is USDA select, in the middle USDA choice and on the left is USDA prime.
Let’s take a look at the select steak. There is very little intramuscular fat which make it tough and chewy. Why is intramuscular fat important? Well simply put, that fat is where beef gets a lot of its flavor. The fat is where it’s at.
Next, take a look at the choice steak. You’ll see relative to the select, there’s much more of that flavor hiding right in between the meat.
Last, we have the prime steak. The one thing I want you to notice is the difference in all the intramuscular fat versus the select. This is going to be a more expensive steak because you are paying for a higher quality, better tasting New York Strip. USDA Prime steaks are typically found at nice steak houses and restaurants. It represents only about 5% of the total beef available for purchase. So this is going to be a little harder to find, but it’s out there.
How to Cook Steak
You may notice that these steaks are already salted. Why did we do that? Well, we recently did a steak experiment, gauging the timing differences of salting the steak and its impact on flavor. So, these have been salted for an hour. Be sure to let your steak rest at room temperature before cooking to promote consistent cooking. If I’m not grilling my steak, I cook them in the cast-iron skillet. I also cut the steaks in half so they are all relatively the same size and only cooked with oil in order to isolate the flavor profile. For this experiment, we cooked these New York Strips to medium rare, so we pulled them off at about 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the steak reached your preferred temperature, let it rest for five minutes to let the internal juices redistribute.
Grades of Steak Taste Test RESULTS
Let’s dig in to the select steak. It cuts very nicely. It’s a good steak, but not a great steak. Even though it has a nice temperature, it still tastes a little bit dry to me. I was expecting a little bit more chew to the steak, so it is a bit better than I expected.
Let’s move on over to the choice steak. The difference I see is a richer, “beefier” taste than the select steak. It is more tender than I expected, but still a little chewy. This is a good steak. You won’t be disappointed with this steak.
Lastly, on to the prime steak. It is noticeably more tender than the other two steaks. Also, you get a lot more of that intramuscular fat. This is a phenomenal steak!
In closing, I have to say the USDA select steak performed better than I thought. However, if you are looking for a steak with great flavor and worth the money, I would recommend USDA choice or USDA prime steak. Our goal for this experiment was to educate you about the different USDA grades of steak so the next time you’re in the store or restaurant you get the most bang for your buck!
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