You’re the first to order steak at a restaurant but at the butcher counter or meat case, anything beyond ground beef has you wondering just where to start. Hey, you’re not alone. They don’t exactly teach Beef Buying 101 in school. Here are a few of our favorite tips to become a savvy beef shopper.
Unwrap Something Delicious – Beef Packaging Explained
Talking to the butcher at your favorite supermarket is a great way to learn about beef. But we get it. Sometimes you want to cut out the small talk. One of the first things you may notice when shopping for beef is the variety of packaging. Let’s take a look at some of the more common methods you’ll encounter in the meat case.
- Overwrap and trays – Common in grocery stores, you’ll often see meat set on a foam tray wrapped with plastic. This method lets in oxygen giving beef the red color many shoppers look for as a sign of freshness. Letting oxygen in isn’t necessarily a good thing though as it causes beef to spoil faster. So if you’re grabbing beef packaged this way, don’t let it linger in the fridge. And if you plan to freeze the beef, definitely store it in a tightly sealed bag – or hello, freezer burn.
- Shrink bags – Also called vacuum sealing, shrink bags get the oxygen out, so beef can last longer. Beef packaged this way is going to look more purple in color than red, but no worries. It still has the tender juiciness that #beefitarians crave. Find a hot sale on your favorite cuts? If they’re in shrink bags, you can toss these right in the freezer.
- Modified-atmosphere packaging – It’s a fancy name but it’s a pretty simple package. Usually clear, this plastic container has a bottom and a lid, making it easy to see exactly what you’re buying. It keeps beef fresher than overwrap and trays, minimizes leakage and typically includes helpful nutritional information right on the package.
- Chubs – Chubs are rolls or bags typically used to package ground beef. You’ll find these in a lot of different sizes and shapes. They’re the king of convenience, tied at both ends and vacuumed sealed, making them great for the freezer.
Tips for Buying Beef
No one wants to take home beef that isn’t fresh or safe to eat. These in-store tips will keep help keep your taste buds happy and your body healthy.
- Check the date. Make sure that sell-by date hasn’t passed. Approaching quickly? Check your calendar and make sure you’ve got a plan to cook it – or freeze it – within 3-5 days of that date.
- Look for juices. Sure, juiciness is one of the reasons beef is so amazing to eat. But if you see a package with excessive juices, skip it. It could be a sign of improper storage.
- Grab the meat last. If you’re going on a major grocery run, hit the meat counter last. Don’t compromise the safety and deliciousness of dinner by keeping beef unrefrigerated longer than it needs to be.
Get More Bang for Your Buck – Save on Beef Prices
Even if you’re on a budget, there are a variety of beef cuts and strategies to stretch your dollar at the supermarket. And, if you’re smart with everyday meals, you can splurge on premium beef cuts for those special occasions.
- Buy beef or steak in bulk. Check out larger packages. They generally cost less per pound, and you can easily split them up into portions for your fridge or freezer when you get home.
- Check the price per pound. If you’re just looking at the total price of a package, it can be tough to tell if you’re getting a good deal especially when beef is being sold by weight. Make sure to check the label for the price per pound.
- Do a little prep or cutting. Premade patties, sliced fajita meat or trimmed steaks are convenient, but they often cost more. Do a little prep on your own with bigger cuts, and you’ll trade a little time for some serious cash.
- Know your beef cuts. While cuts like tenderloin can have a bigger price tag, sirloin steaks, or chuck offer better value without sacrificing flavor. Look for briskets, chuck arm roasts and rump roast that can often serve up more than one meal giving you even more bang for your buck.
Got you dreaming of a mouthwatering, beef-centric meal? Check out our quick-hitter guide to beef cuts and try one of our easy prep beef recipes. Now that you know how to buy beef, hit the store and make it happen. If you want to up your beef knowledge even more check out our beef terminology post.