Shopping for our daily meal ingredients has become quite an easy task – all we need to do is pop into a shop and pick up the ready packaged products from the supermarket fridges, shelves or counters. Even better yet; a click here and there gets your food delivered right to your door with online shopping tools available across the market. But are we choosing the best produce for our health and culinary benefits? Possibly not.
We all know how to check the back of a pre-packaged snack or frozen item; the Best Before date usually guides us in the right direction, choosing fresh fruit and vegetables is also quite an easy task; the firmer, smaller selection is usually that little bit better. Fish need to be void of any nasty smells and have vibrant red gills, they also need to be unspoilt in their physical appearance (here’s how to recognise fresh fish) . But what about fresh meat? How can we tell if this protein staple is the best quality?
The first and best piece of advice here is probably to find yourself a trusted butcher who knows exactly what he’s doing behind his deli display fridge. He also needs to know exactly where his meat is sourced from, its country of origin, slaughter date and preferably be able to give his clients tips on how to prepare the cuts, should they ask. Be prepared to ask these questions to judge the quality of your butcher and in turn his meat products for sale.
Learning how to recognise good meat from bad meat is also something you can learn, to make sure you’re getting the best quality possible. Here are 4 tips the chefs at Surf N Turf can recommend to bring home the best quality meat to your family and friends.
Colour makes a big difference
This is not a clear cut differentiator in quality. There’s a lot of room for variety here; from breed, age and source of the animal – younger meat is usually brighter in colour than older ones so this should always be taken into consideration.
Beef: look out for darker meat, the darker the flesh the richer the flavour and if you’re looking for a supreme steak, the meat should be slightly mottled. Mottling is another word for marbling; the fat streaks that appear in the steak – think Kobe beef; the highest quality steak with great marbling percentage.
Lamb: lamb is usually bright red in colour and has slight marbling in the cut. Most legs of lamb we come across in the supermarket carry a grey kind of colour; that’s not quite right. Edible in every way, but not the best quality for the price you’re paying. Get your butcher to give you a choice of lamb legs; use your judgement to choose the best one.
Pork: pork meat is lighter in colour than beef and lamb and generally has a bright and shiny look. It is supposed to have a dusky pink colour and is quite soft to the touch – never go for discoloured pork, this can be dangerous.
Poultry: the animal’s feed is a super game changer here. Corn-fed chickens are usually a little yellow in colour – the colour is carried in the fat of the chicken and changes the overall appearance of the soon to be Sunday Roast.
Take a look at the surface
Here you’re looking for flawless surfaces, smooth and clean without any punctures, pressure points or blood spots. Across the board, we can say that the surface of any meat product you plan to eat should be pretty free from blemishes and never greasy to the look or touch.
Fibration also plays a big role
Fibres are so important here – this is basically the protein structure; the healthy part of the meal that you are about to serve on your dinner table; so it’s got to be good! Now don’t go crazy here, there will always be a fair amount of visible fibres on your steak, it’s the coarse fibres that jot out of the flesh that you need to worry about. These thick fibres are what make your meat tough and steal away from the delicateness of the product.
It’s majorly important that you don’t buy meat that collapses when fresh or looks old – test this by poking the meat, it should bounce back and should never, ever, feel spongy.
Lose your marbles over marbling
Think of a slab of marble; you’ve got the grains running through the stone so naturally, so elegantly, creating a unique pattern of perfection – this is exactly what your meat should look like. Granted, not all cuts have a great marbling effect – the leaner products you may buy definitely shy away from this.
For the full-fat, no restrictions cut… marbling is your friend. The tastiest, most succulent friend you’ll ever have. Finer cuts usually have more marbling and taste a whole lot better due to the juicy element the fat adds with its intense flavour profile. This beautiful flavour comes out in the cooking process; therefore a carpaccio is generally a leaner cut – usually taken from the fillet cut of beef. Marbling also contributes to the textural element of a dish – the more marbling you’ve got the more tender your cut will be.
Choosing your own meat should not be rushed – it’s a time sensitive process that you need to devote some time to. There are so many missteps in the food industry that knowing how to catch the bad meat from the good meat will make your eating habits a whole lot better. The chefs at Surf N Turf only choose the best quality cuts to bring into the kitchen – their knowledge and expertise in the area is what makes our food so great! If you have any questions on which cuts to go for, how to store your meat or need any cooking tips for certain meats; speak to us – we’re happy to share our culinary advice with you!