When choosing steak, your decision will be influenced by various factors. First of which, is to do so at a proper butcher. Buying beef should be a process, and knowing what to look for is part of getting the best meat you can.
And the best way to do so is to visit a traditional butcher, in a stripy-apron.
Grade: The grade speaks about the quality of the meat based on marbling and age. Beef is graded prime, choice and select - with prime being at the top, and select at the bottom.
Marbling: refers to the quality and quantity of intra-muscular fat. It is influenced by type of breed, and what/how they are fed.
Cut: A largely subjective factor, as different cuts have very different qualities. Think rumps, fillets, sirloins etc.
What are the best beef steaks in the world? It’s probably easier to say who should play fly half for the Bokke. The Argentines are widely regarded as the Kings of beef; many swear by Wagyu beef, while modern Tuscans still sacrifice snowy Chianina cattle for their Florentine steaks.
Wagyu: Japanese breeds of cattle that are genetically predisposed to intense marbling of fat.
Kobe: Authentic Kobe beef comes from Wagyu cattle raised in Japan. The very expensive meat, marbled with pure white fat, is prized internationally for its succulent flavour. Rumour has it that farmers give them beer – and massages – to increase fat and to enhance the distinctive marbling of Kobe beef. Basically - drunk, fat, happy Japanese cows…
I think most would agree we’d all prefer to consume a grass-fed cow happily feeding in open pastures. But these days you can get free-range, organic, grain-fed, and grass-fed animals. Know the difference.
Grass-Fed: these animals live in pastures rather than feedlots. Grass-fed means that animals were likely raised without the use of antibiotics and hormones. Also, their feed is typically not made with animal by-products.
Grain-Fed: Most South African beef is grain-fed, meaning the cows are grass-fed for a short time, and then moved into feedlots.
Organic: All organic animals are free-range, however all free-range animals are not necessarily organic. Cattle raised without added hormones, pesticides, or other chemicals, though requirements for labelling it "organic" vary widely.
Free Range: All free-range animals live natural lives, roaming on the land, interacting with one another and eating only plant-based foods. However, animals classified as free-range, not organic, may be treated by conventional veterinary methods when sick. In addition, while free-range animals eat only plant-based foods, these are not necessarily organically produced, and may include approved artificial additives.
Aging is the process during which microbes and enzymes act upon the meat to help break down the connective tissue, for the sake of making the meat tenderer.
Wet Aged: During wet aging, the plastic doesn't allow the meat to breathe, so it ages in contact with its own blood, which lends it a more intense sour note and bloodier flavours.
Dry Aged: allows the meat to breathe, lose water and get acted upon by other microbes beside those of the muscle itself. This will begin to digest the meat, giving an aged loin its distinctive flavours, aroma, and fuzzy exterior.
Blue: Seared on the outside, completely red on the inside, cold. Temp 46 - 49 C
Rare: Seared on the outside, 75% red on the inside, cold centre. Temp 50 - 55 C
Medium-Rare: Seared on the outside, 50% red on the inside, warm centre, firmer. Temp 55 - 60 C
Medium: Seared on the outside, 25% pink showing, firm. Temp 60 - 65 C
Medium to Well Done: Hint of pink in the centre. Temperature 65 - 69 C
Well Done: Cooked until grey-brown throughout, firm. Temperature 71 - 100 C