Test CJ

[favorite_button post_id="" site_id=""]

How The USDA Grades Your Steak

Making The Grade: The USDA And Your Steak

For steak lovers, suppliers, and farmers alike, the USDA’s grading system is the holy standard for all things beef, from ribeye to New York strip. 

But for those unfamiliar with how the USDA grades beef, the different grades and what they mean can be somewhat mystifying. It doesn’t help that certain restaurants, supermarkets, and suppliers are doing their best to confuse you so they can serve you inferior steaks.

To make sure you’re getting the best steak possible, it’s important that you understand how the USDA’s system works. With this guide, you’ll learn about the different grades of beef, including Prime, Choice, and Select. You’ll also learn what the USDA looks for when judging cattle, and why marblingand age are so important to quality cuts.

What To Look For And Why

When purchasing steaks, always look for the USDA shield.

Crafty restaurants, supermarkets, and wholesalers might say that they use their own, in-house ratings, or will call their steaks “prime” cuts, without using USDA certification. The best way to avoid getting cheated on your steak is to look for the USDA seal.

For restaurants: Ask for the USDA rating. If your server skirts the topic, that’s a warning sign.

For supermarkets and wholesalers: Look for the USDA seal. If you cannot find it (it might be on the bottom of the package), the meat is not USDA certified.

The Upper Cuts: Prime, Choice, and Select

The USDA has eight grades for beef, but you will probably find only three labelled grades at your local supermarket or butcher shop. These are Prime, Choice, and Select.

USDA PRIME is reserved for the best cuts of beef. Just 3% of steaks get labelled Prime. Steaks of this grade are quickly bought by five-star restaurants and upscale wholesalers. Because of this, Prime steaks are rarely found in supermarkets or grocery stores. Prime cuts are sourced from younger steers, and are abundant in marbling and reddish-pink in color. They are the most tender, juicy, and flavorful steaks on the market.

USDA CHOICE is the step below Prime. USDA Choice cuts are available in most grocery stores and medium-priced restaurants. A Choice steak often has the same reddish-pink color of a Prime cut, but lacks the same level of marbling. The amount of marbling found in Choice cuts can vary widely. It is wise to inspect a Choice steak to see how much marbling it contains. Depending on the cut, a Choice steak may require slower cooking or a marinade to bring out its tenderness and flavor.

USDA SELECT steaks sit at the lower end of the quality cuts. Because of the low level of marbling found in Select cuts, they usually require marinating. Salt-rich or acidic sauces/marinades can also help tenderize Select steaks, as salt and acids soften and help to break down tougher tissues. Select steaks also benefit from longer cooking times at lower temperatures.

Grading Criteria: What Makes A Great Steak

USDA grades are based on what makes a steak as tender, juicy, and flavorful as possible. There are two main criteria that help graders determine which cattle produce the best beef.

Marbling, also known as “intra-muscular fat,” is the most prized feature in steaks. Marbling is characterized by thin streaks of fat between muscle tissue. When cooked, the fat melts. This gives the meat unparalleled tenderness and a rich, buttery flavor.

Age is another important factor in steak quality. Younger steaks are more tender and flavorful than older cuts of meat. Because of this, most Prime and Choice steaks come from steers 1 to 3 years in age. Steak age is usually determined by the color of the meat, as steaks turn a deeper, darker color as they age.

The “Other” Grades

There are five other grades of beef used by the USDA.

The two medium grades – Standard and Commercial – result in lower quality cuts. For steaks, these cuts are usually left unlabelled, or get turned into ground beef. Many stores will sell unlabelled Standard or Commercial grade steaks under in-house labels, which is why it’s so important to keep an eye out for the USDA seal.

Cattle that receive one of the lowest three grades – Utility, Cutter, and Canner – are used for cheaper ground beef, hot dogs, or pet food. Luckily, steaks of this grade are rarely (if ever) sold by grocery stores, butchers, or wholesalers.

Any of the five lower grades should be avoided when purchasing steaks.

Prime Time: Grill Meets Grade

Now that you know how to find the best steaks, it’s time to put knowledge to practice. With a firm grasp of the USDA grading system, you’ll be able to find a wholesaler, butcher, or grocery store you can trust to deliver high-quality cuts. And remember: grade-A steaks deserve grade-A grillers and recipes.


Recipes - Grill Steak

Balsamic Marinated Premium Angus Beef Flat Iron


This is one of the more popular summer steak recipes as you can use it as a salad topping, sandwich or crisp quesadilla. It will be even better with a nice glass of crisp Venho Verde. Serve with vine ripe tomatoes and grilled bread. Enjoy our flat iron steak recipes and Bon Appetit.

Chicago Steak Company - Grill Steak

• 4each 8 oz Flat Iron Steak
• ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
• ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
• 3 each crushed garlic cloves
• 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
• 1 Tablespoon Chicago Steak Company Seasoning

Place all ingredients in a zip lock bag, mix the balsamic steak marinade generously, and set in your refrigerator 4 hours.
Prepare your grill and pre-heat to a high setting.
Remove steak from bag, shaking off any excess marinade. Grill your steak 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare, or until internal temperature reaches 135F.
Remove your steaks from the grill and let them rest for 5 minutes. 
Serve with your preferred accompaniments.

Chicago Steak Company - Order Now!

With the price of beef these days you don't want to "Ruin" your meat on the grill. I like my beef rare to medium rare, so I think, in my humble opinion the reverse sear method is the way to rock. Click Here to Watch.




Cooking TechniquesDone To Perfection: Your Guide To Steak Doneness


Summer’s finally here, and if you stand in your backyard and listen closely, you’ll hear the beautiful sound of millions of grills being lit across the country.

There is – of course – no better food to grill than a richly marbled, perfectly aged cut of USDA Prime steak. But before you finish tying up the strings on your “Kiss The Chef” apron, it’s best to be sure you have the basics of steak doneness down.

With this guide to Steak doneness, we’ll show you what happens when you cook your steak, what the different levels of doneness are (and what they for your steak’s tenderness and flavor), and how you can be sure that you’ve cooked your steak to the perfect level of doneness.

What Cooking Does To Your Steak
There are two parts to grilling a gorgeous ribeye or strip. The first is making sure that the steak reaches a consistent internal temperature. It’s this internal temperature that’s used to determine a steak’s doneness.

When you cook meat, you’re doing three things:

  1. You’re breaking down it’s proteins: Muscle proteins, which are usually tightly balled, begin to unwind. This is why rawer steaks are chewier than more cooked ones.
  2. You’re evaporating water: Roughly ¾ of a steak’s muscle fibers are made of water. As you cook a steak, that water evaporates. Hence why a well done steak has less mass and less juiciness than a rare steak.
  3. You’re melting fat: As you cook your steak, the small streaks and pockets of fat inside start melting. When the fat melts, it gets absorbed into the muscle. This gives your steak a better taste (fat contains the chemicals that gives beef its flavor) and a smoother, more tender and buttery texture.

The second part of grilling is searing. Searing a steak involves exposing its surface to extremely hot temperatures (meaning 500°or hotter) for short periods. This results in what’s called the Maillard effect, and it gives your steak the crunchy, brown flavorful exterior that steak lovers prize.

Steak Doneness Levels
All great steaks require searing (for flavor, texture, and killing surface bacteria). But it’s the internal temperature that determines your steak’s doneness. There are six main levels of doneness you can cook a steak to.
NOTE: You should always pull your steak off the grill when it’s 5° below the temperature you want it to reach. This is because your steak retains heat and will continue to cook and heat up for a short time after you pull it off the grill.

Blue Rare (115°): Also known as Very Rare, Blood Rare, Black & Blue, Pittsburgh Rare, or Bloody As Hell. Blue Rare steaks are only seared on the outside, meaning the inside remains almost completely uncooked and raw. Blue Rare steaks are often still cool on the inside, and may be placed in an oven at a low temperature to warm.

Rare (120°): Rare steaks have a warm but very red center. This means the surface has the tasty flavor and texture of the Maillard effect, but also means that the steak’s fats have not had a chance to properly melt. Because of this, Rare is a great choice for low-fat steaks, such as tenderloins, but should be avoided for well-marbled cuts such as rib-eyes, strips, and porterhouses.

Medium Rare (130°): The gold-standard of steak doneness. Ask almost any chef or steak aficionado: Medium Rare means the best tasting, most tender steak you can grill. At this temperature, the steak’s fat has had a chance to melt, distributing butteriness and flavor, but not a lot of moisture has evaporated yet, meaning a supremely tender, juicy, and plump steak. A medium-rare steak is red at the center, with a ring of pinkness between the center and the crust.

Medium (140°): A medium steak no longer contains a red center, but is pink throughout most of the steak. Medium steaks retain the buttery, flavorful taste of Medium-Rare steaks, but have slightly less juiciness and tenderness, due to moisture loss.

Medium Well (150°): Medium Well steaks still retain a little bit of pinkness and tenderness, but have begun to lose enough moisture that they will be drier and less tender than most steak lovers would care for.

Well Done (160°): Most chefs and grillmasters would say this level of doneness is poorly named – “Over-Done” would be a better fit. By this point, enough moisture (and fat) has either evaporated or leaked from the steak that it you’ll find your meat much drier and tougher than you’d probably like it.

Determining Temperature
The best way to make sure your steak has reached the temperature and level of doneness you’re looking for is to use a meat thermometer. Find a quality thermometer that gives accurate readings and slide it into the side of your steak, towards the center.

Some people will tell you not to do this, as poking a steak will let the juices leak out. Ignore them – it’s nonsense. A small amount of juices will leak, but not enough that anyone will notice.

Similarly, ignore those who tell you to check a steak’s doneness through the finger test Different breeds of beef, cuts of meat, and steak thicknesses can cause big variations in how a cooked steak feels to the touch – the method is unreliable, and is a great way to ruin a good Wagyu or Kobe-style steak.

Get Grilling
Now that you know the perfect doneness and temperature to grill your rib-eye to (hint hint: Medium Rare, Medium Rare, Medium Rare), it’s time to fire up the grill. 

If you’re looking for more tips on how to get the perfect steak, why not check out a few of Steak U’s videos, and let some of Chicago’s top steakhouse chefs and steak lovers show you how it’s done?


With the price of beef these days you don't want to "Ruin" your meat on the grill.I like my beef rare to medium rare, so I think, in my humble opinion the reverse sear method is the way to rock. Click Here to Watch.




Dig Discount
Register New Account
Reset Password
Compare items
  • Total (0)