Selecting The Best
Return to Meat Menu
Product Dating: Product dating, applying "sell
by" or "use by" dates, is not required
by federal regulations. However, many stores and processors
may voluntarily choose to date packages of raw meat.
Use or freeze products with a "sell by" date
within three to five days of purchase. If the manufacturer
has determined a "use by" date, observe it.
It’s always best to buy a product before its date expires.
It’s not important if a date expires after freezing
meat, because all foods stay safe while properly frozen.
Fresh is Best: Choose meat that is bright
red in color from the fresh meat case. Vacuum packaged
meat will be maroon because it has not been exposed
to oxygen. Choose meat that is firm to the touch. Look
for packages that are cool to the touch, have no wear
or punctures, and little or no excess liquid. Always
check the "sell-by" date. "Loin"
and "rib" are clues that the meat is a more
tender cut. "Chuck", "round" and
"flank" indicate a less tender cut. Less tender
cuts will require marinating or a slower, moist cooking
Purchase raw meats last. Make sure all meats, whether
raw, pre-packaged or from the deli, are refrigerated
when purchased. Fresh meats may contaminate other grocery
items. The best way to prevent this cross-contamination
is to always keep fresh meats from other items. Put
raw meat packages in a plastic bag so juices won’t drip
onto other foods. Pack raw meats in an ice chest if
it will take you more than an hour to get home, and
keep the ice chest in the passenger area of the car
during warm weather. Take meats straight home to the
refrigerator or freezer.
The Best Cuts of Beef for Pressure
and Veal Prime grade - is produced
from young, well-fed beef cattle. It has
abundant marbling and is generally sold
in restaurants and hotels. Prime roasts
and steaks are excellent for dry-heat cooking
(i.e., roasting, broiling, and grilling).
grade - is high quality, but has less
marbling than Prime. Choice roasts and steaks
from the loin and rib will be very tender,
juicy, and flavorful and are, like Prime,
suited to dry-heat cooking. Many of the
less tender cuts, such as those from the
rump, round, and blade chuck, can also be
cooked with dry heat, but be careful not
to overcook them. Using a meat thermometer
takes the guesswork out of cooking and assures
a safe internal temperature: 145 °
F is medium rare; 160 °
F, medium; and 170 °
F, well done.
grade - is very uniform in quality and
normally leaner than the higher grades.
It is fairly tender, but, because it has
less marbling, it may lack some of the juiciness
and flavor of the higher grades. Only the
tender cuts (loin, rib, sirloin) should
be cooked with dry heat. Other cuts should
be marinated before cooking or cooked with
moisture to obtain maximum tenderness and
and Commercial grades – frequently
are sold as ungraded or as "store brand"
Cutter, and Canner grades - are
seldom, if ever, sold at retail but are
used instead to make ground beef and processed
There are five grades for
Veal/Calf: prime, choice,
good, standard, and utility.
Prime and choice grades
are juicier and more flavorful than the
lower grades. Because of the young age of
the animals, the meat will be a light grayish-pink
to light pink, fairly firm and velvety.
The bones are small, soft, and quite red.
Cuts such as chops can be cooked by the
dry-heat method of grilling or broiling.
good, standard are best for Pressure Cooking.
The Best Cuts of Pork and Ham for Pressuring
and Ham Pork is not graded with USDA
quality grades as it is generally produced
from young animals that have been bred and
fed to produce more uniformly tender meat.
Appearance is an important guide in buying
fresh pork. Look for cuts with a relatively
small amount of fat over the outside and
with meat that is firm and grayish pink
in color. For best flavor and tenderness,
meat should have a small amount of marbling.
Pork's consistency makes it suitable
for a variety of cooking styles. Chops can
be prepared by pan broiling, grilling, baking,
braising, or sautéing. Ribs can be braised,
roasted, or grilled. Slow cooking yields
the most tender and flavorful results. Tenderloins
are considered to be the most tender and
tasty cut of pork. Best
for Pressure Cooking.
The Best Cuts of Lamb for Pressuring
There are five grades
for lamb. Normally only two grades are found
at the retail level -- prime and
choice. Lower grades of lamb and
mutton (meat from older sheep) -- good,
utility, and cull -- are seldom
marked with the grade. Lamb is produced
from animals less than a year old. Since
the quality of lamb varies according to
the age of the animal, it is advisable to
buy lamb that has been USDA graded.
Prime grade - is very high in
tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. Its marbling
enhances both flavor and juiciness.
Choice grade - has slightly less
marbling than prime, but still is of very
high quality. Most cuts of prime and choice
grade lamb (chops, roasts, shoulder cuts,
and leg) are tender and can be cooked by
the dry-heat methods (broiling, roasting,
or grilling). The less tender cuts -- breast,
riblets, neck, and shank -- can be cooked
slowly by the moist-heat method (braising)
to make them more tender. Best
for Pressure Cooking.
The Best Cuts of Poultry for Pressuring
USDA grades for poultry are A,
B, and C. Grade A is the
highest quality and the only grade that
is likely to be seen at the retail level.
This grade indicates that the poultry products
are virtually free from defects such as
bruises, discolorations, and feathers. Bone-in
products have no broken bones. For whole
birds and parts with the skin on, there
are no tears in the skin or exposed flesh
that could dry out during cooking, and there
is a good covering of fat under the skin.
Also, whole birds and parts will be fully
fleshed and meaty. Best
for Pressure Cooking.
B and C poultry are usually used
in further-processed products where the
poultry meat is cut up, chopped, or ground.
If sold at retail, they are usually not