How to Pick Out a Steak

Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on beef.

Part II of How to Eat Less Meat series.

I’ve noticed most Americans choosing lean cuts of steak, probably because they’ve been told by doctors and dieticians that fat is bad for them.  So they tend to pick steaks that look like the ones below:

Bright red and lean.  It’ll likely taste dry and bland if it’s overcooked (anything over medium rare).  Guaranteed to be leathery if it’s cooked medium well.  Many medical experts recommend beef of this kind because it contains less calories and fat per ounce.  Top steakhouses and great chefs, however, avoid such cuts.  They instead recommend well-marbled steaks, like the one below.

This will be a juicy and satisfying steak, especially if slow-cooked rare and quickly seared with high heat.

I’m convinced that those who pick lean cuts end up taking in more calories.  Lean cuts aren’t satisfying and fulfilling to most people.  There’s no point — other than participating in what some consider a quintessential American activity, grilling and eating steak — to eating a lean steak.  Those eating lean steak will likely eat more of it and/or drench it in high calorie sauces like A1 to give it more flavor and moisture.  Or they add more butter to their bread.  Or they eat more desert.  Again, people want to feel satisfied when they eat.  Fat is satisfying (and good for you in moderation) and many people will continue eating until they get enough of it.

If the steak is well marbled, people will eat less of it.  If they don’t overcook it, they’ll be less likely to drench it in high calorie sauce (as Koreans do with kalbi and bulgogi).  I’m not able to eat more than 5 oz of New York cut Kobe beef (20 -40 percent fat) because eating any more than that is like eating butter.  Our bodies will tell us when we get enough fat, whether it be at the 5oz or at the 20oz mark.

Not saying that we should only eat Kobe beef quality steak.  That gets expensive for many of us.  But I’m often able to find prime grade beef (10-20 percent fat) at Select grade prices.  If I can’t find a well marbled steak, I don’t eat it steak.  Not a big deal.  For me, steak is a special treat, something I indulge in on occasion.   So if I’m going to eat steak, I’m going to do it right and without guilt.  Doing it this way may improve health and the environment.

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1 Comment

  1. I completely agree about steak being a treat, and one that we should get utmost satisfaction from . As someone who eats hers pretty close to raw, however, I tend to prefer the leaner cuts. I also prefer to cook them myself, so that they *don’t* become dried out and leathery.
    Also, I highly recommend the book “Nourishing Traditions” to anyone reading this. It is a fascinating read, and does a great job of de-demozing (?) many things that popular media have told us are “bad”.
    In truth, food that resembles it’s source is probably great nourishment for our bodies and our spirits. It’s the factory food that we should cast a wary eye toward.

    Ps, I just thought someone should comment, to break the ice…


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