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I think I like buying steak from supermarkets more than a butcher.

  • Soop Sep 1, 2010 07:32 AM
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I've had some really good steaks from butchers (dry aged sirloin) but I recently had some not-as-nice dry aged sirloin from a deli counter.

So maybe it's engrained, but I like the taste of supermarket steaks a lot.

But here's what else I like: when you buy a steak, you can see exactly what the marbling is like on each piece. Usually (girlfirend included) people assume a "good steak" is lean red meat with white fat on the outside.

You won't often see dark red meat in supermarkets as it's packed airtight, but you do see people leaving the meat with the best marbling, sometimes to the point where is has to be reduced (and I snap it up). People must either assume it's gristly (although you can tell the difference between fat and gristle), or scraggy, or bad for you, but they're easily the best tasting.

Anyone else find this?

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  1. If you're asking can you find better meat at the supermarket than the butcher - then yes you can. And then it's time to change your butcher if you can.

    I actually buy most of my meat direct from the farmer, over the internet, supplemented by purchases at farmers markets. From time to time, I'd still need to buy the odd piece of meat. Until recently, the butcher in the village was very poor quality. I wouldnt buy from him and definitely preferred the supermarket. It's now under different ownership and quality is better - I'd say it's now about on a par with the supermarket's non-premium meat (but not as good as the premium stuff - for instance, no free-range or organic meat )

    1. Soop,

      I think there are advantages in both. I think you get to buy fresher meat from a butcher because of the faster turn around. However, I feel you get really "shop" for longer duration in a supermarket in the refrigator isle. You can pick up 5-15 pieces of steak and inspect them closely for as long as you are please. You cannot do that when buying from a butcher. You can grab one piece of meat inspect it for 30 second and then grab another one and then another one ....

      7 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        I purposely pick out beef that is less "fresh" - whenever I see a "manager's special" on a steak that's nearing expiration, i'll pick it up and let it sit for a few more days...why pay for aging when they'll give you a discount on already-aged cuts?

        1. re: joonjoon

          Joon....I agree...A friend saw me pick up a not so bright red steak and said"Hey that one is old......Yup!!!!"

          1. re: joonjoon

            Isn't aging more complicated than leaving it out? I thought it was hung in a particularly conditioned room or something.

            1. re: Soop

              Actually, in the "old days" meat, (game) was left outside hanging from a tree to dry it out and get the enzymes to breakdown the tissue. Now everything gets a little more hype than it needs.If I buy a really good prime well marbled steak I unwrap it and leave it in the cooler uncovered for a day or two.

            2. re: joonjoon

              That is a good point. Do you mind sharing how you usually deal with the funk and slime that is sometimes found on the surface? When this happens, I just rinse with hot water, pat dry and make sure to sear well, and I wonder what others do.

              1. re: tarteaucitron

                When I see that irredescent tint, and the slimy texture, I bin it. Especially bacon.

              2. re: joonjoon

                That's not aging. Aging isn't done on individual steaks. Your meat is turning funky, and not in a good way. Unless you like that funk. But it's not aging.

            3. Is there any reason you cannot see the quality of the steak through the display case or ask the butcher to give you exactly what you're looking for? I've had good meat from supermarkets; I've had bad meat from butchers and vice versa. Neither definitively comes out on top, but as a consumer you've the ability to choose the vendor that best meets your expectations and needs.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JungMann

                I think it's the fact that ... if you asked the butcher to cut a joint up into seperate steaks so you could choose the one you want. And that would be the equivilent.

                I'm not sure what I would do if I asked for x amount of steak, and then said "Hmm. Don't like this one, let's see the next one". I'd probably just suffer with the one I had.

                And while you're right, you can see the surface of the outside, but if that's no good, then there's no other choice.

              2. Gotta say I agree...as long as you are looking at the same grade and not an aged piece vs non-aged. It is much easier to pick out your cut as opposed to the butchers I have gone to where I have ordered a cut a certain thickness, ect and it is cut right off the bone and not leaving me much (any) choice. The only thing I do not love about buying meat from the supermarket is most usually lack any grass fed beef/lamb. Whole foods has some, but not in anything other than off cuts and ground meat, and I have no idea what % of its life it was grass fed. I got some grass fed lamb at Sang Lee farms all the way out east on Long Island, and though it was frozen, it was amazing. I find the difference of grass fed and corn is pretty remarkable and as a bonus, it is much better for the environment.

                1 Reply
                1. re: dcole

                  Like me, Soop is in the UK - so our lamb & beef will be almost exclusively fed on grass or silage.

                2. I like getting my steaks from the butcher, because I tell him how thick I want them and get them that way. I like 1.5 inch steaks, which is a bit thicker than I generally see at the supermarket but not so thick that you run the risk of overcooking the outside and undercooking the inside.

                  1. I don't know if we are talking about the same thing but sometimes I also wonder if I can get the better of both worlds:

                    I often ask for grass-fed or farm-raised when at the butcher's, and typically the meat has more flavour but is either too lean for my taste (even for rib eyes), or the marbelling is there yet nowhere as beautiful as those at the supermarket counters. From my limited experience, the explanation is that, the corn in the diet helps a lot with the marbelling, to a point that some farms that raise the cows on grass would finish them with corn to fatten them up.

                    On the other hand, the "premium" steaks at the supermarket is always beautifully and copiously marbelled, and bright red (although sometimes more brown on the *inside* presumably because of the superior packaging technology). The fat is much less tasty than that of the the farm-raised variety, but a lot more fat does make it taste good too.

                    1. also, I got a little bucket barbeque recently, and I find ribeyes barbeque really well. Is this the preferred BBQ steak?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Soop

                        Soop, I know you are in UK - there are a number of steaks we like to grill outdoors, not sure if they correspond to same name in your neck of the woods. Skirt, flank, chuck eye, strip, porterhouse, Tbone are all very good on the grill. Since some come from the chuck, some from the loin different methods of adjustment are necessary. Skirt, flank & chuck eye need marinating. Rib, Tbone, porterhouse & strip profit from a good dry rub with salt&p, garlic and paprika. As we like steak med rare, we generally ask for it to be 1.5 in or thicker, for those steaks from the loin/rib. We use direct heat to brown exterior and finish cooking using indirect heat.

                        As to your question of butcher vs. supermarket, I think it varies on the relationship you have with each. I cultivate a butcher and a specific meat cutter at the supermarket. They have known me for a number of years and are familiar with what I look for in good quality meat (they have taught me). I rely on each for special sales and take advantage of that, I have freezer space and only buy good quality meat when it's on sale.

                        1. re: Soop

                          I don't really BBQ, Soop (up here in the north west, there's never suitable weather for outdoors) - but I have the view that ribeye is always the preferred steak however you intend to cook it. Because of the need for the fat marbling to break down, I find it needs cooking a tad longer than some other cuts. However, when I want rare, I'd go for rump - by far the tastiest cut generally available.

                        2. I guess it depends on where you live, too. I live in "small town/suburban" NC. Our "butcher" before it closed was basically a grocery store with only meat. You could order stuff, but it came from Sysco. I think they did buy primal cuts and butcher them, but the quality was not significantly better. And the turnover was lower than the grocery store due to price and location. I don't mind supermarket meat. My only quibble is that there isn't a single store in my town where I can reliably buy skirt steak or flank steak, both of which I used to use for all kinds of things.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: evewitch

                            You might have some luck with flank and skirt steak at a Latin market. Any in your area?

                          2. I would love to have the kind of food budget where I can buy directly from farmers, over the internet, or farmer's market. My experience is that I pay a premium for those cuts of meat (quality also tends to be pretty good). Same goes for whole foods, wegmen's, butcher, and speciality food stores.

                            I've given up on the local groceries as I've been dissappointed from the meat I've gotten. The steaks taste a bit more liver/iron like.

                            I've had good luck with two sources. First is an ethic butcher, Latin or korean butcher in my case. Both have great cut of meat (and other stuff parts and cuts that are tougher to find) and more reasonable prices the other places. Plus, I'm helping mom and pop places (always a plus).

                            I've also had good luck with Costco Steaks. I've been getting their choice porterhouse and the family loves them. Decent marbling and am able to get thme around 6 to $7 per lb.

                            1. We are fortunate where we live to have an excellent certified organic farmer/butcher who grows his own livestock and is able to trace each animal back to its birth. I find that our butchers have a far better choice of prized cuts such as sweetbreads, flank steak, hanger steak, lamb shanks and so on that our grocery stores carry, not to mention the vastly superior flavour. Plus our grocery stores' animals are factory raised in squallid conditions. Sure, the premium meat is more expensive but you can choose to eat less of it. Knowing where that animal comes from is worth it to me. Easy decision.

                              1. I wish I had a local butcher as an option!

                                1. My butcher is part of a family of butchers stretching back to 1822. During all those years they have raised their own livestock, with the seed stock dating back to a shipment from Wales in 1821. They can trace the lineage of their cattle for over 30 generations of cattle.

                                  The grass on which the livestock is fed cannot be bought for any price anymore, it is an ancient form of grass that no longer exists in the modern world, except on the land owned by my butcher's family. It is extinct in the rest of the world, and it cannot be purchased at any price. Every single grass seed is carefully tended and guarded, with micro serial numbers gently stamped upon them through a patented process. If a single seed goes missing, they will know.

                                  The cattle themselves are implanted with chips from the moment of birth, and raised by carefully trained cattle-herds who apprenticed by living among wild musk oxen for a minimum of three years, eating only what the oxen ate, bathing only when the oxen bathed. In time the smell of oxen is imprinted on the apprentice cattle-herds, earning them the utmost trust of the cattle, thus reducing stress hormones in their charges.

                                  These are cattle who live their entire lives without ever having known fear.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: redfish62

                                    micro serial numbers on each seed is my favorite line!

                                    1. re: magiesmom

                                      And "gently stamped" on!

                                      What's a butcher?

                                    2. re: redfish62

                                      That's ridiculous -- everyone knows that fear is the tastiest part of a steak.

                                      1. re: neel2004

                                        mmm, fear....

                                        1. re: Soop

                                          Hmmm, that would be particularly sinister if said by Homer Simpson.