When to Choose Prime Beef?
With a shiny new Fairway just opened in my town, I can buy all sorts of cuts of prime beef. I already stupidly paid a fortune for prime short ribs--the greater marbling meant that I ended up with some very fatty meat. So it seems that for any recipe that uses slow cooking--stews, pot roasts--there's no point in paying for prime. It's probably worthwhile for roast beef and steak, though would there be any reason to buy prime for a roast tenderloin? Would love some guidance here!
I generally buy choice, though I have bought prime in the past, and I honestly couldn't tell you the difference between the taste of the two. As far as I can discern, the biggest distinction is in the price. I have bought prime as a gift in the past, and will probably do so in the future, but so long as your meat is prepared well, it seems more like vanity than utility.
I think it really depends on your method of preparation.
If you were to cook it over direct heat, e.g. pan sear or grilling, then I would pay the extra $$$ and opt for prime grade beef cuts.
For slow and low heat cooking, e.g. stews and braises, choice grade is fine.
With respect to tenderloin, prime grade meat isn't just about the amount of marbling. If it was, then you could just as easily buy select grade tenderloin and be done with it. Prime grade meat also refers to the age of the animal. Beef is best in flavor and texture when cattle is between 18 and 24 months old, so the grading favors younger animals. So, yes, the grade of beef is a factor even for lean cuts like tenderloin.
Hope this helps and enjoy your new Fairway.
Top steakhouses that serve prime steaks don't serve prime filet mignon (comes from tenderloin).
No matter what grade, filet doesn't have marbling and you can't dry age it because it has no bone or fat to protect it from bacteria during aging.