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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!

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  1. 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.

    1 Reply
    1. 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.

      8 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Top steakhouses that serve prime steaks don't serve prime filet mignon (comes from tenderloin).
        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB11287...

        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.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Correct, Puck is serving a bone in filet which can be aged.
            On the Menu that bone-in filet is prime and aged....must melt in your mouth.

            1. re: monku

              There's also a petit cut (non-bone) filet mignon, which is also supposed to be aged.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Don't know why.
                I've had bone in 8 oz. filet, but not at Cut.
                Maybe they trim it from the bone after aging. If Puck is aging a bone-in tenderloin for the 16 oz. the 8 oz. must be coming off the same tenderloin.

            2. re: ipsedixit

              I've never seen a filet with a significant amount of marbling to be considered prime(like you'd see in a ribeye).
              But, maybe it's a rare and expensive commodity and commands a high price that only places in Cut's league have a market to sell it.

            3. re: monku

              Both of these statements are incorrect. I've seen both prime and Wagyu tenderloins with GREAT marbling.

              1. re: joonjoon

                I've seen Wagyu, but not prime filet.
                I didn't say it doesn't exist, I said it's hard to come by.

          2. I regularly buy the filets at Fairway and usually they are quite decent. But for my last b-day I decided to treat myself and bought a prime filet. It was so delicious that I will not go back to the Choice filet again.