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Top 10 Steak Buying Tips

September 16, 2012 28 Comments


#2. Get to Know Your Butcher

Get to know your butchers

Two of my favorite butchers – Dan & Derrik

End All The Confusion

It’s a good idea to have some idea of the type of steaks you’re thinking of buying before you go to the market. At least you should know, how much steak you’ll need, how are you going to prepare them and your budget. There are so many great cuts available these days and depending on how you’re going to serve the meat may influence what you purchase.

Steaks come in all shapes and sizes and depending on the section of the cow they originate from can have a huge influence on price and cooking technique. According to Jimmy, “You may want to choose a cut like Flat Iron or Flank Steak if you are serving a larger group.

Consider buying a thicker, multiple serving premium steak such as a Porterhouse or Bone-in Rib-Eye. Return the sliced steak to the bone before serving. It is a very nice presentation for a small dinner party. Thicker boneless cuts such as New York Steak also make great multiple serving steaks.”

Cheaper Cuts Only A Butcher Knows

There are cheaper cuts like Tri Tip, Ranch, or Sirloin that can be great for grill if you can find them with enough marbling. We buy these marinated Tri Tip steaks at Wegmans that my girls love and I can’t seem to overcook.

For special occasions with a big crowd I’ll purchase a whole tenderloin and roast it in the oven, slice it into thin steaks and serve it with horseradish cream sauce. Always a crowd favorite.

There’s a lot more steak options on a cow then many of us know about. And then there are the names. You may know it as a rib-eye but it’s also be known as a cowboy steak, Spencer steak, Delmonico steak, market steak or beauty steak depending on whether it’s bone in or what part of the country you come from.

That same rib-eye Delmonico is also the name of a cut from the boneless chuck-eye steak. Confusing? Yes, so get to know your butcher and ask him for his advice on what to buy for the crowd you’ll be serving and how much you want to spend.

brown sauce

Online Steak Buying Resources

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Snake River Farms - Founded in 1968 by Robert Rebholtz, Sr., Snake River Farms and Double R Ranch are part of Agri Beef Co., a family owned and operated business dedicated to producing the highest quality beef and pork in the United States. The Northwest has distinct advantages over other cattle raising regions including a temperate climate that keeps the cattle comfortable throughout every season. The geographic location also provides access to a diverse range of feed ingredients.


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Last modified on Fri 24 May 2019 12:23 pm

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Filed in: Steaks, Tips and Facts

Comments (28)

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  1. Jake says:

    Lot of great information here. Thank you for the steak buying tips.

  2. cedric says:

    Thanks for the great advice. I was not aware that steak was graded in that manner.

  3. Sergio says:

    Interesting and useful advice . Now, I would appreciate your suggestion about to COOK those beautiful **RIBEYES**

    • The Reluctant Gourmet says:

      Working on a list of cooking suggestions for Rib Eyes and all these other steaks. Please check back Sergio.

  4. Sam Tha Butcha says:

    I have been a Butcher for 10 years and whoever wrote this blog is right! Us Butcher’s are more than happy to make a customer happy.You wouldn’t believe the stuff that happens behind the counter.But I have to say if you are nice to your local Butcher he or she will be nice to you…..Keep That In Mind The Next Time You Think About Being Rude to Your Local Butcher;-)

  5. Anna Pecora says:

    this was very informative and answered my question was which are the best day to buy within my price range. I will certainly side when I can and maybe once or twice a year I can get prime.

  6. Wayne says:

    The advise u gave me was great it made for the best steak ever!

  7. Wayne says:

    It was the best steak I ever bought

  8. coz says:

    SAM THE BUTCHA’s: remarks, ( at the start of the reply column) about being nice to your local butcher irritates me no end. Do we have to kiss everybody’s butt just to get decent service nowadays? I just want my butcher to give me DECENT MEAT because I pay handsomely for it, and he needs to remember without customers he doesn’t eat. I don’t want to be his best friend !!! My going there should be sufficient reason for him to appreciate my custom! Sam have the fortitude to mention the location of your shop so that I can avoid it like the plague. I don’t like your threat of what you might do to my meat should I not treat you like royalty. Coz Egberts Australia !

    • The Reluctant Gourmet says:

      Coz, couldn’t disagree with you more. I find getting to know the people who provide me with ingredients I cook every week makes a difference and how hard is it to be nice and treat your merchants with a little respect?

  9. Patrick Toland says:

    Thanks for the advice in this article, nice. I live in Ireland and watch a lot of food shows from here and the US. I have become interested recently in making great burgers. I have seen Americans mentioning chuck steak as a great cut for burgers. I am a little confused about asking a butcher here about this cut as your article and some others say that the chuck is tuff and good for slow cooking. Is there a part of the chuck that’s good for burgers or is it a different part of the cow? Any advice on this would be great, thanks.

    • G. Stephen Jones says:

      Great question Patrick. If you go to your local butcher, if they are not buying chop meat in bulk for burgers, they are probably using scraps and trimmings for their burger meat. I have no idea what parts of the cow are used in fast food burgers and frankly, I really don’t want to know. Chuck steak is a great cut for making burgers and yes it is a tougher cut than filet but the meat is ground up, the ultimate tenderizer. More important is the fat ratio in the beef and that is a personal preference. Some people who are watching their weight like their burgers made with lean, low-fat beef but to me, they have no flavor. I read their are some restaurants using 60%/40% mixtures with 40% fat. Now that’s going to be a juicy burger! The question I have and will have to research or would appreciate someone responding to, how can you determine the percentage of fat in a cut of beef? If I buy a chuck steak and grind it up myself, how do I know the fat percentage?

  10. Joe B says:

    “I can buy Prime New York strip steaks at Costco for less than $14 a pound. Are they good, yes but how would they compare to these other steaks?” You say they are good, but your question implies they are not as good as other stores prime. well, what is it?

    • Joe, I don’t think I was implying anything but asking how would the steaks I purchase at Costco compare to the steaks Mark Schatzker wrote about in his book on steak. My experience with Prime cuts of steak is limited because of both cost and availability so I urge readers to try for themselves with what they can get their hands on. Also, everyone’s personal tastes are going to be different than mine. It doesn’t matter what I like, but what tastes best to the person eating the steak.

  11. bdad says:

    Check out the bbq sauce on the shelf behind them. That stuff is the bomb or pork.

  12. Charles says:

    You stated there were several classes of choice. What are the classes and how would one identify each. Great article and a lot of very good information. Will be my weekly reading this week, so I can be better educated.

  13. Nash Rich says:

    I really liked the diagram of what meat came from where. I’ve never really known what parts come from where. I knew where the rib was though because it’s easier to know where the bones are. It’s also my favorite part. I shouldn’t have looked at this before lunch! Thanks for the info!

  14. bettypark says:

    WOW,it’s amazing to know.I seriously don’t know how to buy the best steak.thanks,Buddy!!hope it will be my next new experience. 🙂

  15. Louise van der Marel says:

    We love rib-eye, and when we lived in The Netherlands, i bought it many times.
    We moved to Thailand where i bought 3 times rib-eye, but no more.
    Just a bit brown on the outside and red on the inside.
    When i did that here in Thailand, you could hammer it under your shoes and walk 10 years on it.
    I think they gave me the short rib right??
    But, in my opinion, they looked the same as the tender and juicy ones in The Netherlands.
    UUUHHH, do i have to buy new glasses???

    • I’m not sure about them looking the same, I guess it depends on packaging but wow, they are from completely different parts of the cow and are cooked completely different. It might be interesting if you cooked what they are calling rib-eye like you would short ribs and see how they turn out. Not that you want to pay rib-eye prices for short ribs.

  16. My brother recently started working at a butcher shop and it has got me fascinated with finding the best meats I can. You mentioned that it doesn’t really matter if you get your steaks at the supermarket or a butcher shop, as long as you have a good relationship with the butcher. I will definitely use my newfound knowledge to see what each place has to offer!

    • Personally, I think you are going to find a wider variety of meats at a local butcher and in some cases you may find better quality but that really depends on where you are geographically. I find some fine meats at my local Costco but have no relationship with any of the meat cutters which makes it difficult when I have questions. I know the meat buyer at our local Farmer’s Market and can ask him just about anything pertaining to meat cuts and how to cook them. I can also ask where the meat came from, it’s grade and what he or she recommends. I find that invaluable when shopping for meats to cook and serve my family.

  17. Not many people realize that there are different steaks that are more fit for different meals, so it is great to see your article acknowledge that. After all, if you’re planning to have some steak and eggs for breakfast then that is going to be a very different kind of meat than what you’d want to eat for dinner. If you’re not sure about what steak to get for what meal then it might be helpful to get some advice from the butcher until you can figure it out on your own.

  18. Kyle Wayne says:

    I never took into account that good meat isn’t just about what it looks like. My grandpa is looking to hire a home delivery meats service since going to the store isn’t as convenient as it used to be for him. I think I’ll talk to him about not buying meat just by looks.

  19. Rosie Beckett says:

    I am planning to buy some steak from a local meat shop for the football tailgating party I am throwing in a few weeks and I want to make sure that I choose quality meat. You make a great point that freshly cut meat will have a bright red color and this is a great way for me to see if the meat is fresh when I buy it. Also, I did not realize that smell matters and I will make sure that the meat does not have an ammonia or sour smell when I purchase it. Also, I think that asking the local butcher for recommendations at the store will give me peace of mind that I am choosing the best meat.

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