As a steak lover of the highest order I have long lamented the decline of the local butcher. It has been a long time since you could go down to your local butcher and select a great cut of steak that you hand selected. Outside of a few metropolitan areas such as New York City, steak lovers have either had to go out for USDA prime (if it is even available at the local steakhouse which more than often it is not) or just do without. The internet changed all that, now from the comfort of my favorite living room chair I could click away at any of the hundreds of sites that sell steak online. This was great but when the steak came, it was not always what I hoped for. So, I tried steak after steak, some good, some not so great, and some that where among the best I ever tasted.
Since I have already made my mistakes, I thought I would share some of my findings with other steak lovers. It is a very crowded market and it is very easy to end up with a less than quality product. Here are a few tips about buying steaks online and what you should look for.
1. USDA Grading: The USDA grades our meet supply for quality and is the only truly objective guideline when pricing steaks. USDA prime is the highest grade of beef. Only 1 to 2% of beef in the United States achieves a grade of USDA Prime. The next step is USDA choice, it is the grade you will find at most high end steak houses and is probably the sweet spot for quality vs price. USDA Select is not a bad steak but is not any where near the quality of Prime or Choice. It is what you will probably find at your local grocery store or in local restaurants.
2, Aging: These are really the only two aging methods (Dry and Wet) and an aged steak should always be superior to a non-aged steak. During the aging process moisture evaporates from the muscle leaving a greater concentration of flavor. Also, the beefs natural enzymes start to break down the muscles connective tissue, which results in a more tender steak. The aging process is not only time consuming, but expensive as a substantial portion of beef must be cut away resulting in a lower quantity of sell-able meat. Most steaks that you will find have not been aged so pay particular attention to this. Two companies that I have purchased from that offer excellent aged steaks are Allen Brothers and Chicago Steak Company