For most folks, meat is an important part of their balanced diet. Meat provides protein and vitamins along with zinc, iron and other nutritional factors. Although it’s easy to just pick up any old steak or pork chop from the meat department of your grocery store, knowing what to look for when choosing meats is an important part of being an informed consumer.
Here are some tips on how to choose quality meat and how to properly store it after you bring it home.
How to Choose Quality Beef
Look for beef that is firm and slightly moist with a fresh red colour. It should be well marbled with fat, but don’t judge the quality of the beef by the colour of the fat itself. When choosing ground beef you may find some are a brownish colour or turning a brownish colour. Pass on this meat and make certain it is a red colour throughout.
How to Choose Quality Lamb
Quality lamb is pinkish red and firm with little marbling and little fat. The colour of the fat will vary with the age and breed of the animal. The colour turns darker as the animal grows older. The lighter the colour, the more tender the lamb.
How to Choose Quality Pork
Choose cuts of pork with more lean meat than fat and bone. A good cut of pork will be grayish pink and the flesh feels relatively firm. It should be well marbled and covered with firm white fat.
How to Store Meat
Meat should be immediately refrigerated or frozen after it’s purchased. If you plan to divide it up and freeze portions, try to do so as soon as you can. If you store meat in freezer bags, try to remove as much air from the bag as possible. Label the meat and include the date you froze it.
The length of time meat can be frozen varies greatly, but beef will generally keep longer than pork. Roasts, steaks and chops are good for four to six months, hamburger for three to four months. Any freezer burning that occurs does not necessarily mean the food is inedible. The taste will be tougher and dry and it is best to cut off the freezer burn portions. If the entire meat is freezer burned, toss it.
How to Thaw Meat
The best way to thaw meat is in the refrigerator. While you can use the defrost cycle of the microwave, the meat will tend to lose some of its flavour. Small portions can be thawed overnight. Plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to defrost your meat before your meal. Never refreeze meat. When you thaw out your meat, make plans to cook it that day or the next.
Knowing how to choose quality meat will help your meals taste better, go farther, and save you time and money in the long run.