By Kerry Johnson
IT’S DISAPPOINTING TO buy a nice-looking steak at a store, only to have it be dry,
chewy and bland once you cook it. While
proper cooking techniques are important,
starting with the highest-quality meat can
make the di;erence between OK and
“oh, wow!” ;at’s where prime beef
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) evaluates beef on such
attributes as the amount of marbling (white
streaks of fat interspersed in the meat that
melt when cooked) and the age of the animal.
;ese factors can indicate how tender, juicy
and ;avorful the meat will be.
In the 1920s, the USDA started using
these standards to assign grades to beef. ;is
grading is done at the request—and expense—
of the meat producer, and is separate from the
USDA meat inspection process. Although
there are eight grades of beef, only the top
three are typically promoted to consumers:
prime, choice and select.
According to the USDA, prime beef
comes from healthy, well-fed beef cattle and
has abundant marbling. It is the most tender
and ;avorful grade, and it is what you’ll ;nd
at ;ne restaurants and expensive steakhouses.
Approximately 3 to 4 percent of beef meets
the prime requirements.
Choice beef has slightly less marbling
than prime, but still is of high quality.
Select beef has less marbling than choice,
so it tends to be lower in fat, but it also may be
less juicy and ;avorful than the higher grades.
Cooking with prime
Now that you’ve brought this great
cut of meat home, what are the best
ways to prepare it? Here are some
tasty tips from the experts.
• Steaks can be grilled outdoors,
pan-seared or pan-roasted indoors.
Regardless of the cooking method, steaks
should always be at room temperature before
they are cooked. Remove the meat from the
refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking
and pat it dry with a paper towel.
• Seasonings can range from a simple
coating of olive oil and salt to more exotic
rubs (see the Peppery Rub on the recipe at
right). If you’re using salt, don’t apply it too
early—it can draw out too much moisture
from the steak. A light salting 15 to 30 minutes in advance should do the trick.
• Steaks that are 1 inch or more in thickness are best cooked using a two-stage
method: Sear them ;rst for 2 or 3 minutes per
side over direct heat, then ;nish them over
• Steaks that are ¾ inch or less in thickness can be cooked over direct heat.
• Use tongs, instead of a fork, to ;ip the
steaks. Keep those precious juices in!
For doneness, an internal meat thermometer, placed in the thickest part of the
The Costco Connection
Costco sells prime and choice beef.
Members will find several cuts of prime
beef in the warehouses, including New
York steaks, rib-eye steaks and roasts, and
top sirloin steaks. A selection of quality
meats can also be found on Costco.com.
for your table
A look at
ABOVE: COSTCO PHOTO STUDIO/MIKE SMITH; BELOW: © SQUARELOGO/SHUTTERSTOCK
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
4 beef top loin (strip) steaks, 1¼ inches thick
CREAMY GARLIC SPINACH
1 (16-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
1 ( 5.2-ounce) package spreadable garlic
and herb cheese (such as Boursin),
at room temperature
1 tablespoon cream or milk
Combine the rub ingredients and press evenly
onto the steaks. Place the steaks on the grill over
medium heat. Grill, uncovered, turning occasionally until the meat reaches the desired doneness.
Meanwhile, prepare the spinach. Bring a large
pot of water to a boil. Add spinach; remove
from the heat. Stir just until spinach is wilted.
Drain well, pressing out excess liquid. Wipe the
pot dry; return spinach to the pot. Add cheese
and cream; stir until cheese melts and coats
Serve the steaks with the spinach. Makes 4 servings.
Recipe courtesy of Swift, featured in In the Kitchen The
Costco Way, 2008 (go to Costco.com and click “Recipes
The Costco Way” at the bottom of the home page for
more recipe ideas).
cut, is the best bet. Cook the steak or roast to
the desired doneness, then allow the meat to
rest for at least three minutes. C
Kerry Johnson is a freelance writer who
specializes in consumer topics.