Part 1: Picking your body’s training partner
There’s a small percentage of athletes out there who are vegetarian or vegan; I am not part of that group. I hold nothing against it, but I succumb to the deep down channeling of my inner primal urges and desire meat in at least one meal a day. A lot of diet plans, fads and even the guy at your gym who is always pushing his “flavor of the month” nutrition plan will say lean meats are the only meats you are allowed to eat if you want to be a healthy athlete. Sure, chicken and fish are delicious, but when I say, “Meat,” I mean the GOAT – Greatest Of All Time, (not actual goat, though it is tasty, too) – BEEF! But just like each and every one of you, we all have our differences and uses. The same goes for beef. You would not want to slowly braise a well-marbled filet mignon, nor would you want to pan seared “chuck” steak.
Filet Mignon is a tender cut of meat that is perfect when pan seared and cooked to a nice and juicy medium rare, whereas “chuck” steaks cooked the same way are closer related to Chuck Norris, tough as nails and will round house kick your jaw muscles into submission. Let us avoid spending our precious dollars on the wrong cuts of meat and learn how to pick the perfect steak.
“Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.”
We have all had a life changing steak dinner (unless you are a vegetarian, obviously) at some point in our lives and on the flip side of that coin, we have all had some tire rubber that was once a piece of steak. Why does that happen when they are both “steaks?” Well, that my friend, is what we call using the wrong move in a situation. Do you try and throw up an armbar from the bottom of mount? Unless you’re a magician, I don’t think so. Each piece of steak is different and requires different methods of cooking based on what part of the cow it’s from and how those muscles were used. One way to pick the right steak is to have someone pick it for you at the butcher counter of your local supermarket. Unless you have a great local meat market or shop at a few select higher end grocery stores, the guys behind the counter might not be your best resource. With a few tips we can shape you into a self-taught, super human steak selecting machine.
Where do my steaks come from? Weight cut to buy?
It’s no mystery, beef comes from cows, but what part of the cow does a top round sirloin come from, or a skirt steak? Are cows fashionable and wear skirts? Knowing where the cuts come from can be confusing because it seems like there are a million different names out there in the meat aisle. Knowing where the cut of meat comes from can really help narrow down what uses it has in cooking. Luckily, butchers have broken down cows for ages and have come up with a pretty simple naming system to distinguish which meat comes from where. When dealing with a whole cow they section them down into “Primal” and then “Sub-primal” cuts. The majority of the cuts found in a super market are at the “Sub primal” level. To understand each, here is a quick cheat sheet breaking down, pun intended, the Primal cuts.
When selecting a steak it is best to buy from the butcher’s counter display, the steaks are fresher, but more importantly, you can usually find out a bit more about them by chatting with the butcher, get deals and fully check the quality of the steak you are about to buy.