An Old Beef

It turns out that I have a lot to say about beef, and in this town can you blame me? We had a delivery to the meat department last week from Redwood Meat. The guy came in with boxes of trim for us to grind into hamburger. Instead of leaving the boxes in our walk-in like usual, he asked me for some lugs (50lb capacity plastic containers) and explained by saying, “I got hot meat!”

Now I’m not exactly sure what’s happening here, but at the same time, I think, well, I guess it’s pretty obvious what’s going on… I grab a handful of lugs from the cut room and re-enter the cooler. Our bulk department head steps in just then and asks the question on everyone’s mind, “What’s hot meat?”

“Well,” the guy says, pausing for a moment to look right at us, “it was walking around a few hours ago! Now, we had to get it to you and didn’t have the time to drop it in our freezer for a few hours like we normally do, so lets’ spread it out in these lugs and make sure it gets cool.” We put our heads down and our hands to work. The meat was warm and blubbery like Jello. There was a hum in the air, too.

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This topic may be getting old, but that is appropriate because lastly, I want to talk about aged beef. I have an eye for meat; I’ve seen it at its best and I’ve seen it past due. Reading meat is pretty much a sixth sense of mine at this point. I trust my senses, and so do my customers.

When my experienced eye turns to beef, I am always salivating over the old brown piece. Can you believe it? Most customers find the oxidized steak distasteful compared to the bright red color of freshly sliced beef. However, there are a select few who know that the browner the beef, the better!

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A well-aged steak’s flavor has appreciated considerably and it is going to be easier to digest. Beef is unique in that it resists invading bacteria that would break it down, so it doesn’t deteriorate like most meat. In fact, after a week in our case you can cut a browner steak to find that it is only brown on the outer 1/8th of an inch; the inside is red as can be.

Under the right conditions beef will age just the same as a fine wine or fancy cheese. As time goes by, you can detect a slight change in texture and when cut, the meat will look like it has a roughness to it like split ends, which is pretty much exactly what they are because the very grain of the meat is weakening. Aged beef is a preference that I see expressed amongst discerning customers and it is those folks that I am always happy to meat. Don’t be shy; give it a try!

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