Understanding USDA Beef Grades

Understanding USDA Beef Grades_CookinGenie_blog

29 Jul 2021

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Understanding USDA Beef Grades

When you walk through the meat section at the grocery store, you will often find steaks labeled with a small shield in the right-hand corner, denoting a USDA grade and claiming the steak as prime, choice, or select. But what do these grades really mean? And how should they impact your decisions on what steak to buy, or not to buy?

The first thing to understand is that the USDA has two main objectives when looking at beef: inspection and grading. Inspection is required of all meats that are shipped across state lines, as mandated by the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. Inspection is a safety measure; it does not guarantee quality but simply ensures that the meat is safe for human consumption.

Grading, however, is different. A grade is an assurance of quality you can trust. Within 24 hours of the animal being slaughtered, expert USDA graders examine the meat and assign a grade on the basis of age, color, texture, firmness, and marbling.

Of these grading criteria, marbling, which is the intramuscular fat inside a piece of meat, is the easiest to identify—it’s the white lines that run through a piece of raw steak. Marbling equals tenderness and juiciness. As the steak cooks, the fat melts and makes the steak moist and tender. The more marbling, the higher quality the steak.

With all these criteria in mind, the USDA has eight grades it applies to beef: Prime, choice, select, standard, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner. The higher the grade, the more expensive the steak.

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Prime is the highest grade, this meat comes from younger animals, is rich in marbling, juicy, tender, and flavorful. But it is also expensive and can be hard to find.

Choice meat is of excellent quality, with solid marbling and flavor, it offers great value and is readily available. Choice steaks are good candidates for grilling, roasting, or searing.

Select meat is of solid quality and is very economical. Since select meats are a little tougher and drier, they are well suited for moist cooking techniques like stewing and braising.

Standard meat is cheap, tough, and of low quality. Sometimes you will see it as an ungraded store brand meat but typically it’s sold as ground meat or other processed products.

Utility, cutter, and canner meats are rarely ever used in foodservice and are typically used to make pet food and other canned products.

It’s also important to note that grading, unlike inspection, is voluntary and not required by law. So, if you go to a local butcher or farmer, their steak may not be graded, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s low quality. When shopping for these steaks, the easiest way to determine quality is to look for marbling.

Here at CookinGenie, we offer a wide range of delicious, creative steak dishes and strive to use butcher-fresh meat graded choice or better. Beneath every dish on the website, you will find a transparent list of ingredients so that you know it is quality you can trust. Browse the menu today to see what amazing steak-night dishes can be prepared in your own kitchen.

Sources: https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2013/01/28/whats-your-beef-prime-choice-or-select?page=1


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Made to Cook: The Cooking Hypothesis

22 Oct 2020

What makes us human? Some would argue that it’s the act of cooking — whether it’s boiling, broiling, roasting, baking, or barbecuing — that separates us from every other species on Earth. 

 In 1999, Harvard professor of biological anthropology Richard Wrangham published an article in the Current Anthropology journal called “The Raw and the Stolen: Cooking and the Ecology of Human Origins. Known as “the cooking hypothesis,” Wrangham’s groundbreaking new theory of human evolution proposed that taming fire to cook food changed the course of human evolution. 

 In his article and his 2009 book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Wrangham argued that cooking allowed our human ancestors to process food more efficiently — and this change had a profound impact on evolution. While all other animals eat raw foods, Wrangham theorized that our ancestors began cooking their food some 1.8 million years ago, a change that gave early man the ability to process food more efficiently. It takes a long time, and a very large jaw and teeth, to grind down raw meat and plant matter. Before our ancestors learned how to cook, Wrangham estimated that half of their waking hours were spent simply chewing enough food to subsist, leaving little time for anything else. Cooking alters the chemical structure of food, breaking down the connective tissues in meat, and softening the cells of plants to release their starches and fats. This makes cooked food easier to chew and digest. This also helpthe body to use less energy to convert food into calories. Once the cooking was introduced, he estimated that our ancestors had an extra four hours in their day — time that could be spent huntingforaging, and slowly beginning to organizinto societiesWrangham explained, “The extra energy gave the first cooks biological advantages. They survived and reproduced better than before. Their genes spread. Their bodies responded by biologically adapting to cooked food, shaped by natural selection to take maximum advantage of the new diet. There were changes in anatomy, physiology, ecology, life history, psychology, and society.”  

This higher calorie, higher-quality diet lead to the evolution of bigger brains and bodies, and smaller jaws and teeth—a transformation that gradually resulted in modern man. From the control of fire and the growth in brain size, it’s not such a large leap to the development of dedicated hearths, the introduction of pottery and other tools for cooking, and the domestication of plants and animals.  

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 Wrangham’s theory is, of course, just that: a theory. Archaeological history to support control of fire 1.8 million years ago has not yet been found, but the recent discovery of ash in a South African cave suggests that our ancestors were controlling fire at least 1 million years ago — far earlier than previous evidence suggested. It may be just a matter of time before definitive evidence that proves Wrangham’s theory is found.  

 And If Wrangham’s theory is correct, we truly are what we eat.  

 If cooking is so fundamental to our evolution as people, it is a wonder that we don’t have time to make home-cooked meals with wholesome ingredients. Modern life has created many barriers to our ability to prepare home-cooked meals. What do we do if we don’t have time for home cookingBusinesses like CookinGenie can help you bring cooking where it belongs—in your own kitchen—even when you don’t have time to cook yourself. Check out our menus, and book your Genie today for building healthy eating habits in the family.  

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30 Oct 2019

We have spoken about the idea of having someone come to your home to cook for you. How do you ensure that this is safe for you & your family? The idea of allowing someone you do not know into your home and preparing food for you and your family feels intrusive. So today we are going to discuss why those fears exist, how other industries have overcome it. As well as some practical advice for you so you can feel safe while you make good choices for your family. Overall though, if you do your homework and follow some basic safety precautions there is no reason you should feel hesitant to enjoy services like in home cooking.

So, what are the safety concerns of bringing a CookinGenie into your home? Common concerns are theft, personal safety, and food safety. Let’s explore a few other emerging industries that pushed our comfort boundaries when they first entered the scene and examine how they put our fears at ease.

Getting in a stranger’s car. Isn’t this the EXACT thing that mothers in the 80’s warned their children about? Then Uber and Lyft hit the scene and the world transformed. What makes them safe? Geolocation, background checks, driver reviews, and customer reviews. In today’s digital age this dual rating system protects the buyer and the seller by giving each a chance to rate each other. Encouraging everyone to keep things on the up and up.

Allowing Strangers in our home. Another one our mothers warned us against. It’s not a bad principle, unless your refrigerator breaks, or your washing machine, or you need cable installed, or you have a clogged pipe. When something goes wrong, we shift our fears and let a stranger in. Why? Because we trust people who are vetted by reputable firms or reviewed by our trusted circle. Online ratings help.

Staying in a stranger’s home. This is how campfire stories start. You should never ever stay in someone’s home. Especially if the owner is not there. Unless it’s and AirBnB. Suddenly the world shifted again when AirBnB started allowing property owners to rent out their residences to weary travelers. Especially for families, having a cost-effective alternative to a hotel with all the comforts of home solved a problem for traveling families. So what do they provide to make this once taboo idea feel safe and even luxurious? Boundaries. In every AirBnB booking there are house rules. Clear written boundaries for both parties to agree- encouraging open communication and enforced with a dual rating system.

So how do you decide if you want someone to come to your home & cook for you? Common questions may be – is this person insured? Is he or she background checked? Is this person rated highly? Is this person local?

Do your due diligence & you will start feeling comfortable soon. Our Genies are background checked, know about cooking & are from your locality. You feel comfortable with your favorite babysitter? This is no different.

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travel around the culinary world with CookinGenie

19 May 2021

In my time as a chef, I’ve been lucky enough to travel around the world and immerse myself in different cultures and cuisines. I’ve learned from amazing local chefs how to prepare traditional dishes and have been awestruck by the sensational flavors that can be found across the globe. Now, with CookinGenie, I can bring those experiences into your home, so that you can feel some of the same wonder I did.

While living on the small island of Bermuda, I learned from my Jamaican co-workers the secrets behind making Jerk sauce, the nuanced, spicy-tangy condiment that they slather over grilled chicken, pork, shrimp, and other meats and vegetables. I fell in love with the sauce and its big, bold flavors, and now offer a jerk chicken on my menu, complete with a sweet plantain puree and fluffy coconut rice.

On a trip to South America, I met a local chef in a sleepy beachside town in Peru. After a brief conversation, she took me down to the local fish market where we picked out a gorgeous seabass that was caught that morning. We went back to her kitchen and she showed me how to make ceviche, carefully dicing the fish and marinating it with lime, cilantro, and onion, allowing the acid from the lime to gently cook the fish. The dish was so bright and crisp and refreshing; it was unlike anything I’ve ever had before. It stuck in my memory so much that it’s now the inspiration behind the ceviche found on my menu; red snapper tossed with lime, fire-roasted pineapple, habanero, and coconut milk.

When I was studying abroad in Singapore, I was blessed to partake in an immersive month-long course on Southeast Asian cuisine. I was taught by distinguished Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian chefs how to use spices to build layers of flavor, how to cook in a wok, and how to prepare a dizzying array of noodle dishes. Today, that knowledge is reflected on my menu by a rich Indian butter chicken and a simple yet delicious Chinese-inspired dish of stir-fried veggies in a sweet chili sauce.

A few weeks later, I spent ten days learning from a Thai chef who had mastered the cuisine. She showed me how to grind aromatic herbs and spices into vibrant, colorful curry pastes. I learned to make classic Thai street foods like chicken satay, pineapple fried rice, and of course, the beloved noodle dish, Pad Thai. With CookingGenie, all of these favorites can be made in your own kitchen.

After Thailand, I traveled to Vietnam and walked the streets of Saigon, sampling various delicacies from busy roadside vendors. The bun cha, sweet-savory pork patties cooked on charcoal grills and served with a tangy dipping sauce, were a revelation for me, and I hope they will be for you too.

As a genie, I get the joy of reliving those experiences with each dish I cook. I apply the knowledge I’ve learned and deliver every plate with love and passion. I hope to honor those around the world who so graciously opened their hearts and kitchens to me, by sharing what they taught me, with you.

So, if you’re curious and if you want to take a trip around the culinary world without leaving your own home, give CookinGenie a try, and taste the possibilities.

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