Choice. Angus. Natural. Organic. Humanely raised. Grass-fed. Prime. Wagyu. Kobe.
These days, there are more marketing terms associated with beef than ever before, all of which attempt to separate you from your food budget with promises of better quality or better moral character. And it's important to know what those terms mean, especially if you're concerned about greening your meat.
But for most folks, taste is the deciding factor. We might buy prime for the intense marbling, or Kobe and Wagyu for the promise of massaged, beer-drinking cows with intensely tender flesh. Grass-fed beef provides more old-school beef flavor, while organic gives us happier — and possibly more tasty — cows.
We cut through the marketing lingo straight to the meat of the matter by pitting six different, readily available supermarket steaks against one another: Angus from Sweetbay, choice from Publix, humanely-raised from Publix Greenwise, humanely-raised from Whole Foods, prime and American Wagyu from Mazzaro's. Each steak, all NY strip, with one exception, was simply seasoned with the same amount of salt and pepper (by size) and each was grilled to medium-rare (although the thickest gave us a few problems). We then assembled a crack team of CL carnivores — foodies and amateurs — to sample the steaks in a blind tasting and rate the meat. The results surprised the hell out of us.
1. Sweetbay Angus ($9.99/lb). In retrospect, it seems almost inevitable that the cheapest option of the bunch would win the tasting. But don't think that it's merely the result of a mass of uneducated palates — both Taylor Eason and I picked this one as our fave, too. The meat was very tender, with luscious fat throughout that carried the salt-accented beef flavor into every bite. It was a damn fine steak, and the clear winner.
2. Mazzaro's Wagyu ($14.99/lb). Fairly close behind the Sweetbay Angus was Mazzaro's American Wagyu, even though it was working with a handicap. Mazzaro's only sells the sirloin version, but the meat still managed a pillowy — almost mealy — tenderness. The real kicker with this steak was the profound, in-your-face beef character, which was noticeable from the instant we unwrapped the paper. People loved that intense flavor.
3. Publix Premium Choice ($11.59/lb). This was a more subdued pick, with enough fat and flavor to provide some interest, but not enough to especially tickle our judges' tastebuds. Nice steak, but not when tasted head-to-head with the two above.
4. Mazzaro's Prime ($12.99/lb) When you think prime meat, you want the best. Although fine, this was far from the vaunted peak of steak greatness, with lackluster flavor and run-of-the-mill texture.
5. Publix Greenwise Choice ($13.99/lb) Flat, bland flavors and so-so texture marred this largely innocuous and forgettable steak.
6. Whole Foods Choice ($16.99/lb) A couple of judges ranked this steak high on their list as a complete package of flavor and texture, but most thought it watery and insipid.
Where do you buy your steak? Think it can compete with the ones we tasted? Let us know at dailyloafblog.com.