Meat Grades: Prime vs Choice

Curated By: Mr. Steak

Who determines the USDA grading and how?

The USDA determines this primarily based on marbling, but there are two factors they use to do this: quality grades for tenderness, juiciness and flavor; and yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass.

Marbling

Marbling refers to the fat striations through the meat. The more marbling, the more flavor and the better your steak is.

What are the grading levels?

Mr. Steak Prime Filet Mignon

Mr. Steak Choice Filet Mignon

Prime

Prime beef is produced from young, well-fed beef cattle. It has abundant marbling (the amount of fat interspersed with lean meat), and is generally sold in restaurants and hotels. Prime roasts and steaks are excellent for dry-heat cooking such as broiling, roasting or grilling.

Choice

Choice beef is high quality but has less marbling than Prime. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib will be very tender, juicy, and flavorful and are suited for dry-heat cooking. Many of the less tender cuts can also be cooked with dry heat if not overcooked. Such cuts will be most tender if braised, roasted or simmered with a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan.

Select

Select beef is very uniform in quality and normally leaner than the higher grades. It is fairly tender, but, because it has less marbling, it may lack some of the juiciness and flavor of the higher grades. Only the tender cuts should be cooked with dry heat. Other cuts should be marinated before cooking or braised to obtain maximum tenderness and flavor.

Mr. Steak Prime Cuts

Why is it important to know the grade of your meat?

Without knowing the grade, you have no idea what you are paying for. You may be charged prime prices for a choice or even select piece of meat. You should expect transparency from your online meat supplier, butcher, grocery store, or restaurant.

Steak Tip:

Always ask what grade the beef is if it isn’t labeled. If the company can’t tell you the grade for any reason, then we don’t recommend buying from them.

If you are at a restaurant ordering a steak the grad may be advertised. If it isn’t you should ask what grade the steak is. If it’s priced very high and it isn’t prime, Mr. STeak doesn’t recommend ordering it.

Most important cuts of steak to be prime:

NY Strip & Kansas City Strip

Why? You can really taste the difference between Prime and Choice strip steaks in terms of flavor and texture

Less important cuts of steak to be prime

Ribeye & Filet Mignon

Why? Ribeyes contain so much other fat content through the ribeye that it’s still going have great flavor whether it’s Prime or Choice.

Filet Mignon meat is so naturally tender that it’s not as important to be Prime. Of all the cuts, the filet is the least important cut to be prime.

The Bottom Line:

Prime is always going to be better and recommend it if it’s within your budget. However, you can have a fabulous steak dinner by choosing the right cuts to be Choice and following Mr. Steak’s 10 Commandments of Steak.

Meat Grades: Prime vs Choice

The USDA determines this primarily based on marbling, but there are two factors they use to do this: quality grades for tenderness, juiciness, and flavor; and yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass.

Prime:
Prime beef is produced from young, well-fed beef cattle. It has abundant marbling (the amount of fat interspersed with lean meat), and is generally sold in restaurants and hotels. Prime roasts and steaks are excellent for dry-heat cooking such as broiling, roasting, or grilling.

Choice:
Choice beef is high quality but has less marbling than Prime. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib will be very tender, juicy, and flavorful and are suited for dry-heat cooking. Many of the less tender cuts can also be cooked with dry heat if not overcooked. Such cuts will be most tender if braised, roasted or simmered with a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan.

Read More About Meat Grades

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