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Beef Grades

By Cook's Illustrated Published February 2005

What are the differences among consumer grades of beef?

Prime

Prime meat is heavily marbled with intramuscular fat (seen as white streaks within the meat), which makes for a tender, flavorful steak. About 2 percent of graded beef is considered Prime. Prime meats are most often served in restaurants or sold in high-end butcher shops.

Choice

The majority of graded beef is Choice. While the levels of marbling in Choice beef can vary, it is generally moderately marbled with intramuscular fat.

Select

Select beef has little marbling. The small amount of intramuscular fat can make Select meats drier, tougher, and less-flavorful than the two higher grades.