· Pick out your steak like you pick out your clothes. Would you grab just any old pair of pants off the rack? Of course not. Same with a steak. Look at each one carefully. If you want it to be juicy and tender for cooking on the grill, you want lots of little white flecks of fat in the meaty part (it’s called marbling). The flecks melt away during cooking, adding to the meat’s flavor. You also want it to be an even thickness (if it’s thinner in some parts, it will cook unevenly). If you’re buying more than one steak, try to find cuts that are all close in size so they finish cooking at about the same time.
· Look for thick cuts. Avoid steaks that are less than an inch thick, says Bruce Aidells, co-author of “The Complete Meat Cookbook” (Houghton Mifflin, 1998), because they’re too easy to overcook. Be careful when buying steaks in packs — it’s often difficult to get a side view to see just how thick they are.
· Don’t trim that fat. Yeah, yeah, we know. It’s hard to break years of being admonished otherwise. But father-and-son butchers Bill and Aaron Fuchs of Wagshal’s Market in Northwest Washington tell customers to leave most of the fat on the outside edge of the steak before cooking. The fat helps to keep the steak moist and hold its shape during cooking. It also enhances the meat’s flavor. Once the steak is cooked, you can trim off any excess fat before serving.
· Behind the glass or on the shelf? Sometimes it’s the same meat. Markets tend to put a higher grade of meat in the full-service glass case, but not always, Irion says. Sometimes it’s the same meat as in the plastic-wrapped packages on the self-service shelves — the only difference is you might have more of certain cuts to choose from in the full-service case. If you’re unsure, ask a meat department employee to explain the difference — especially if the steak in the case is priced higher than the ones on the shelf.
· Chuck and Round are tough guys, Rib and Loin are not. If the words “chuck” or “round” are in the name of the steak, it will need to be marinated and then slowly cooked in liquid to be tender. These are generally very lean cuts with lots of muscle fiber that need to be broken down with slow, long, moist heat. Don’t even think of throwing a chuck steak on the grill. By Candy Sagon Washington Post Staff Writer