Mailbag: Is The Beef Better At Craft Or Costco?
» filed under Las Vegas tagged: craftsteak colicchio steak meat beef wagyu usda trampstamp mailbag comments: 12
Every so often we like to dip into our mailbag and pull out some of the more thought provoking inquiries.
Today's email comes from Z, who wrote:
During a recent trip to Craft@MGM, one of my dining companions inquired as to what grade of beef was being served. I scoffed at the question, but the answer pissed me off royally.
Our server told us that outside of one Prime grade flank steak, the rest were Choice grade or Choice+ (if thats even a thing). I don't go to a steak restaurant to get cuts I can buy at Costco! The meal was average. Anyway, I just thought it was incredible that a STEAKHOUSE would serve anything less than USDA Prime.
There is no such thing as "Choice+" it was a fabrication by the server. There are multiple levels of beef quality grading - Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner - in descending order of quality. Carcasses are also graded on a 1-5 scale for yield as well, the higher the number, the more usable meat.
PRIME from the USDA:
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 from the USDA:
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 from the USDA:
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.
According to the CraftSteak menu, only the flat iron steak is denoted as "Prime." We'll assume that the flank Z mentioned is the flat iron, somehow lost in translation.
Craft offers Domestic Wagyu (New York Strip, Ribeye, Skirt Steak, Filet Mignon, Flat Iron) and Japanese and A5 Wagyu (New York Strip, Filet Mignon, Rib Eye, Rib Cap cuts. Japanese Wagyu beef is graded on a letter based yield grade: A (above standard) B (standard) C (below standard) and number based marbling grade: 5 (excellent) 4 (Good) 3 (Average) 2 (Below average) 1 (Poor). Wagyu A5 is the best Japanese Wagyu beef you can get. Wagyu marbling grade 4 and lower is roughly equivalent to USDA Prime.
This implies that the Domestic or A5 Japanese Wagyu cuts at Craft are indeed better than Prime. It also implies that the flat iron - a wagyu delicacy - might be a somewhat strange outlier, less so the 24 hour shortrib.
My guess is that the server you had either didn't know what they were talking about OR they didn't take the time to explain it to you. Maybe a little bit of both.
Tom, do you care to weigh in on this?
Update: @tomcolicchio responded via superfriend @RussellSauve:
@RussellSauve I think the server didn't know what they were talking about. Thanks for the heads up.— Tom Colicchio (@tomcolicchio) August 20, 2013
@RussellSauve FYI only 4% of all beef produced in the US grades out to prime— Tom Colicchio (@tomcolicchio) August 20, 2013
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