Saturday, November 8, 2008

How To Have a Successful Artisan Steak Tasting

My company's advocacy arm, The Artisan Beef Institute, held a fabulous steak tasting extravaganza with Jaden Hair aka SteamyKitchen a few weeks back. A lot of folks are wondering now how to have their own artisan steak tasting parties.

Okay, moment of shameless self-promotion, try one of our Discover Beef Experience Artisan Steak Taster Packs from The Oliver Ranch Company! We'll send you steaks from 4 specific natural or organic beef ranches, each representing a different breed, growing region, diet, and aging technique (some dry-aged, some wet-aged). You'll also receive a copy of our Artisan Beef Institute tasting guide and tips on hosting a home tasting.

Compare ranches, see which you like best, order more of your favorite. Voila!

Now, if you'd like to go it alone, that's fine! Please just follow these guidelines to make sure your artisan steak tasting is just that. Consider this a cheat sheet for success.

First rule of thumb is to only use steaks or burgers from known producers! These are our minimum standards.

  • Specific ranch or producer group (source-verified).

  • Single breed or cross-breed.

  • No added growth hormones (steroids, yuck!).

  • No preventative antibiotics (if they can't keep healthy without 'em...)

  • All vegetable diet, no funky stuff in there like stale chewing gum.

  • Treated gently on farm, in truck, at yard (if relevant), & at slaughterhouse.

  • Dry-aged or wet-aged for at least 14 days

  • Bonus points: certified organic, humane, grass-only diet, holistic.

You can try this with commodity beef, too, from your supermarket or butcher (this is how I did it the first time 3 years back). However, please note that you might set yourself up for disappointment. Why? Because they don't keep track of where the beef is from let alone its breed, diet, etc.

Why does this matter? Just like with wine, different breeds raised in different regions on different diets taste different. You need to know what's on your plate. Otherwise, you won't be able to repeat the experience!

Plus, isn't it better to support the farms and processors who DO do the right thing?

Know what's on your plate.


Anonymous said...

In truth, the majority of beef in the United States is comparable when it comes to breed, feed, and such. The major issue is that most of the high-grading beef is not sold in supermarkets and grocery stores, but to high-end restaurants. Those of us who shop at supermarkets usually get beef that is below choice grade, unless you buy Certified Angus Beef, which requires all carcasses to grade at least average choice. I applaud your concern for the treatment of the animals, however.

Carrie Oliver said...

Hi, Anonymous. I am so glad you stopped by!

You're right, there are indeed a lot of black baldies or other Angus-cross out there in large yards on science diets. And it is indeed very difficult to find USDA Prime beef in a local grocer.

For me, I was so happy to discover that high grading beef isn't necessarily the most flavorful or tender. Indeed, I've had steaks from top-notch ranchers/butchers that would rate Select or Choice at best but can stand up to a Prime grade steak (same cut) in a blind taste test.

As you note, one of the keys to flavor and tenderness is gentle treatment. Good genetics, diets and aging, there are a lot of other things that matter.

My problem with supermarket beef is that most of them don't pay attention to these details. As a result, even if you ignore how most grocery beef is raised, when you shop there, it's like playing the lottery. Sometimes you're lucky, the beef is fabulous. But try repeating the experience.