Boost Your Carnivore Knowledge

Courtesy of Edmund Barr/CUT

Everything you ever wanted to know about beef but were afraid to ask.

Why does it take such a bite out of the expense account?

The reason you pay big money for a good cut of beef is dependent on many factors, all of which start at the ranch. It has become more expensive to raise, feed and ship the animals, according to Andy Rocker, a sales representative at Premier Meat Co., a vendor that supplies many of L.A.'s top chophouses. "There is a limited supply," he says. "Due to droughts and the recession, farmers moved from cattle to things that were more profitable."

How is Kobe different from wagyu?

Kobe is the real deal -- purebred cattle raised in Kobe, Japan, known for its intense marbling and full, meaty flavor. The same beef from elsewhere, whether Australia or America, can't technically use the name (just as Champagne-style vintages from outside the eponymous region of France are merely known as sparkling wine), so it's given the generic descriptor "Wagyu," which literally means "Japanese cow."

Should I choose grass- or grain-fed beef?

Ordering politically correct grass-fed is in fashion, but not everyone finds the, well, grassy flavor as palatable as grain-fed beef. Most domestic cows raised on grass are "finished," or fed a bit of grain toward the end, which is what many consumers and steak-house chefs prefer. "Grass-fed is leaner, but the chlorophyll leaves a little tang in the blood," says BLT steak chef de cuisine Joshua Gil. "It's just a little gamier, which has its place. South America, they're used to it. Americans are used to the grain-finished beef. We're used to it tasting a certain way."

What's the deal wiht aging, anyway?

It gives steaks fuller flavor. "Wet" aging is when a cut of meat is wrapped and left to sit, usually about 28 days. This helps the proteins break down and become tender and more flavorful. "Dry" aging usually leaves the meat whole -- bone, fat and all -- in a cool, low-humidity room. As it dries on the outside, the moisture inside the meat starts to diminish, adding more flavor. Wet-aged steaks tend to be juicier by nature, and dry-aged has an almost-gamey flavor.

How old do I actually want my meat to be?

Each chophouse has its preference for how long beef should age. (Some, like Wolfgang's Steakhouse in Beverly Hills, even have their own dry-aging room.) BLT prefers a 28-day dry age, while CUT has 21- and 35-day aged steaks. A specialty at Boa is the 40-day dry-aged prime New York strip. Says Boa partner Lee Maen, "We came up with 40 as being the line where it's tender and flavorful and it has some earthiness, but it's not funky."



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