Terms To Know To Be A Steak Pro

The requisite phrases and names to know when discussing your next dish.


The lines of white fat visible inside the muscle of raw steaks. For beef eaters (if not dieters), more marbling is preferable, and the visible marbling at a specific point (the 12th rib) in the rib-eye provides the standard criterion for USDA beef grading.


USDA Prime

The fattiest, most desirable grading, followed by USDA choice and USDA select. There are five lesser grades (standard, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner), but consumers seldom see these.

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One step below prime (and more affordable), choice has less marbling.



The lowest label grade you’ll find at the supermarket, select is the least marbled and can be on the dry side; it benefits greatly from marinating. 


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Heritage breed

Different from common commercial breeds, Heritage breeds are remnants of older traditions in animal husbandry. As beef production became standardized, traditional, regional breeds became rarer—and, in fact, some became endangered. Recent efforts to reintroduce these breeds to diners have been met with appreciation by many chefs, who value heritage breeds like Devon, Galloway, or Highland for culinary qualities. 


Black Angus

Derived from four Scottish Highland bulls that arrived in the US in 1873, these cattle are one of the first specific breeds to be marketed at the consumer level. They’re characterized by at least 51 percent black fur, and breeders must pay certification fees to market their meat as Certified Black Angus beef. 



​The name of an ultra-fatty, ultra-expensive Japanese style of beef culled from a specific mix of European and Asian cattle breeds raised in a tradition that includes beer meals and massage. The extreme marbling of this beef means that it can withstand higher cooking temperatures and still remain sweet, meltingly tender, and delicious. In the last decade, owing to its trendiness, American cattlemen have been raising Wagyu-style beef.

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The region in Japan that produces Wagyu beef


Corn-fed beef

Cattle grow quickly on this high-sugar, high-starch grain and bring highly marbled beef to market fastest. Nutritionists complain that this beef is less healthy for diners, with higher fat and lower Omega-3 fatty acids.


Grain-fed beef

The most economical and common beef on the market; grain-fed cattle are placed on vast feed lots to quickly fatten on soy, corn, and other grains.


Grass-fed beef

Cattle grazing on a variety of grasses in open pastures, as they have been for millennia 



Organic beef comes from livestock that have outdoor access, are fed certified organic feed (no animal by-products, antibiotics, or genetically engineered grains or grains grown using pesticides/chemical fertilizers), are not given antibiotics/added growth hormones, and graze on certified organic land (land free of prohibited substances such as synthetic chemicals for 36 months).

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