Food, Home & Lifestyle

Beef Quality and Selection

Aaron Franklin

Lesson time 08:37 min

Is grass-fed beef superior to grain-fed? Fresh better than frozen? Aaron shares his tips for assessing beef quality and how to buy the best meat for your needs.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Grass Vs. Grain Fed Beef · Fresh Vs. Frozen Beef · Anatomy of a Brisket · Buying for Beginners · Ethical Considerations


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Back in the early days of barbecue, really it was just about cooking whatever you had. But now with all these options, you can go to the store. You can order meat online. You can go to the fancy pants butcher shop. There are many, many grades of beef. Could be select, could be choice, upper choice, upper 2/3, prime. Then from there, you could get into Wagyu. You could get into A5. You could get into all kinds of different breeds and stuff. But really, what you're looking for is a lot of marbling. I prefer prime. And I also prefer Angus. If we're getting into breeds, I think Angus has a more beefy flavor, whereas Wagyu, the fat might melt out really quickly. But it just doesn't have the beefiness. And then if you get into something on the lower end, like maybe a select piece of commodity, it might not have any fat. It might have been a really poorly-formed muscle, maybe an unhappy cow. And to me, I think a piece of meat tastes a whole lot better when it was a slow-growth animal. That means that it was able to hang out in the field. Eat some grass. It has nice feed. It's not being force fed anything. It can just meander along and get nice and plump. You know, when you have an animal that was forced to grow fast with growth promotants, a lot of times, they'll form fat on the outside. And that's the subcutaneous fat. That's the stuff that you would trim off and throw away, or it would just kind of-- you would leave it on. And it would kind of be a gross, fatty slice. But it's that stuff. it's the striations of fat that you want there. It's the internal marbling. And you can really only get that from an animal that wasn't forced to grow faster than it really wanted to. That fat tastes better. It has more oleic acid in it. You get better flavors. It renders at different temperatures. So I think that's the positive thing about going to a butcher shop is they typically know where their meat is coming from. Hopefully, they know the ranchers. So you can kind of get some lineage on these cows. In a grocery store, almost every single time, whatever you get on the shelf is commodity. And that means it has growth hormones. That means it's probably had a lot of antibiotics. It probably grew pretty fast. I don't like that stuff. I think growth hormones, a lot of times, make meat not cook right. I think they make the fat form in a weird way. I think it makes the fat not render in the same way. And it kind of takes away from a lot of the natural beefy flavor too. So if you can help it, I mean, I always go all natural. But I've said this a million times. Sometimes, you just gotta cook what you can get. [MUSIC PLAYING] A lot of people talk about grass-fed stuff. I think grass-fed beef is amazing. I really love it a lot. But I only really like it for steaks, for fast-cooked stuff. For brisket, you really need some corn in there to kind of plump up the animal. It needs some grains. They need to have enough grass, as much a...

About the Instructor

Once a backyard hobbyist, Aaron Franklin is now the James Beard Award-winning owner of Franklin Barbecue, where the line for his famous smoked brisket is hours long. Now the Central Texas barbecue specialist teaches you his meticulous low and slow process for mouth-watering ribs, pork butt, and brisket. With perfectly seasoned cuts and optimal temperatures, you'll learn to handle an offset smoker like a true pitmaster.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Aaron Franklin

Aaron Franklin teaches you how to fire up flavor-packed Central Texas barbecue, including his famous brisket and more mouth-watering smoked meat.

Explore the Class
Sign Up