A few years ago we started eating steaks at home on occasion. (Olivia was a life-long vegetarian, only starting to eat a bit of meat after much coaxing.) I was curious how different steaks compared, so we came up with the idea for a steak 'vertical' tasting. Grab a bunch of steaks of the same cut from different sources, cook 'em up and see how they do. 3 years ago when we tried it I botched it and confused some of the steaks so we really weren't sure what was the best.
With the new grill it was time to try again.
- Prather Ranch. Pasture raised. 180 day Grain finished. 21 days dry-aged.
- 5 Dot. $20.50/lb. 100% Pasture raised. 21 day dry-aged.
- Fatted Calf Piedmontese Beef. $25/lb. 100% pasture raised. 21 day dry-aged.
- Bryan's Fine Foods. $42/lb. Grain & corn fed. 30 day dry-aged.
- Golden Gate Meat Company. $25/lb. Pasture raised, grain finished. 21 day dry-aged.
- Schaubs Prime Market Steak. $19/lb. Corn fed, grass finished according to the butcher!? 30 days dry-aged.
- Whole Foods Dry Aged. $23/lb. Grain raised, 21+ days dry-aged. (Arrived after the photo shoot)
- Marin Sun Farms. Pasture fed, supplemented with grains.
- Whole Foods 100% Grass Fed. $22/lb. 100% Grass Fed.
- Whole Foods Grain Finished. $15/lb. Pasture raised, grass fed. 180 days grain finished
- Costco USDA Prime. $13/lb. Guessing corn fed.
We had 2 of each steak. Steaks were labeled alphabetically A-L (missing G) and randomly sorted. I kept a key of which was which, and had 2 people watch during cooking and cutting to make sure we didn't mix A with B, etc.
Steaks were brought up to room tempture. Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper applied. All steaks were cooked to medium-rare on the grill, then sliced into small strips. People took a piece or two of each steak, noting on provided paper (or their plate) what they were taking. At the end there was enough for everyone to at least taste each steak that they wanted.
Notes on the tasting
Because Rib Eyes are so fatty, the slice each person got considerably affected the flavor and opinion. Parts that were right next to the fat (or even mostly fat) just taste 100% different from the pure muscle sections, even for highly marbled beef. To do this 'for real' it's clear you would need to buckle down and just eat a good part of each steak to really get a good feel for exactly how they compare.
Tasting nauances requires a trained palate. None of us had one. Unlike even wine tasting where we've been at least indoctrinated by media to compare, for steak we were all coming at it blind. On the wine analogy, it often seemed like all I we could say was "Yup, it's red wine for sure."
The texture was often the primary difference noted vs. the flavor. A few of the steaks actually tasted so similar I bet if we switched them blindly no one would have known. Others were night and day different (for good and bad).
Salt and pepper quantity made a huge difference. If you got a piece that happened to have a bit heavy or light seasoning, it totally changed the flavor profile.