The Do’s and Don’t’s of Buying Meat

“America’s Butcher” Pat LaFrieda lays down the laws of buying raw meat. 

As the owner of Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors and the author of Meat: Everything You Need to Know, master butcherPat LaFrieda is well-versed in the art of buying beef, pork, and every other type of animal flesh known to man. For the March print issue’s “Guide to Butchery,” Maxim asked LaFrieda to school us on the fine art of meat buying, to ensure that we’re asking the right questions and don’t leave the butcher shop with a freshly sealed package of E. Coli.

Do: Ask Questions

“Where does it come from? What was it fed? How old is the steer? Is it USDA graded? If he doesn’t know the answers, definitely move on,” LaFrieda warns.

Don’t: Buy Prefrozen

“If meat tests positive for E. coli, it doesn’t need to be tossed out. Under USDA regulations, it can be cooked to 165 degrees to kill the bacteria and frozen. It can then be sold. So beware of prefrozen burgers and meatballs.”

Do: Trust Your Nose

You know the scent of rancid meat—you should know the smell of high-quality meat, too. “Beef should have a very sweet odor; in the very best, you’ll smell a little corn.”

Don’t: Buy Marinated

That pile of kabob meat bathing in teriyaki? Chances are, it’s become oxidized. “The only way to market it is to marinate it. Watch out for any butcher that stocks a lot of marinated meat.”

Do: Know the Grade

Grocery-store meat not stamped with a USDA grade? “That’s a telltale sign that it’s an older, ‘no roll’ animal and of a poorer quality. Skip it.”

Don’t: Act Like a Know-It-All

Are you an amateur Bobby Flay or a sucker for Seamless? Clue your butcher in. He won’t send you home with a hard-to-cook cut if you’re not up to the challenge.

Do: Consult Your Butcher

Craving flank steak? Great. Your meat mean may be fresh out, but he’ll likely suggest a similar cut (say, bavette) that’s even more flavorful.