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Choosing Quality Meats

By Charles Hopkins Published 07/7/2007 | Food & Drink

It's important to know what to look for when choosing meats. Many times the stores have specials, but the quality of the meat, due to the amount of time it has been on the shelf, can be questionable.

Here are some tips for buying good meat and for properly storing it.

Good Quality Veal
It should be grayish pink in color. The fat will be clear, firm and white. The bones should be red and there should be little marbling.

Good Quality Beef
Beef should be a fresh, red color. It should be well marbled with fat. Here is where you have to be careful. If you look at hamburger at the supermarket, some can be found to be a brownish color, or turning a brownish color. Pass on this meat and make certain it is a red color throughout.

Good Quality Lamb
Varies from light to dark pink. The color turns darker as the animal grows older. The lighter the color, the more tender the lamb.

Good Quality Pork
A good cut of pork will be grayish pink and the flesh feels relatively firm. It should be well marbled and covered with firm white fat.

When you bring your meat home, you should immediately refrigerate it. If you plan to divide it up and freeze portions, try to do so as soon as possible. When putting the meat in freezer bags, try to remove as much air from the bag as possible. Label the meat and include the date you froze it.

The length of time meat can be frozen varies greatly, but beef will generally keep longer than pork. Roasts, steaks and chops are good for four to six months, hamburger for three to four months, and poultry for nine months.

Any freezer burning that occurs does not necessarily mean the food is inedible. The taste will be tougher and dry and it is best to cut off the freezer burn portions. If the entire meat is freezer burned, toss it.

The best way to thaw meat is in the refrigerator. While you can use the defrost cycle of the microwave, the meat will tend to lose some of it's flavor. Small portions can be thawed overnight. Large cuts of meat may take two days, although a turkey will take three to four days. Plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to defrost your meat before your meal.

You should not thaw out meat and then refreeze it. When you thaw out your meat, make plans to cook it that day or the next.

Food safety is important and you should take the time to make certain you are serving your family the healthiest meat you possibly can.