Purchasing meat can be an intimidating exercise: the slabs of pork and beef all tend to look the same to the untrained eye, and the many cuts available do not help in making the job easier. Sure, you can tell the butcher that you're cooking adobo or barbecue and he’ll give you the cut you need, but it also wouldn’t hurt to know the things you should take note of when buying your pork chops or steaks. Before you head to the grocery or to your suki at the wet market, check out these tips on meat selection from The Peninsula Manila’s Sous Chef Federico “Boy” Marcolino.

1. WHERE SHOULD YOU BUY YOUR MEAT?
In the Philippines, you can opt to purchase your meat either at the grocery or at the local wet market. While it’s a lot cheaper to buy your beef and pork chops at the market, Chef Boy, however, recommends a visit to the supermarket for its higher sanitary standards. “Kung magbe-base tayo sa safety, ‘yung sa supermarket, naka-chill 'yung meat nila doon, not like sa mga palengke na exposed siya sa mga bacteria (If we’re basing it on safety, meat in the supermarket is chilled, unlike meat in markets, which is exposed to bacteria),” he explained. In addition, meat from groceries also have production and expiration labels.

2. HOW CAN YOU ENSURE THAT YOUR MEAT IS TOP-NOTCH?
Chef Boy says that you should first check the color: beef should be bright red, while pork should be a pinkish hue. The meat should also smell fresh. As for the store, make sure that it has gone through the National Meat Inspection Service—the vendors should be able to show you the proof of their accreditation.

3. HOW WOULD YOU KNOW IF YOUR MEAT IS BAD?
If your meat has a funny smell and has taken on a dark green color, then it might be best to leave it alone as those are signs that the meat is old. Chef Boy also advises against buying meat with blood clots in the joints because they're likely double-dead. You should also stay away from pork with several red spots, as well as beef cuts with cysts.

4. WHICH CUT SHOULD YOU BUY?
It depends on the dish you’re using the meat for, Chef Boy says. For caldereta and sinigang, skip the meaty part (the pigue) and pick the spare ribs for more flavor. If you’re grilling, opt for thinner pork loins, chops, or belly (the liempo). If you’re unsure, you can just ask the butcher or the store attendant.

5. WHAT DOES MARBLING MEAN?
“Marbling” refers to the amount of fat in a steak cut. A well-marbled slab of steak is, more often than not, a juicy one. According to Chef Boy, most marbled steak cuts, like rib-eyes and tenderloins, come from the US.

(Photo by Artizone via Flickr Creative Commons)

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