As a third generation butcher at B & B Grocery, Meat & Deli, I'm often asked how to pick out a perfect steak. Here's what I tell my customers.
Do not just pick out any steak. That is one of the worst things you can do. All steaks are not the same. Therefore, take your time when picking out a steak. There are steaks that are better for grilling and some steaks are better to slow cook. Typically, if the steak has "chuck" or "round" in the name then it is better to marinate and slow cook. If the steak has "rib" or "loin" in the name it will be a lot more tender and better for grilling. Ask your butcher which types of steaks are best for the way you want to cook your steak.
The thicker the better. Steaks that are cut too thin are easy to over cook. Over cook a steak and you could end up with a dry, tough piece of "leather". It is easy to tell how thick steaks are at an old-fashion butcher shop. In fact, most butchers will cut thicker steaks for customers who request them. Be careful when buying steaks in packs. It can be hard to see the thickness of all the steaks.
It is important to look for steaks with the most fat marbling and streaking. Steaks with the most fat marbling are generally more flavorful and tender. The most marbled cut is the rib-eye. It is cut from the same piece of meat as the prime rib.
Do not cut the fat off! A lot of my customers want all the fat cut off the sides of their steaks. I do not recommend this at all! I tell my customers to leave the fat on while they cook their steaks. Fat helps keep the steak juicy and enhances the steak's flavor. You can cut all the fat off you want once the steak is cooked.
Knowing what to look for in a steak is as important as cooking a steak. Still not sure what to look for in a steak? Ask your neighborhood butcher. They always like to help ensure you get the best steak for your special occasion.