Butcher At National Grocery Chain Reveals Which Meats You Should Never Buy

If you're basically a carnivore, maybe you start drooling even before you even approach your grocery store's meat counter. You've barely pushed that shopping cart a few inches into the store and suddenly you want all the meats. Once you see the various cuts nestled in their garnishes in the case — some a succulent pink, others a deep, ruby red — you can almost begin to smell the butter melting on that juicy, perfectly cooked steak. But not everything on display deserves to make its way to your dinner plate. Since fresh meat is expensive, making the wrong choice can be a huge waste of money. In fact, choosing the right cut at the grocery store is sometimes even the most difficult part about cooking meat, notes The Grocery Store Guy. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find a cut that's full of flavor, and has the right balance of fat and protein to make it easy to sink your fork in for a bite; and surprisingly, some of the most popular options fall short when it comes to texture and taste.

So how can you choose wisely? In an exclusive interview with Mashed, a butcher (who chose to remain anonymous) who has worked at a large national grocery chain since 2013 shared some intel on which meats you should never buy at the grocery store. Shockingly, some of the priciest — and prettiest — meats aren't actually grill-worthy. Even if it looks good and is described with adjectives like "grass-fed" or "tender," not every meat makes the cut.

Don't buy these meats at the grocery store

Meat that's ready to fling on a grill appeals not only to our appetites, but also to our busy schedules; but ready-to-cook meat is actually a huge waste of money. Instead, the butcher we spoke with advises: "Pick out your meat option (look for something on sale!) and then ask your butcher what [their] favorite seasoning or marinade is that they sell in the store." Pre-marinated meat is likely over-marinated, making the meat mushy, points out Serious Eats.

Similarly, skip those ready-to-grill kabobs, which don't offer a very creative selection of produce — usually just peppers and onion. The butcher said, "I would recommend asking your butcher to cube the meat for you. If you make them yourself, you can add other options like mushrooms, pineapple, and cherry tomatoes." This way, you can customize your kabobs with fruit and veggies you actually enjoy, plus, those kabob kits can come at up to a 60 percent mark-up, says Woman's Day.

Shockingly, the butcher also advised against buying filet. "I know filet is typically known as an optimal cut of meat and traditionally priced for it, too, but it's pretty overrated when compared to other beef cuts," he said. "I would recommend purchasing a cut like teres major, which is also a lean and tender cut, but about 1/3 of the price." Not sure you can score this cut at your supermarket? Opt for a New York strip steak instead, which has a good balance of flavor and tenderness, according to The Grocery Store Guy.

Push your cart right past this chicken, advises the butcher

What about if you're in the market for poultry? Make sure you avoid chicken labeled as "water chilled," the butcher we spoke with said. "It absorbs some of the water which evaporates when cooking, resulting in smaller and potentially-rubbery chicken." It's not just the taste of the chicken itself that's impacted by water-chilling; your entire recipe can be wrecked if you don't choose an air-chilled bird. "While preparing the bird, if you do choose to brine the bird, air-chilled will allow you to absorb great flavors and aromatics, whereas water-chilled has already absorbed chlorine," Chef Doug Psaltis of RPM Steak in Chicago told Bloomberg.

The majority of grocery store chicken, indeed, is chilled by submerging chickens into a giant vat of chlorinated water, causing the birds to absorb some excess water in the process. If you can't tell from a glance how the chicken was chilled, it was likely done in water. The Kitchn says that most grocery stores actually label the poultry when it is air-chilled, so if you don't see those words, assume the chicken is water-chilled and avoid it! Speaking of chicken labels you should be seeking out, the best poultry should say "no antibiotics" — not just the usual "no added hormones," as the United States Department of Agriculture does not allow hormones to be added anyway, making claims of "no added hormones" pretty useless — according to 12Tomatoes. You'll also want to look for the USDA Organic label, which means the chickens were not genetically engineered.