You have a favorite steakhouse. You know what cut of meat you like, and you can tell a waiter how you liked it prepared. When you want that steakhouse experience at home, the key is to buy the right stuff.
I asked two of New York's steak sultans, Pat LaFrieda, owner of LaFrieda Meats, and James Briscione, chef instructor at the Institute for Culinary Education, for tips on selecting that perfect piece of meat.
Buy from a specialist: As New York's premier restaurant meat distributor, LaFrieda doesn't have to shop for his T-bones. But for those who do, he recommends against grocery stores. "Most supermarkets get their meat prepackaged," says LaFrieda. "The lowest bidder will portion steaks for a big supermarket chain, and will package the meat in white boats with a diaper that soaks in all the blood. They box it, ship it out, and put it on the shelf as if it was cut in the supermarket."
La Frieda supports his local expert. "I'd find a local meat specialist or butcher," he says. "I don't want to buy from someone who sells broomsticks and soap and frozen shrimp."Briscione, who teaches ICE's famous steakhouse class, is less opposed to supermarket shopping. He recommends that people buy their meat "anywhere there's a meat counter."
Follow the leader: Find out where your favorite restaurants buy their meat, and follow their choices. "A lot of steaks at school come through Ottomanelli," says Briscione, referring to a popular Manhattan butcher. "Restaurants like Danielle or Gramercy Tavern put the name of the ranch on the menu. You can go to their Web site and see who the local purveyors are."