Beef 101

Canadians love eating and enjoying the taste of beef. From grilling steaks on the barbecue in the summer to Sunday roast beef dinners on a cold winter's day we all have our favourite way to prepare and eat beef. Expand your cooking expertise by reading the following information on purchasing cuts of beef, storage and preparation tips and of course lots of great recipes.


Grading - There are 4 levels of grading beef; Canada's top grades are Canada Prime, Canada AAA, Canada AA and Canada A. The majority of the beef produced in Canada is graded with the three 'A' grade. Only a small amount of beef is given the grading of Canada Prime.

Aging - Beef is aged by beef processors for 3 to 21 days at a controlled temperature and humidity. Aging allows the meat fibres to relax, producing a more tender meat, and allows for flavour development. The best quality beef is aged a minimum of 10 to 14 days.

Colouring - The colour of meat is not an accurate indicator of freshness or quality. The meat colour can be impacted by the type of package used or exposure to oxygen in the air. The best indicators of freshness are either the best before date or the 'packaged on' date.

Marbling - Marbling refers to the flecks or streaks of fat that run throughout lean meat. Marbling is desirable from a flavour, tenderness and juiciness standpoint, but also increases the overall fat content of the meat. The amount of marbling present in the meat depends on the grade level - Prime has the most and Canada A has the least.


Steak - a slab of beef usually between ¾-inch to 3 inches thick. Steaks are classified into 3 categories, based on the cooking method best used.

  • Grilling Steaks: Best cooked with high heat methods such as grilling or broiling. Try Porterhouse, T-Bone, Sirloin, Strip Loin, Rib Eye or Inside Round steaks.
  • Marinating Steaks: slightly tougher in texture, these steaks benefit from marinating before grilling or broiling. Try Round Steak, Sirloin Tip, Eye of Round, Flank and Skirt Steak.
  • Simmering Steaks: flavourful steaks that are best cooked over slow low heat to increase their tenderness. Try: Blade, Brisket or Cross Rib Steaks

    Roasts - a piece of meat large enough to serve more than 2 people.

    • Oven Roasts - best cooked to medium doneness. Try Sirloin Tip Round, Eye of Round Oven Roast, Outside Round, or Inside Round.
    • Pot Roasts - suitable for slow cooking methods. Try one of the following roasts: Blade, Shoulder or Top Blade.
    • Rotisserie Roasts - cut for the barbecue, cook roasts either on a rotisserie or directly on grill using indirect heat method. Try either Prime Rib Roast or Top Sirloin Roast.

    Stewing beef - purchased already cut into cubes and it is best cooked using a slow, moist heat method of cooking.

    Ground beef - usually browned in a skillet and the fat is drained from it before adding to other dishes. Grades of ground beef available are Extra Lean, Lean, Medium & Regular Ground Beef. The amount of fat varies for each grade level.


    Follow our handy chart and tips for safely storing beef.

      Refrigerate Freeze
    Beef Cuts 2 to 3 days 3 to 12 months
    Ground Beef 1 day
    * freeze if not using in 1 day
    2 to 3 months
    Leftovers/Cooked Beef 3 to 4 days 2 to 3 months
    • Store meat on a plate on bottom shelf of fridge to prevent juice from dripping and contaminating other foods.
    • Store in coolest part of fridge, to maintain a constant temperature, usually towards the bottom-back section of the fridge.
    • When freezing ground beef, place in resealable plastic bag and flatten meat. This way it is easily stackable and will thaw quickly.
    • Freeze cuts of beef in original packaging for up to 2 weeks. If storing for a longer period of time, wrap beef well with freezer paper or freezer bags, making sure all air is removed from pages.
    • When frozen food is improperly wrapped or stored for an extended time in the freezer there is a loss of moisture which causes white or grey patches to form on the meat. This is not an indicator that the meat is spoiled but rather the quality has diminished. A good idea is to label all meats with the date of freezing.

    Safe Handling

    • Make all perishable items (including beef) the last items that you pick up at the grocery store.
    • Steaks and Roasts can be cooked to varying degrees of doneness depending on personal preference.
    • Ground beef should always be cooked to 160°F (71°C).
    • The best way to measure the degree of doneness is with a meat thermometer.
    MED RARE 140°F (60°C)
    MEDIUM 160°F (71°C)
    WELL 170°F (77°C)

    Cooking Techniques

    • To increase the flavour absorbed from marinades, score meat with knife before marinating.
    • Click here to learn more about cooking a roast.