Prime vs Dry Aged vs Grass Fed1

Lately I’ve seen a much higher availability of prime, dry aged, grass fed steaks:

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Mmmmmmm Prime Steak!
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Oh Laaaahhrdy, Dry Aged Steak!
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Sweet Jeebus, Grass Fed Beef!

All of them cost significantly more than traditional choice or select steaks full of hormones, fed on corn and not aged at all. But is a dry aged steak worth it? What about prime? And if choosing between dry aged, prime and grass fed, which is better? The Grillin’ Fools decided to put it to the test with a side by side by side, somewhat blind taste test.

Lately, at a local grocery store chain in St. Louis, we’ve seen many of these prepackaged like so:

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Does prepackaging make a difference?

All three of these are NY Strip steaks also called Strip Loins:

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Can you tell which is which? Left to right, Prime, Dry Aged and Grass Fed

For the side by side by side taste test, all we hit these with were salt, black and white pepper, and a little hickory infused grape seed oil:

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Sometimes simple seasoning is the best

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Prepare the grill, in this case my Char-Broil TRU Infrared, for high heat, direct grilling. Don’t toss those awesome steaks on until it hits 500 degrees:

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That’s a HOT grill and this bad boy makes a MEAN steak!

The prime and dry aged steak were significantly thicker than the grass fed beef, so they went on first:

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Nothing better than the sound and smell of a steak hitting a hot grill!
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That grass fed beef beauty looks a little lonely!

I left the first two steaks on for four minutes before rotating 45 degrees to get those perfect grill marks and then tossed the final steak on:

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And one makes three, sort of like what happened at my house two days before I grilled these when we had out third son!

Here are the first two steaks flipped over:

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Did I mention that the Char-Broil Infrared makes a mean steak? The best grill marks out there!

I only went with a single hatch on the thinner, grass fed beef so all three steaks would be cooked to the same temperature:

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That circle is from the cool grill grates the grill comes with

And here we have al three steaks off the grill:

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Resting

And a closer look:

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How good does that look? That closest one is the prime steak

We had to finish up inside since at this point the tornado sirens started screaming. We didn’t head for the basement right away though. Not when we had a prime, dry aged and grass fed steaks ready to eat that looked like this on the inside:

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Did I nail that or what?!?

For the record, if you want steaks to come out that beautifully rare, and still have that wonderful cross hatching on them, then the grill better be uber hot. I’m not talking a nice 500 degrees. I mean 700+. If your grill doesn’t get to 700 anymore, don’t junk it. It probably only needs a new burner or fuel regulator which is much easier to install than building a grill out of the box and is much cheaper than a new cooker. Talk to my friends at GrillPartsSearch and work on a tune up rather than a trade in.

So what was the verdict? Well the grass fed was clearly the inferior steak. See, grass fed beef is MUCH leaner than other cuts and well, fat tastes good. I cooked it to a wonderful rare and yet it was still much tougher than the other two.

Now prime vs dry aged steak? At initial tasting, prime was voted the superior steak. But not by a ton. The dry aged had a certain sweetness with a little “meatier” or robust flavor to it that the prime did not, but the prime was a bit more tender and seemed to melt in the mouth. Even the fat around the outside had a different texture to it that made it quite delicious on its own.

After the initial tasting, we did have to go to the basement before we finished the steaks and after a little more time resting, the flavors awakened even more as if a fine wine allowed to breath. It was at this point that I would’ve called it a toss up between the dry aged and the prime. Hot off the grill, the prime was the winner. That being said, we used a prepackaged, dry aged steak. So basically, once it was put in the package, it was wet aged after being dry aged. I think that takes away significantly from the dry aged as I had one of these just the night before which was dry aged and not wrapped in plastic and it was blow your mind great:

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Only two inches wide, but THREE inches tall!

Our next test will involve prime vs dry aged that were not prepackaged.

If you have any questions about our taste test, feel free to leave them below or shoot me an email.

If you would like actual steak grilling recipes, click here.

While this taste test had a very small sample size and involves the personal preferences of the three Grillin’ Idiots, er, I mean Fools, this is by no means the end all of this discussion. What is your favorite? Leave your favorite in the comments section below…

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas, the Original Grillin’ Fool, was sent off to college with a suitcase and a grill where he overcooked, undercooked and burned every piece of meat he could find. After thousands of failures, and quite a few successes, nearly two decades later he started a website to show step by step, picture by picture, foolproof instructions on how to make great things out of doors so that others don’t have to repeat the mistakes he’s made on the grill.
Scott Thomas

@GrillinFool

https://t.co/lVWgniik3V - #GrillPorn abounds here. All meat, all the time!
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6 comments

Hey Scott! Great post. It was nice to interact with you at the conference this weekend & I learned a lot from some of the discussions you were involved in. Looking forward to learning more from your blogging style.

So, we do eat grass-fed beef for a variety of nutritional reasons. I grew up eating more traditionally raised meat, although it was from our own farm & much more “grass-fed” than supermarket meat. Still plenty grain fed.

One thing that I have had to do over the last couple of years is to cook a lot “lower & slower” with the Grass Fed beef. I ruined a fair amount of hamburgers & steaks at first. My results have improved tremendously. If you ever decide to experiment again with grass-fed meat, I would love to know how you alter the technique.(I would be willing to provide the steaks!) And if you would ever want to share that info in a blog post I would be exceptionally excited to share it with my readers. Grilling is always a popular topic & your style with lots of pictures is really helpful.

Again, so great to meet you!

Reply

Laci,

It was fantastic to meet you too!

I don’t disagree that grass fed beef might need a different cooking method, but I’m not sure that it would stand up to prime and dry aged even if cooked differently. Both have such concentrated flavors that I don’t know that grass fed can stand up to it. That being said, it stands up to choice and select very well. Beyond well in fact. As long as it is cooked properly, grass fed has a beefier, more robust flavor than regular steaks. I love grass fed beef. I just think the prime and dry aged are better. That being said, the grass fed is by far healthier. What we think is tastier, as a society for the most part, is usually fattier. Being third best is not a bad thing. It is still better than about 85% of steaks out there.

After all that, I have to say, I would like to test the lower and slower process you propose. Can you give me specifics on how this works? I am very interested in trying new things…

…….Scott

Interesting test, well cooked sir!

You have grass fed beef and then again you could have GRASS FED beef. It so much depends on who is raising the beef. I’ve had some dry tough GF and some melt in you mouth tender meat as well. Recently had a conventional steak at a “fancy” restaurant and frankly while it tasted ok, it was nowhere near as good as the average GF steak I broil at home.

For me the conventional beef tastes like fat now, after having acclimated to GF.

Check out the homemade sous vide setups for low and slow on your GF beef. You can buy the cheaper cuts nobody wants and cook them for 2-3 days and have some great food.

Reply

Samc,

I just got a sous vide and have not had a chance to use it. I will definitely give that a go!

…….Scott

Of the three, I prefer GF. Knowing the source is of primary importance, and grilling slower, then searing, produces a fantastic rare or medium steak without all the “corn” flavoring of traditionally finished beef.

Cheers!

Shaun

Reply

I’m a single farmer that raises beef cattle on our family farm. It would take me a LONG time to eat an entire beef. So, I have not butchered. But, when I am at the grocery store, if I see a chuck-eye steak, I SNATCH IT UP! I get home, fire up the charcoal, salt and pepper. EASY! AND DELICIOUS!!

Reply

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