Seared BBQ roast

Whether Canada AA, AAA or Prime, Canadian Beef is graded for greatness

From budget-conscious to splurge, there’s a beef grade for everyone.

When you’re cooking at home, whether for yourself, your family or friends, you want to ensure you’re choosing the best ingredients for the recipes you’re making. With grocery prices on the rise, you may also want to be budget-conscious – but not if that means sacrificing satisfaction. After all, a bad meal is a sad meal.

When it comes to beef, you don’t have to be a culinary expert to make sure you’re choosing top-of-the-line meat. When you know it’s Canadian beef, you know you’re purchasing beef that’s the best that Canada has to offer. All Canadian beef, no matter the grade or cut, is the result of nutritionally balanced feeds, advanced breed selection and rigorous codes of practice for animal care. You can be confident that beef from Canada has been raised responsibly and meticulously managed with quality in mind.

However, you may be surprised to learn that, when it comes to high-quality Canadian beef, the piece of meat that’s right for your recipe may not always be the most expensive. Any cut of beef can be the best one, so it’s important that you choose the right grade and the right cut for the cooking method you plan on using.

In Canada, the most common beef grades (Canada AA, AAA and Prime) are all top-shelf, delicious pieces of meat that anyone – from beginner home cooks to top chefs – would be happy to serve. And, yes, grades do matter – but maybe not in the way you think. Each grade signifies a difference and it comes down to tweaking the handling to bring out the best in each of the grades.

What does that mean, really? In Canada, beef grades are assigned by trained experts (Graders) based on several factors like colour, texture and, crucially, visible marbling – the white specks of flavourful fat that spread through a piece of beef almost like paint on a canvas. The amount of marbling in, say, a piece of steak, typically changes the grade.

Here’s how to make your pick from Canada’s beef grades and how to prepare each one to bring out the best in beef. Read on to inspire your inner chef and ensure that your next meal can provide the best beef for your money.

Less marbling: Canada AA Grade

Strip Loin steak (white cutting board)
Canada AA Strip Loin

Canada AA Grade beef has less marbling, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still become a great meal. When fully trimmed and managed right in the kitchen, Canada AA beef is typically a leaner option, but still packs a satisfying beef flavour. Among the three grades, Canada AA beef tends to be the more affordable option, which makes it ideal for those watching their beef budget or making meals for a large family.

How to cook Canada AA grade beef:

Marinating Canada AA steaks, stir-fry strips or even oven roasts before cooking will amp up the flavour and make for tender, juicy results. Try braising, like in this Tuscan-Style Short Ribs With Spinach and Mushroom Pilaf recipe, or making a stew. You’ll find that cooking on a slow simmer works magic, making the beef tender and delicious, especially if you’re using a thick-cut simmering steak, chunks or cubes. If you’re using a larger cut of AA beef, a slow-simmered pot roast, like this Slow-Cooker Greek Pot Roast, will create amazing results.

More marbling: Canada AAA Grade

strip Loin (white cutting board)
Canada AAA Strip Loin

Canada AAA is the most popular grade available for home cooks, and with good reason. It has a higher level of marbling, which means it can deliver on flavour and tenderness any way you want to cook it. If you feel like trying new cooking techniques in the kitchen, or just making a simple but still delicious dinner, Canada AAA is the way to go.

How to cook Canada AAA grade beef:

Because it has more visible marbling, Canada AAA is more versatile than Canada AA, and is suited to all methods of cooking. Think of it as the go-with-anything LBD (little black dress) of your kitchen. Broil it, stir-fry it (try this Black Pepper Beef Thai Stir-Fry and serve it with jasmine rice), roast it, grill it (make this Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri dish) or cook it in whatever method suits your mood or the ingredients you already have in your fridge or pantry.

Most marbling: Canada Prime Grade

Prime Strip Loin on white background
Canada Beef Prime Strip Loin

Of all the Canadian beef grades, Canada Prime Grade has the highest level of marbling. With plenty of rich, fatty flecks, Canada Prime is the most tender and juicy and is always flavourful with no fussing in the kitchen required. Canada Prime is luxurious; the kind of beef you’ll find at high-end steakhouses and hotels. With limited availability at grocery stores for cooking at home, this is the beef to buy for that special occasion or gourmet recipe.

How to cook Canada Prime Grade beef:

Because of its abundance of marbling, you don’t need to do much with a Canada Prime cut. Adding sea salt and freshly ground pepper to prime grade beef is all the preparation and seasoning you need to have spectacular results. Or maybe you’ll want to add a punch of garlic, like in this Charcoal Grilled Prime Beef Roast for Two. No matter which way you cook Canada Prime beef, you’ll be serving an unforgettable, chef-level meal at home.

How do you know what grade of Canadian beef you’re buying?

If you’re not sure based on the visible marbling or grade designation you see in a flyer or where you buy your meat, just ask the person who’s managing the meat or butcher counter. They’ll know exactly what they have on offer.

A black-and-red logo with a maple leaf, cow silhouette and the words "Canadian Beef"

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