Costco Meat Department: A Grill Dad’s Review

What I do and do not buy from my namesake store

My bio on Instagram — “Feeding my wife and two daughters by cooking outside, mostly with meat purchased at @costco” — is true. What I post is what I cook for my family, and I really do buy most of my meat at Costco.

But I don’t buy everything at the wholesale haven. Here’s a full breakdown of what this CostcoGrillDad does and does not buy at my namesake store.

Thanks for reading! Please share, and if you haven’t already, subscribe.

Share CostcoGrillDad


What meat I don’t buy at Costco

I go into detail below, but for those of you who like to get to the point:

  • Pre-cut steaks (blade tenderized = no thanks)

  • Pork shoulder (boneless and expensive)

  • Ground beef (80-20 is the only way)

Pre-cut steaks

If ever I develop enough of a platform to get Costco’s attention, I would use it to make one ask: please, for the sake of properly cooked steak everywhere, stop blade tenderizing your meat.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, all you need to know is that blade tenderizing “means the beef has been punctured with blades or needles to break down the muscle fibers and make it easier to chew. But it also means the meat has a greater chance of being contaminated and making you sick.”1

Check out the fine print on this label of NY Strips:

“USDA recommends grilling product to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees…”

It’s such a shame, because Costco sells quality steaks at solid prices. But I’m not going to overcook my steak, and you shouldn’t either.

Check the label at your Costco (and note: some cuts, like flank steak, are not blade tenderized). If it’s tenderized, buy from your neighborhood grocery store instead.

Edit: After publication, I was taught something via Twitter — using a sous vide is a way to safely cook blade tenderized meat at a lower temperature. Read the exchange here.

Pork shoulder

This one is simple. When I smoke a pork shoulder, I prefer bone-in cuts, whether it’s a Boston butt or a picnic shoulder.

I’ll leave the debate about whether bone-in actually impacts flavor to the Meatheads of the world. But there’s not much better after a long smoke than pulling a perfectly clean bone out of a pork shoulder, and that’s reason enough for me to look elsewhere when buying.

Add in the price — Costco usually sells theirs for $1.99, and I can often find butts on sale for $0.99 to $1.49 per pound at normal grocery stores — and it’s a no brainer.

I do have one notable exception: I buy boneless pork shoulder when I am making my smoked adobada recipe. Don’t worry, I’ll write that up soon.

Ground beef

Anyone who has followed me on Instagram for any amount of time knows that I’m a huge proponent of smash burgers. In fact, I think they are reason enough to buy a griddle.

A great smash burger doesn’t need much: 80-20 ground beef, salt, pepper, mustard, grilled onions, spread and a toasted bun.

Here’s the issue: Costco doesn’t sell 80-20 ground beef, and 85-15 won’t cut it for me. Any normal grocery store sells the good stuff for cheap — go there instead.

My favorites from the Costco meat section

If it didn’t make the list above, I probably buy it at Costco. Think of the basics: all cuts of chicken, plus bacon and sausages, plus fun cuts of lamb and fish. Given how large their selection is, I decided to narrow this list of down to my favorites:

  • Brisket (price and quality is unmatched)

  • Beef roasts (price and quality is unmatched)

  • Ribs (great price, always available)

  • Pork belly (great price, always available)

Brisket

This one is easy. Brisket at Costco is always in stock, always priced to sell — near me it’s always $2.99 per pound — and always high quality USDA prime.

If I can do this with a barrel smoker and a brisket from Costco, you can too:

Beef roasts

For all the flaws of their pre-cut steaks, Costco’s beef roasts are undefeated. USDA Prime at great prices, not blade tenderized, and able to be cut down into steaks at your preferred thickness? Yes, please.

Some of the best meals I’ve ever cooked are reverse seared prime rib or tenderloin from Costco. I even dry aged a NY strip loin myself — more on that another time.

Ribs

Three packs of ribs at a great price? Yes please. Costco prices almost always beat what I can find in the grocery store, and they are always fully stocked with both St. Louis and Baby Back three packs.

I usually opt for the St. Louis option, but you can’t go wrong either way.

Pork belly

At a price-per-pound, Costco’s pork belly might be the best thing they sell. If you haven’t made pork belly burnt ends, like these ones I made with hot honey, you need to ASAP.

Eventually I’ll write this recipe up, but in the meantime this should get you most of the way there. It’s also on my list to make homemade bacon using Costco’s pork belly, so stay tuned.

What did I miss?

I know some Costco locations offer seasonal cuts that would make my list if they were available in my area. As a California native, I wish tri-tip made its way to my Costco’s meat section. And I’ve seen beef cheeks — an absolute favorite cut of mine — on shelves on the west coast, too.

What did I miss that you like to buy from Costco? Or do you disagree with my “ do not buy” items? Let me know! You can DM me on Instagram, email me at CostcoGrillDad@gmail.com, or comment below.

Share CostcoGrillDad

Picture of the week

I’ll use this space to share my favorite cook from the previous week. Drumsticks are incredibly underrated — get them at Costco for $0.99 per pound, and with some charcoal, rub and sauce turn them into an incredible dinner. They were a big hit with my toddlers, which is the most important outcome from all of my cooks. Let me know what you’re cooking this weekend!

1

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/05/20/478859242/new-labels-warn-that-a-tender-steak-could-be-a-little-dangerous