Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Trader Joe's Grass Fed Angus Beef

Given the virtual cornucopia of fake meat products we've reviewed, up to and including the challengingly named Beefless Ground Beef, it's only fair if we review some real actual meat every once in a while, lest you start believin' we're some sort of rogue vegetarians trying to clobber you into our way of living or something. That's not how we roll.

Truth be told, Sandy and I don't eat a lot of meat, particularly, and when we do it's usually chicken or fish, and not red meat so much. It was a pretty rare treat (more so for me) when I picked up a pack of steaks to grill up the other week in a last ditch effort to get her iron up before our kid makes his/her grand debut literally any day now. Other than that, other than the occasional dinner at a place like Burgatory or the sporadic cook out burger, beef just isn't one of our usual purchases for whatever reason.

So anyways, for the reason mentioned above, last trip we picked up Trader Joe's Grass Fed Angus Beef to slap on the grill for some burger lovin'. There's plenty of grass-fed vs. corn/grain-fed debates you can read elsewhere on the Interwebs, so I'm not really going to be delving into those here. Instead, as usual, I'll be focusing on taste. Tell ya what: it makes a darn good burger. I molded four good sized patties out of the one pound hunk we bought for $5.99. Sandy needs her burgers well done (or at least not one speck of pink in them), while I tend towards more of a medium, juicy burger. This beef gave us the best of both worlds. Our burgers, while cooked them all the way through and even a little charred on the outside, were still juicely dripping with every bite. And they tasted like good, solid, honest beef, too, with a nice beefy texture. In all, it worked well with the garlic salt and pepper I mixed in, and tasted great alongside the grilled green beans (slathered with chipotle olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt) for a classic summer time dinner. Good stuff.

There's one thing kinda nagging me about it, although it isn't necessarily fair. Trader Joe's by in large does well by me, but I've gotten enough produce that spoils way too quickly from them to fully trust it (hence going to local farmer's markets for that) and more times than not, the milk we buy from them goes bad well before the date on it (hence us always getting our milk at Target). We haven't had that issue with meat from TJ's as much but....see the top right corner of the package? "KEEP FROZEN," it says. That suggests to me that perhaps this isn't the freshest of meats if you have to buy it frozen and keep it frozen. I'm pretty sure that's one of the TJ's keeps their prices low - buy food that's close to it's expiration date and sell it for a discounted cost. For the beef, that's not as much of a hang-up for us, but I know that can be for some out there. That does, though, put folks like my wife and I in a bind where we have to cook the whole thing at once even though it's way too big for one meal. We now have two burgers in the freezer waiting to be reheated. That may be handy within a couple weeks. I'm just glad that there's official word from TJ's about their complete lack of pink slime offerings, thus to me making it worth ponying up a lil' extra for some at least semi-reputable meat.

Anyways, I liked our beef-full beef. Sandy did, too. I won't be able to quote her directly, but she said something along the lines of "Oooh man it was good, it was just what a pregnant woman needed, a big ol' chunk of CARNE to bite into that was all juice-going-everywhere-and-down-my-arms and delicious and stuff." Umm, okay. She went ahead and gave "about a four," noting that while way above fast food standard, she's not enough of a beef connoisseur to tell this TJ in-carne-ation apart from the truly great stuff. I don't know, it's pretty decent, and I'd say it's in similar quality to the beef we had in our tacos at my brother and sister in law's tonight. They get their beef from some free range hippie cow-huggin' happy farm kinda place, I think. Something around a four works for me, too.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Grass Fed Angus Beef: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

10 comments:

  1. grilled green beans? Sounds delicious, do you par-boil them first? :)

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    1. Haven't tried that route. Just toss a bunch of fresh ones in a grill basket and coat with the olive oil, kinda like what you could do with asparagus. Delicious.

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  2. I don't eat beef, but I do agree with your beef (heh) about the expiration dates on a bunch of TJ's stuff. I love their light jarlsburg (though that may not even be a TJ's "house" brand?), and it seems like it always spoils way before the expiration date. I haven't had bad luck with the produce, though.

    Anyway, just wanted to de-lurk and let you know that I mentioned your site on a blog round-up I posted on my corner of the Internet today. It's here, if you're interested: http://wp.me/pcdoH-Ai

    Thanks to you both for having such an awesome site! I shall now resume re-lurking :-)

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    1. Lurk all you want! Thanks for the mention!

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  3. Your TJ's must have bad milk or bad dairy holding practices - I've never had a problem with mine (I can sometimes get nearly a week past the sell by date, and I never buy it without the sell by being at least a week out).

    Just your general friendly reminder that store practices, not just chain practices, can vary :)

    Also, you're reading way too much into the "keep frozen" thing - the meat came from New Zealand and was "processed" (probably split and packed into TJ's packaging) in the US. It was almost certainly shipped as a frozen commodity since it's coming so far with the intention of repackaging at a low price. The notice is almost certainly a "this came to us frozen so please don't screw with the texture". The same notice is on all frozen food (just checked - the pre-cooked chicken strips say the exact same thing), and you don't think those are going to kill you or are a sign of poor quality, do you?

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  4. Yeah, I agree with js9430. I hope everyone also understands the difference between an expiration date and the fact that most dairy products, aside from hard cheeses like parmesan, should be used within 7-10 days (if that) of being opened. Anything with a high fat/lactose content is going to slowly start to spoil once opened because of the air exposure.

    It's also slightly irresponsible to suggest things like this about people's food when you have as many readers as you do and no evidence aside from you misconstruing the meaning of various labels. TJ's would be well within their rights to send a cease and desist letter asking that the statement in question be removed.

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  7. You probably want to keep the product frozen because it's stored frozen. It's probably stored frozen because, as the pictured label clearly shows, it comes from New Zealand, this place called literally the other side of the planet. Iono

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  8. I tried it for the first time yesterday and today. I wasn't planning on having to eat it two days in a row but they package two patties in each plastic wrapper. (i got the 4-patties-in-a-box version of this, not the bag like you show.) I'd rather they packaged each patty in its own wrapper... At least they separate the two with a piece of paper....

    Anyway, when I took my first bite, I thought I was eating fish! I don't think I've ever had grass-fed before. I thought, this is strange. Shouldn't it taste like hamburger? I noticed some other flavors I can't describe as well. I also noticed some gristle, something I don't get with my regular supermarket hamburger. Today, on burger #2 of this package, the first bite was fish-like as well. I then realized that, aha, that's the grass-fed part. No gristle this time.

    So, it takes some getting used to, this grass-fed beef. (My stomach is gurgling quite a bit after eating this both today and yesterday...)

    I also noticed that the skillet I used was COATED with thick fat afterwards each time. I've never seen so much fat out of one hamburger. It's 80/20 like my usual supermarket hamburger and I only buy certified Angus these days. I've read that this beef is very high in saturated fat so maybe that explains some of it but wouldn't 80/20 look the same no matter what sort of beef it is?

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