Chow Town

American Royal competition seeks to find the perfect steak

Earlier this month, I was invited to once again to judge the American Royal Steak Competition, which included grass-fed and corn-fed rib-eye steaks from beef producers across the country.

The purpose of the competition is to find the best tasting steaks in America. According to Mark Schatzker, author of Steak and one of the judges, there are more flavor profiles in steak than in wine. Through this competition, producers learn what it takes to consistently produce the best steak around.

The American Royal Association has been a Kansas City asset since 1899. More than 250,000 people attend the American Royal annual fall event, generating more than $60 million of economic impact in Kansas City. Almost $1.5 million in scholarships and educational awards are given each year. This is was the third year for the steak competition.

Ranchers from across America submitted three rib-eyes for the competition that were boneless, unseasoned, non-brined or blade-tenderized and 1/2-inch thick.

Grass-fed beef must be from cattle that are raised on pasture. These cattle have never been fed any grain at any point from birth to slaughter. Grain-fed beef may be from cattle that have been fed grain at any point in their life.

The samples were prepared using George Foreman Grills. My fellow judges were served squares of meat from different locations on the steak. We were not able to evaluate the meat beforehand for appearance.

The American Royal Steak competition set up judging terms and definitions for myself and fellow judges to help score and ensure consistency across the panel. We were given iPads to record scores on and water and crackers to cleanse our palates between samples.

Sixty percent of the score was based on flavor, which included the steak’s overall, sustained and finish. Forty percent was based on texture, which included the steak’s initial and sustained juiciness and tenderness.

In all, we tasted 12 corn-fed cuts of beef and 11 grass-fed cuts. We were not allowed to discuss the meat or the scores during the judging at the Kansas State University’s Olathe Campus Kitchen Lab.

I will say, I have been a judge since the beginning of the state competition and this year was the best tasting grass-fed beef I have experienced.

The Grand & Reserve Champion award will be determined based on the overall score and announced at this year's American Royal Grapes & Steaks Competition competition on Oct. 8.

Tickets for the 2014 Grapes & Steaks Competition are available at the American Royal’s website.

Guest will have the opportunity to sample winning wines and delicious food from area restaurants along with being part of a live and silent auction of rare vintage wines, restaurant gift certificates and chef table dinners.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s commands the helm of his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, consistently rated one of Kansas City’s best Italian restaurants. In addition to running the restaurant with his brother, Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He is host to many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM. He also sells a line of dressings and sauces.