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Parking lot steaks put to the test

(WCAX)
Published: Jul. 6, 2018 at 3:55 PM EDT
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Our story on cheap meat being sold in a South Burlington parking lot got a lot of response. We got Facebook comments, emails and calls from viewers who bought steaks from the truck parked at the University Mall. Many said they ended up paying more and buying more than they expected. And the reviews were mixed.

Some described the steaks as:

"So thin, and when I unwrapped them, they just fell apart. Very disappointed. Asked for my money back."

"They taste OK but very tough, like there's lots of [gristle] in them."

Some went as far as calling it a scam. But others thought they got a great deal.

"We grilled up 1 of every variety to try and each one was better than the next!! Highly recommend!!!"

One customer said they got the deal on rib-eyes and said,

"Rather thin but very tasty! Some of the best tasting I have ever had!"

Since your reviews were so split, I decided to find out for myself. I went with Assignment Manager Garrett Heyns to the U-Mall parking lot and picked up 20 rib-eyes for $30, and then a few rib-eyes from a local grocery store.

Let's first examine the cost. The meat from Star Steaks was $6 a pound. The store-bought rib-eyes were more than twice as costly at $14 per pound.

The meat from the store was cut by a butcher, so it didn't need to be thawed. We had to thaw the cheaper rib-eyes in cold water. Like others said, the steaks thawed quickly. They're very thin, only about a quarter-inch thick. After about 15 minutes, the rib-eyes were ready to grill. I seasoned the steaks with some salt and pepper and headed to the Channel 3 grill.

I prepped the grill and threw on the steaks. They only took about one minute or so to cook on each side. After they were ready, I gave them a try. The first was the frozen rib-eye.

It didn't look too bad. Some of them did fall apart, but most of them stayed intact. When I tried a piece, it broke apart pretty easily. It definitely looked like steak and tasted like steak.

Next, was the store-bought rib-eye. They were definitely a little thicker.

I did a little seasoning and off to the grill, a few minutes on each side and they were done. They looked a little different than the cheaper steaks.

Overall, the frozen steaks made me nervous. I, personally, wouldn't buy meat that was being sold in a parking lot, and I'm a believer that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Quality-wise, the frozen steak was thin but it tasted fine and would make for a great steak sandwich. The grocery store steak tasted and looked more like steak to me, but it was much more expensive.