7 Meats You Should Buy At Costco And 7 You Should Avoid

shopping at costco meat section building
shopping at costco meat section building - The Image Party/Shutterstock

Ah, Costco: The beloved wholesale warehouse held in high regard for its various high-quality, affordable products. Costco members know what we mean, and likely frequent the store for fan favorite items such as sheet cakes, rotisserie chickens, bulk toilet paper, and the famous food court. You may even have a handful of Costco shopping hacks up your sleeve if you're a loyal customer. Of course, while Costco offers amazing deals on lots of go-to meat products that are worth buying, others should be avoided when you load your grocery cart.

Now, Costco is an undoubtedly good source for many meats at bargain prices. Still, you may be better off getting some products (such as chicken party wings or pork shoulder) at a different grocery store or local butcher. Costco has also come under fire for mislabeling its meat selections, which could be a costly mistake for both the store and the customer depending on the circumstance.

With that in mind, we consulted online reviews, compared prices, and tried some of Costco's meat selections ourselves to determine which Costco meats you should stock up on — and which ones you definitely shouldn't. Here are 7 meats to buy and 7 meats to avoid at Costco.

Read more: 14 Popular Chain Grocery Stores For Meat, Ranked Worst To Best

usda prime new york strip
usda prime new york strip - Anderson Shelton/Shutterstock

When it comes to cuts of beef, you can't get better than USDA Prime. Beef can only be granted a USDA Prime rating if it meets certain requirements, after all, such as strong marbling (which gives the meat a tender texture and robust flavor). If you're looking for a great-tasting, juicy cut of steak, reaching for a USDA Prime cut is a wise choice. Since it can be harder to find at your average supermarket, though, Costco is a great place to grab such high-quality steaks.

USDA Prime cuts will likely cost you a pretty penny compared to cheaper cuts, but they're well worth it. While some customers noted on Reddit that it was harder to find at Costco in late 2023 due to a presumed increase in beef supplier prices, if you do find USDA Prime steak cuts at Costco? Don't be afraid to splurge.

Additionally, if you want a simple tip for serious savings on steak at Costco, buy a whole roast rather than pre-cut steaks. Aside from saving money, a larger roast lets you slice steaks to your preferred thickness and trim the fat to your liking.

pork shoulder cooking on grill
pork shoulder cooking on grill - Anderson Coelho/Getty Images

If you find yourself craving a home-smoked pork shoulder for a summer barbecue, it makes sense to check Costco's selection and see if it has a good deal. But you may want to save some time by looking at other grocers first. While your local Costco is likely to have pork shoulder, it's also apt to be boneless. Though a pork shoulder sans bone is a perfectly fine option for some, if you savor the satisfaction of pulling the bone from a fresh-cooked pork shoulder like we do (or feel bone-in meat is more flavorful), you'll probably have better luck shopping elsewhere.

Even if you manage to find a bone-in pork shoulder, it may not be a better deal than your local grocery store. Depending on where you live, the pork shoulder at Costco may be priced significantly higher than competing stores, as well. Since you can also potentially find a bone-in pork shoulder that costs less elsewhere, we recommend skipping Costco for this one.

sliced japanese wagyu on serving plate
sliced japanese wagyu on serving plate - xiaoxiao9119/Shutterstock

Steak enthusiasts and die-hard foodies have likely considered spending the big bucks to experience the indescribable delicacy that is Japanese wagyu beef. Often considered the best steak money can buy, authentic Japanese wagyu is relatively hard to come by in the U.S. But one place it can be found reliably is Costco, and we recommend opting for this indulgence — at least on the most special of occasions (given the generally hefty price tag).

Walter Apfelbaum, executive butcher at Prime + Proper Steakhouse in Detroit, Michigan, has praised Costco's Japanese wagyu — particularly the cows' strict diet. As he told Food & Wine in 2018, "It's what the cows are eating, how they're raised, the kind of water they're drinking, everything." Given the time- and labor-intensive process of raising wagyu cows — which is necessary to achieve the meat's intricate marbling and robust flavor — authentic wagyu beef is well worth the price tag when you see it at Costco.

beef bourguignon in dutch oven
beef bourguignon in dutch oven - Rudisill/Getty Images

You'd think Costco would have an ample supply of relatively cheap, pre-cut beef stew meat. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. For starters, some locations — such as my local Costco — don't even have beef stew meat available, only offering venison and bison varieties. Even if you do find beef stew meat at Costco, you may experience a bit of sticker shock, as it doesn't tend to match the bargain prices of other grocers.

Moreover, you may not even be getting the best cut of beef when you buy stew meat at Costco. After all, one customer posted on Reddit in 2018 that Costco's customer service informed them it uses outside round for its stew meat. While round is fine enough for a stew, chuck is generally preferred for its ample supply of connective tissue, which is what gives stew beef that melt-in-your-mouth quality. If you're adamant about buying beef stew meat at Costco, opt for a whole chuck round and cube it into stew-sized pieces at home.

packaged wild chilean sea bass at costco
packaged wild chilean sea bass at costco - The Image Party/Shutterstock

Fish aficionados with a Costco membership in their back pocket are probably no stranger to some of Costco's top fish offerings. Notable among them is its Kirkland Signature wild Chilean sea bass. A lean white fish packed with protein, this prized seafood — known for having a velvety, melt-in-your-mouth texture with a beautiful buttery flavor — is a favorite of many Costco consumers. Plus, you can feel guilt-free when you score this catch from Costco due to its Marine Stewardship Council certification for Sustainable Seafood, which indicates the fish was caught in accordance with sustainable fishing practices.

Aside from the preferable sourcing methods, the Kirkland brand's wild Chilean sea bass is known for sporting a killer price tag and reasonably sized portions. You're in for a treat if you opt for this fish on your next Costco trip, but don't indulge it too often. Because of the high levels of mercury present in wild Chilean sea bass, the Environmental Defense Fund recommends that adults limit their intake to twice per month.

raw chicken party wings on parchment
raw chicken party wings on parchment - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Chicken wings should be a relatively infallible option for any appetizer needs. Unfortunately, Costco's Kirkland brand party wings may be a cut below the rest. Consumers on Reddit have complained about the declining quality of Kirkland party wings over the years, saying they aren't even worth the modest savings versus your local supermarket. One customer even said the wings feel like "all bone" on Reddit in 2023.

Sadly, it seems the issues with Kirkland Signature's party chicken wings don't stop at their excessive leanness. Costco customers have also complained that the wings have a tough texture once cooked — and feathers have been occasionally present on some wings, as well. Though there's a myriad of ways to cook chicken wings to make them more palatable (such as smoking, grilling, or deep-frying wings), the general consensus seems to be that despite the price, Kirkland's party wings aren't worth the necessary effort to make them tasty.

slicing smoked brisket on cutting board
slicing smoked brisket on cutting board - Goldyrocks/Getty Images

If you've ever gone through the long process of smoking a brisket at home, you know how disappointing it can be to get subpar results after the extensive cooking time. Fortunately, you're unlikely to encounter that problem when smoking a brisket purchased from Costco. In fact, there seems to be a cult-like following of Costco's USDA Prime briskets, which are often plentiful and always well-priced — hence, it's worth buying.

One Costco customer even wrote on Reddit in 2023 that the "brisket alone is why I have my Costco membership." Additionally, it you're wondering how Costco's brisket products compare to other big box chain stores, many consumers believe its briskets consistently outrank those found at Sam's Club in terms of quality, shape, and price. We do recommend reaching out to your local Costco to ask about its brisket inventory before making a special trip to the store, though, as some locations haven't had the standard brisket in stock in recent years given the general increase in beef prices.

kirkland signature meatballs at costco
kirkland signature meatballs at costco - The Image Party/Shutterstock

Frozen meatballs are a no-brainer when you're after an easy appetizer for a potluck. After all, you simply throw them in a slow cooker with some sauce, and they're ready to go. As such, you may be tempted to grab a bag of Kirkland Signature frozen meatballs the next time you're at Costco, but we regret to inform you that this is a purchase you should probably skip. There are much better frozen meatballs options beyond the Kirkland brand at Costco, and even if it seems like a steal financially, you're better off spending the extra money on frozen meatballs from, say, Trader Joe's.

The problems with Kirkland's frozen meatballs run the gamut from texture to flavor. Unhappy consumers have complained the meatballs are lacking flavor or have an unbecoming aftertaste. Even worse than the flavor profile of the meatballs — bland at best and strange at worst — is the texture.

I've eaten Kirkland Signature's frozen meatballs numerous times over the years, and I've been severely disappointed at their rubbery, dense, almost spongey texture every time — and I'm not alone. Several customers have voiced similar concerns on Reddit, with one 2024 complaint even saying the meatballs are "somehow mushy and bouncy at the same time." In other words, avoid this meat at Costco.

kirkland signature rotisserie chickens at costco
kirkland signature rotisserie chickens at costco - Macky Albor/Shutterstock

This Costco must-buy will come as no surprise to membership holders. For starters, Costco's Kirkland rotisserie chickens are famously cheap — consistently priced at $4.99 per bird — and it doesn't look like that will be changing anytime soon. Costco has kept its rotisserie chicken prices low to keep customers coming in, after all, and the tactic had certainly worked for us.

Aside from the stunningly low prices, the chicken is known for being particularly meaty and delicious. If you're wondering why Costco's rotisserie chicken is so good, the answer may come down to one simple secret: Costco injects a salt solution into the birds intended for rotisserie, which gives greater depth of flavor (and more moisture) to the entire bird.

Moreover, Costco's rotisserie chickens are always pretty fresh, as they are only allowed to sit out for a couple hours (and are frequently snatched up as soon as they hit the shelves). If you want Costco's freshest rotisserie chicken, hang around the store until you hear the bell ring that announces fresh birds are being put out.

packaged chicken displayed at costco
packaged chicken displayed at costco - The Image Party/Shutterstock

Given Costco's rotisserie chickens are such a hit with customers, it stands to reason its other chicken selections would be equally covetable. Alas, just type "chicken thighs" in the search bar of Costco's subreddit and you'll be confronted with dozens of consumer complaints regarding the Kirkland Signature meat product. While some complaints seemed rather insignificant (such as problems with the choice of packaging), other issues regarding the quality make us hesitant to ever buy them from Costco.

For instance, some customers on Reddit complained in 2023 that Kirkland chicken thighs had gone bad before the date on the packaging. One commenter (who claimed to work for Costco) said this was a regular issue with its thighs, as the vacuum seal on the package can get easily damaged during handling. Other customer complaints included finding cartilage and veins in the Kirkland brand chicken thighs. Even if they're priced marginally better than those at your local grocery store, if you're after superior quality, we recommend looking elsewhere when purchasing this poultry.

kirkland signature king crab legs displayed at costco
kirkland signature king crab legs displayed at costco - The Image Party/Shutterstock

We have a word of wisdom for you: If you see red king crab at your local Costco, snatch it up quick, even if it seems an exorbitant expense compared to previous years. Yes: The price has gone way up in 2024. But given that red king crab season has been canceled in recent years due to low supply, this is a Costco purchase you'll want to buy while it's available.

Costco's red king crab legs are a popular choice with consumers, especially for special occasions like a holiday dinner or a Valentine's Day meal. The cost of getting this crab from the warehouse to your dinner table won't be cheap, but consumers seem to agree that it's worth the slight sticker shock. Moreover, red king crab is leaner than other varieties of crab and is packed with protein and other nutrients, making it a healthy, tasty choice worth the splurge if you see it at your local Costco.

bag of orca bay keta salmon fillets
bag of orca bay keta salmon fillets - robinreshaped / Instagram

Called "the worst food sold at Costco" by one customer on Reddit in 2023, it seems there's at least one salmon selection you should leave on the shelves during your next Costco trip. The unsuspecting customer bought Orca Bay's frozen keta salmon fillets at Costco without knowing that keta salmon is one of the worst types of salmon you can buy.

Keta salmon — also called "chum" or "dog" salmon — was historically used primarily to feed sled dogs. As such, it hasn't garnered the best reputation among salmon fans, and is often sold under additional different names (such as keta or silverbrite salmon) to increase its appeal among consumers. Keta salmon is indeed drier than other types of salmon, so if you're ever curious and do decide to spring for this catch, poach or sauté it to preserve the little moisture it has. Otherwise, we think you're better off opting for a different type of salmon at Costco instead.

kirkland smoked sockeye salmon on display
kirkland smoked sockeye salmon on display - The Image Party/Shutterstock

Standing in stark contrast to the "worst food at Costco" is one of the absolute best buys you can score: Kirkland Signature smoked salmon. The salmon has been praised for its velvety mouthfeel and robust, buttery flavor. It also boasts a tenderness that makes it a great choice if you're looking for salmon to turn into lox for bagels.

The only thing you'll need to look out for when stocking up on Kirkland's smoked salmon is its high sodium content, which makes it more of an occasional delicacy rather than a daily indulgence. But when you are craving some smoked salmon as a breakfast ingredient or simply a treat to be enjoyed on its own, Costco's Kirkland brand is hard to beat in terms of quality and price. You will have to buy in bulk, so check the expiration date, as your unopened packages should last about a month in the fridge.

costco hickory smoked salmon on display
costco hickory smoked salmon on display - The Image Party/Shutterstock

Bacon seems like another relatively safe Costco purchase, but you may want to think twice before buying Kirkland Signature's hickory smoked bacon. Costco customers have taken to Reddit to discuss the drastic decline in quality of the hickory smoked bacon, and it seems that's been experienced by more than a few. One customer in 2024 said on Reddit, "In the last month the flavor of the thick sliced bacon has changed and now has a gamey flavor."

Others agreed with that assessment, noting their recent Costco bacon buys were thin, stringy, and comprised mostly of fat. Consequently, you're probably better off getting your bacon elsewhere and avoiding it at the big box store(hickory smoked or otherwise). Of course, if you absolutely must purchase this meat from Costco, inspect the packs before you buy, but your best bet is simply to eat the cost of a higher-priced bacon product sold at another grocer.

kirkland signature meat department sign at costco
kirkland signature meat department sign at costco - John Hanson Pye/Shutterstock

When finding the best and worst meats to buy at Costco, we consulted popular forums like Reddit to find reviews from those who frequent the superstore. Of course, no opinion is going to be universal, so there were regularly dissenting opinions in the comment section. On the whole, though, consumers seemed to agree on the opinions we put forward above.

I've also had the chance to try several Costco items on this list and have used my own opinion when available; generally speaking, those first-hand opinions aligned with that of other consumers. In addition to online reviews, price comparisons and general product availability were also taken into account.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.