If you’re like me, you are probably intimidated by a big chunk of beef. Did you purchase the right cut? How should you cook it? What happens inside the piece of meat while it cooks? And how can you best bring out the flavor and juiciness?
Most people serve large cuts of beef only on special occasions. A standing rib roast, a beef tenderloin, or pot roast is expensive and merits a formal occasion like a holiday or birthday.
Your beef entree will be a huge success once you understand a bit about meat structure and how it cooks.
Two Methods of Cooking
There are two methods for cooking meat: dry heat and wet heat. Dry heat methods including grilling, broiling, sauteing, roasting, stir frying, and deep frying. Wet heat includes braising, pot roasting, stewing, steaming, poaching, and slow cooking. Most of us cook beef by the dry heat methods, along with pot roasting, stewing, and slow cooking. To save money on meat try the inexpensive cuts and use the wet heat method. This approach is a sure shot to tenderness and allows you to play with the flavors each time you cook. Don’t be shy to add flavor – vinegars and acidic fruit will help break down the meat the most effective and you can even leave it in the fridge marinating for 24-48 hours. Stay tuned for some low and slow recipes.
The Best Cuts
For grilling, broiling, and pan frying, the best cuts of meat are rib eye steaks, strip or shell steaks, and T bone, which contains both the strip and tenderloin steaks. Sirloin and round steaks are generally going to be tough and dry. Flank steaks are good when quickly cooked and sliced across the grain.
For roasting, top sirloin, tenderloin, standing rib roasts, and top rump roast are good candidates.
For stir frying, flank, top round, and sirloin steak are good. These cuts are best cooked quickly, and since elastin is broken because the meat is cubed, they are more tender.
For kebabs, tenderloin is the best bet. This mild cut absorbs flavors easily and it is very tender.
For pot roasting and braising, chuck and rump are the best cuts. These cuts have more collagen and need long, slow cooking in a wet environment to reach their optimum tenderness. Chuck has the most flavor and is the most tender.
For ground beef, chuck is the way to go. It has optimal amounts of fat and is tenderized mechanically by the grinding action. Most lean ground beef is chuck, but if you’re not sure, just ask!