Beef - a meat for all seasons

Humans have been eating beef since pre-historic times. Argentinians eat more beef per person than anyone else on the planet, each wolfing down almost 55 kg a year. Luxembourgers, Australians and Americans closely follow them. One single animal provides a large number of different cuts, each with many different characteristics. What you need to bear in mind when you choose and cook beef is

 

Minced beef

Real mince consists of very finely chopped meat, not a smooth batter. Too little taste is usually due to a low fat level – the proportion should be about 15 per cent fat.

HOW TO COOK MINCED BEEF

To have mixed meat in the mince – from different pieces and different animals – produces a richer and deeper taste. The Italians likes to use anchovies to enhance the taste of meatballs and quenelles. Mince of pork and/or cream makes the mince juicier.

The minced meat in hamburgers, meat loaves, etc,  should be airy with a fine structure, so do not work the mince too long otherwise it becomes compact and dull when cooked.

Mince that is to be eaten raw is ground from finer pieces. Steak tartare is traditionally made of inner thigh, but flank is also a tasty choice. The meat for steak tartare should be cold when ground, but not on the plate because cold fat is hard and tasteless. Steak tartare should be eaten lukewarm, to enhance the fine taste from the raw material.

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Chuck and blade

The chuck and blade are probably the most commonly used meats for braising. These cuts come from the shoulders of the animal, between the neck and the fore rib. The chuck is a large steak that contains a lot of muscle and connecting tissue which provide a lot of taste and sumptuous texture in classic stews.

HOW TO COOK CHUCK AND BLADE OF BEEF

The chuck is full of fat and collagen and therefore becomes tasty and pleasantly smooth on the palate when cooked for along time. This cut is also easier to trim than other kinds of meat from the front of the beef, making it perfect for stews with rich, hot and smoky tastes.

Suitable basic ingredients are wine, broth or tomato with complements such as onion, garlic, bacon, vegetables and mushrooms. Boil for at least two hours to achieve a tasty, crumbling meat.

The heart of chuck is a piece that can be tender and nicely marbled. Try frying it as you would an entrecote.

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Rib-eye entrecote

Although entrecote counts as the front part of the animal it is tender and marbled and suitable for frying or grilling. A piece of entrecote with the ribs left is called Rib-eye (or Rib eye, the "eye" is the lump of fat in the middle of a fine cut) or Cote de boeuf. Also known as Scottish fillet.

HOW TO COOK ENTRECOTE

Because of the high content of fat in the meat, rib eye has to be handled a little differently from other high-end cuts of beef like Porterhouse and T-bone steak. Snobs will tell you that they like their beef rare or even "bleu", but this is not such a good idea with this particular cut. Undercooking means you will probably end up chewing chunks of luke warm and un-cooked fat.

Instead, aim for medium-rare or even medium. This will give the fat time to melt and to infuse all that tasty meat (rich in connective tissue which also needs some heating for a perfect result) with even more flavors.

An entrecote needs little added fat and is therefore perfect for the barbeque, whole or in slices. (But have your grill tongs ready. Drops of fat will cause fires and smoke from the charcoal.) Slices must not be too thin. You will get a juicier result if the thickness is about 2 cm or more (an inch).

 

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Short Ribs

Short ribs are a cut of beed taken from the brisket, chuck, plate, or rib areas of beef cattle. They consist of a short portion of the rib bone, which is overlain by meat which varies in thickness.

HOW TO COOK SHORT RIBS

Season the short ribs with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour until coated. Shake off the excess flour.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the ribs until browned on each side, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and set aside. Add the onion and garlic to the skillet; cook and stir until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Return the ribs to the skillet and pour in the beer. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan, until all of the browned bits have mixed in with the liquid. Pour in the beef stock, cover and simmer over low heat until very tender, about 2 hours.

Chuck Eye Roll

The chuck eye roll (or simply "chuck eye") is an interesting piece of meat, because, at the rib end, it contains a few inches of the same tender muscle that gives us ribeye steaks; however, it's also surrounded by connective tissue, fat, and a few other muscles that aren't so tender.

HOW TO COOK CHUCK EYE ROLL

Combine salt, pepper, steak seasoning and olive oil in a small bowl. Blend the seasonings with your fingers and rub over both sides of the steak. Leave the steak to set at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Preheat a skillet or grill to medium and lightly oil the surface with cooking spray.

Cook the steak for four minutes per side and check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer at its thickest point. Continue cooking until it is sufficiently done. The ideal temperature for rare is 125 degrees Fahrenheit, 130 for medium rare, 135 for medium and 145 for well done.

Remove the steak from the skillet or grill and allow the meat to sit for five minutes before serving.

Sirloin

This cut is located on the outside of the lower back of the animal (with the tenderloin as opposing muscle on the inside). It has relatively little marbling and the color is therefore deep red. The deeper the color, the more flavor you can expect from it.

HOW TO COOK BEEF SIRLOIN

The sirloin is relatively tender and also tasty – and is suitable for roasting whole in the oven. Overcooking the meat will make it very tough – and remember that the temperature keeps rising after you have removed the steak from the oven.

Keep the layer of fat throughout cooking and cut any visible tendons to avoid the steak curling up on itself.

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T-Bone steack

A favorite among many cooks that includes both of the most prized cuts on a cow. The T-bone steak is cut from the saddle and easy to recognize because of its two meats ,– sirloin on one side and tenderloin on the other – separated by a T-shaped bone.

A T-bone steak becomes a porterhouse steak when it comes from the back of the short loin, where the tenderloin section is larger.

HOW TO COOK T-BONE STEAK

The cut should weigh about 600 grams and be about 5 cm thick – making the steak perfect for two people. Because of the thickness and the bone it takes a while to cook.

This hefty piece of tasty meat belongs on the grill or barbecue. The presence of the bone makes it difficult to “connect” properly to the hot surface in a frying pan.

Salt and pepper is all you need. Rub a generous amount of salt into the meat at least half an hour before cooking. The meat on this cut is relatively lean, therefore some cooks baste the steak with a little melted butter just before serving.

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Fillet of beef

The fillet of beef is located on the inside of the lower back of the animal. It is tender and tasty and can be eaten fried, pickled or as a steak tartare. The membrane and tendon on the long side should be trimmed before serving.

HOW TO COOK BEEF TENDERLOIN

The fillet of beef is low in fat and tender and needs to be salted and peppered for more taste. This is why it is good to wrap it in bacon, fill with blue cheese and serve with rich sauces.

If the meat is allowed to cook for too long it will become dry and tasteless. Fry quickly and finish cooking in the oven at a moderate temperature to a maximum of 54°C. Use a thermometer.

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Picanha

A Brazilian cut that is increasingly popular in western restaurants and in well-stocked butchers and meat stores. It is situated high up on the rump of the animal. It is tender and tasty and is only retrieved from animals of the highest quality.

HOW TO COOK PICANHA

After cooking, give the meat plenty of time to reach room temperature. Picanha is popular because it is juicy and tasty. For it to be perceived as tender as possible, you should divide it in long slices/steaks by cutting against the muscle fibers.

Dry and rub in a generous amount of salt – most of it will run off in the grill or saucepan. When grilling, be aware that burnt pepper has an unpleasant taste. Better to add pepper when you have taken the meat away from the direct heat.

Do not remove the tasty fat when you prepare picanha, let the guests leave it on the plate. Remember that this cut that sheds a lot of fat while cooking.

Allow to rest before serving.

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Rump

A tender steak with rich flavours. It can be cut into smaller, equally tasty, steaks.

HOW TO COOK BEEF RUMP

The rump is preferably roasted in one piece and served warm or cold. Trim the steak before preparation. The roasted piece is so tender so you can treat it like beefsteak or fillet of beef. It works well to grill in slices if it is of high quality.

Lovers of steak tartare speak warmly of using rump that has been hung and thoroughly tenderized for this dish.

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Knuckle

This tender, lean meat comes from the inside of the back thigh of the animal. It can be fried quickly in a pan or in the oven but tends to contract and get dull in casseroles. The silverside should be trimmed from connecting tissue before preparation.

HOW TO COOK BEEF SILVERSIDE

Prepare all other ingredients, a thin steak is literally ready in less than a minute and should be headed straight to the guests before it loses taste and texture. Heat the plates beforehand.

The shorter the cooking time, the more tender the result. The pan must be sizzling hot , and the meat must be room temperature when you start.

When making minute steak, make an effort to cut similarly sized and equally thick slices that fit in the pan and simplify cooking and serving. Beat out under plastic foil if necessary.

It is a good idea to oil the meat instead of the pan. Fry each side with haste – with the right kind of heat it is a matter of seconds, not minutes – to get the right surface and a pink and tender meat core.

Minute steak makes excellent fast food. Try cutting in thin slices and eating directly in a noodle soup.

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Topside

A long and lean thigh muscle that is heavier and harder than other steaks. The outer thigh needs time when cooking and is suitable for casseroles. The meat should be cut straight across the muscle fibers.

HOW TO COOK BEEF TOPSIDE

Topside is suitable in sauté’s with strong, bold flavoring. The piece has the form of a fan and you should cut it carefully straight across the fibers if the cooking time is short.

The meat is lean and is well served by added fat and smooth (mouth feel, not taste) sauces.

Oxtail

Often used to cook broth as it produces a rich taste and texture. Oxtail works well in casseroles and soups, if you do not mind the ample (and tasty) fat.

HOW TO COOK OXTAIL

Oxtail should be cooked slowly. Calculate at least three hours and be aware that the depth of taste will be even better if the stew is allowed to stand and cool overnight. Make a base of onion, celery and root vegetables. A high fat level – around 10 per cent – and marrow gives a lot of taste.

If oxtail is your only ingredient it might be a good idea to bring it to a swift boil and to pour off the water/fat before starting anew. The amount of fat and the fatty taste can become too much of a good thing...

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Thick flank

Also known as Crown or Rose. This cut is the archetype for a lean, juicy and tasty Sunday steak. Trim it before cooking in the oven. Or boil it tender in a classic French casserole.

HOW TO COOK THICK FLANK OF BEEF

Due to the low level of fat and a large amount of connecting tissue, the loin is suitable as pot roast, cooked slowly in high humidity over a long period of time. Serve with a sauce that adds some fat and silky mouthfeel.

You have to tie a thick flank steak; otherwise it breaks into smaller pieces.

When serving, cut the steak against the fibres and equip your guests with suitable knives for meat. Tenderness is not all – it's about taste, too.

 

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Butcher's steak

This V-shaped detail is located deep in the midriff and holds the lungs and diaphragm of the animal in place. It has to work hard and has a rich, delicious meat taste.

HOW TO COOK BUTCHER'S STEAK

Fry or grill quickly applying intensive heat. A Butcher's Steak in one piece should be cut in two along the large tendon before you fry/grill the flat pieces whole.

Butcher's Steak must not be cooked through, or it will turn very tough and dry. Aim for rare or medium and give the meat time to rest before serving.

The meat must be cut across the fibers in order to be easy to chew and tasty. It is recommended that you cut thin, appetizing slices for the guests so that you can make sure that the tasty meat is experienced in the right way.

Butcher’s steak is highly appreciated because it has a rich taste that resembles liver (which is said to be because it holds the animal's intestines in place). Others say that the taste of liver only is detectable if the steak is overcooked.

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Flank

A piece of the stomach muscle of the animal. It’s a lean and tasty muscle. The flat shape makes it perfect for the grill.

HOW TO COOK FLANK OF BEEF

The flank is a tough muscle that benefits from an acidic marinade (without oil) for at least 30 minutes before cooking.

This cut has a flat shape and is very easy to grill or fry. It contracts when cooked. Apply intensive heat and flip after a short period of time.

The temperature must not go further than medium, about 45 C°, or the meat will turn dry and chewy.

Important: Cut the meat straight across the fibers (they are perfectly visible and spread outwards in a fan-shape) and serve in thin, appetizing slices.

Minced flank makes an excellent steak tartare with a nice meat taste. Ask your butcher for advice.

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Brisket

This cut consists of several layers of muscles and fat, all with varying cooking time. What you find in the butcher's is often the meatiest section of the brisket.

HOW TO COOK BEEF BRISKET

Brisket is a tougher cut than chuck and shoulder and has to boil for at least 3 hours. It is traditionally seasoned with mild flavors such as whole peppercorn, bay leaves and onion, but the brisket absorbs tastes such as wine, soya, ginger etc just as well.

The boiled meat and the exquisite broth work well with racy flavors such as mustard,coo capers and pickled vegetables.

 

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Heart

Heart has tasty, fibrous meat with a light taste of iron.

HOW TO COOK HEART OF BEEF

Shred the meat, sear it before boiling and season with onion, tomato, herbs, salt and pepper. Heart can also be fried or grilled over high heat.

The meat is tough. Cut it across the fibers. Smooth, fatty sauces go well with heart.

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Clod

The clod – with or without the bone remaining – is the front leg of the animal and parts of the chest. It is suitable for boiling. It is a bit leaner and gives a somewhat firmer, grainier casserole meat than chuck. The hard-working meat, the bone and the marrow pack a lot of taste.

HOW TO COOK CLOD OF BEEF

A tenderized clod steak can be roasted in the oven slowly at low temperatures. Serve the meat in thin slices, cutting it against the fibers before serving.

Goulash soup can be made from all casserole meat from beef, as long as it is not too lean. Be aware that red paprika pepper is a fresh commodity, which should be newly ground for maximum taste, just like coffee.

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Marrow

Marrow contains 85 per cent fat and has been given cult status in some restaurants, but marrow has always been a deeply appreciated raw material.

HOW TO COOK MARROW

Marrow should traditionally be served lukewarm to bring out the smooth and delicate taste. It falls apart at the slightest touch and should preferably be served and eaten straight from the severed bone.

Use the fat and the umami in the marrow to enhance the taste and the texture in casseroles, soups and sauces.

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Ox cheek

Is sometimes served in restaurants with high ambitions and delivers almost as much taste for the money as ox tail. The ox cheek works hard during the lifetime of the animal and has a deep, lovely taste.

HOW TO COOK OX CHEEK

Braise slowly and carefully in red wine with garlic and herbs until the meat is tender and juicy. Why not in a cast iron pan in the oven overnight? Or use the pressure cooker.

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Beef tongue

A large, hardworking muscle, which often is sold salted. The raw material is not appealing to the eye, but many appreciate the dense, lean meat.

HOW TO COOK TONGUE

With tongue you hardly have a choice, it needs to be boiled or braised over a long time (or pressure-cooked).

It is easiest to remove the skin of the tongue when it is still steaming hot. Cut it into thin slices and serve – warm or cold.

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Neck

An uncommon cut to find in a butcher's as the hard meat is often ground into mince.

HOW TO COOK NECK OF BEEF

The meat is tasty and contains only about 3 per cent fat, but it is not tender. Mince from the neck should be blended with more fatty, softer mince from other parts of the animal. Or with about 30 per cent pork mince.

Rich meat packing a lot of umami mixes well with ingredients that bring some bitterness into the equation (see Taste, the basics). A good example of this comes from the French who balance the richness of the ox cheek with (both sweet and bitter) carrots in a classic casserole. Or you might think about braising the meat in beer (see below).

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