December 31, 2012

Cooking Grass-Fed Beef/ Meats

Elk jumping our fence - what we've eaten for over 20 years
We bought part of a cow. Because of last years heat and drought many farmers, including our raw milk dairy, have had/ are having to butcher more animals due to lack of feed or excessive feed costs. Like our dairy, in over 100 years of farming, this is the first year they've had to buy feed, bringing it in from Canada. As a result, they've invested in hydroponic growing of grains like barley. Not many out there doing it, so few to talk with and learn from.

Grass-fed beef is another animal! I tried grilling a rib-eye steak as I'd occasionally do with typical beef . . . Boy was that tough! and I'd not even cooked it well-done. For twenty years our main meat source was elk along with some venison. Now THAT is grass-fed meat. Grass-fed meats are higher in omega-3 fatty acids.

In grass-fed meat animals there's no marbling of fat. The "inter-muscular fat", acts as an insulator during the cooking process helping to keep natural meat juices from cooking away. There's no fat to absorb the heat. It will therefore cook faster, like 30% less time, than regularly processed meat, and is easily overcooked, especially when using the dry heat method of cooking. Moist heat cooking is the easy way to cook meat - pretty forgiving. Searing the meat for dry heat cooking is a must, to help hold in juices. Cooking at lower temps is best too.

Another technique we've found for quality cuts of meat that I'd want to quick cook is marinating it overnight, or aging it in the fridge a few days. Choose marinating ingredients that won't mask the wonderful beef flavor! Like your favorite Italian salad dressing is a good marinade. Lemon juice, wine, beer and vinegar work.

Slow cooking is the best. Once it's defrosted (not in the microwave which further dries it out) put 1/2" of liquid (water, wine, broth ...) in a crock pot or covered oven roast pan, put in the meat and season. Cook on low for 7 hours or 325 degree oven (or slow-cooker high for 3 hours or 375 degree oven), then add veggies and cook another hour to roast them.

The front of the animal is the tastiest meat, but definitely needs the slow moist heat method. Hamburgers from grinding the chuck are the best! The back of the animal is leaner and in grass-fed animals really needs extra care in cooking.
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