Cooking Tips for Local Meats

Our local red meats come from animals that get lots of exercise and eat a healthful diet of lush growing grasses and forage. This tends to make them less fatty and a little more tough. A good metaphor I heard compared cooking corn-finished steaks to driving an automatic transmission car and grass-finished to driving a manual transmission car. Its a little more difficult. 

Here are 10 TIPS you can use to Improve the Quality of Your Meat:

1. Thaw meat in the fridge or bowl of water if you're strapped for time. Never use a microwave (not that any of us do that...often ;) Most cuts thaw out in about 30 minutes if you use the water method. 

2. Grass-fed/Pasture Raised meat cooks about 30% faster than corn finished. Use a temperature thermometer if you're unsure, or the hand test. They are also best prepared rare-medium rare. If you like well done use low and slow heat.

3. Wet age- when properly vacuum sealed, meats kept in the fridge will continue to break down and tenderize. A week is a good amount of time for a noticeable benefit. Keep meat in the coldest part of your fridge. A little browning on the exterior is normal. 

4. Bring meat to room temperature before cooking. This will prevent the muscle fibers from seizing up. It also helps the meat to cook more evenly. 

5. Use mechanical and natural tenderizers. Poking holes in the steaks with forks will do, or a meat mallet or pronged tenderizer. Natural tenderizers include: any part of the papaya plant, coffee, wine, black pepper, strong black tea, juices, beer, ginger, buttermilk & yogurt. Some of these should only be left on the meat for a couple of hours (papaya & citric juices) and other can be marinated overnight (like wine, yogurt, or teriyaki sauce) Consult google for suggested marinading times. Our papaya seed tenderizer (available at the market) is best used for about 2 hours. The majority of the tenderization from papaya happens at 140 degrees while cooking.

6. Don't overcook lean stew meats. Yes, you can overcook them! With limited collagen between the muscle cells, the meat will become dry if cooked at high temperature heats or over cooked. Make sure to cook at no higher than a simmer, and remove from heat when fork tender. If you do over cook it and the meat is dry, simply shred it with forks and ensure there is adequate liquid or added fat to moisten between the muscle fibers. Shanks are an exception to this because they have lots of collagen and are the toughest (but most flavorful) cut coming from the lower leg sections. I cook those overnight in a slow cooker. 

7. Let meat rest before cutting (yes we all know this) 

8. For lean ground meats (like venison, lamb, and antelope), you can add egg yolk, oil, shredded zucchini, tofu, bone broth, butter (or onions caramelized in butter), milk & breadcrumbs, shredded fatty cheese like gouda, lard...or any other creative addition. Mixing fattier meats like our 80/20 ground beef, or wild ground boar, really help to add fat as well. 

9. Brine Chicken & Pork Chops. Both chicken are pork are fairly lean meats. Our chicken are not pumped with solution to add weight and juiciness like store-bought chicken are. Brining 1-2 days really improves the end result of the chicken. I love the pork chops when mechanically tenderized, brined over night, then marinated in a nice rub for 2-3 hours. Its a bit of extra work but they will come out tender and juicy every time with this preparation method. 

10. Remember that meat continues to cook after removed from heat. This is extremely true with fish, which is best removed from heat when still a little raw in the center. Expect about a 10 degree increase of internal temperature depending on the cut. Thicker cuts like prime rib roast increase about 15 degrees.