Cooking Grass-Fed Meat
There are 4 basic principals to cooking grass-fed meats:
1. Put away the timer, get a good meat thermometer and use it.
2. Turn down the heat.
3. Learn when to use dry-heat cooking methods and when to use moist-heat methods.
4. Ease up on the seasoning and sauces.
Adapted from The Grassfed gourmet cookbook by Shannon Hayes. Highly recommended!
1. Put away the timer, get a good meat thermometer and use it
Grass-fed meats are significantly lower in fat than the meats you find in the grocery store. Since fat works as an insulator, it changes the way your meat cooks. Lean roasts will cook in the oven faster than roasts that are higher in fat. Although recipes often provide you with some time estimate, the only way to know if the meat is done to your liking is to use a high-quality meat thermometer. In most kitchen stores you can find a digital meat thermometer that has a probe connected by a long wire to a digital readout that sits outside of your oven. Make sure you put the probe deep into the cut.
2. Turn down the heat
In general, grass-fed meat is lower in insulating fat. If the heat is too high when grass-fed meat is cooked, the moisture and the fat will exit quickly, which will toughen up the protein. Until you are more familiar with cooking grass-fed meats it’s best to set the heat a little lower when you are grilling and frying, and to set the oven temperature a little lower than you’re used to.
3. Learn when to use dry-heat cooking methods and when to use moist-heat methods
This is a tip that works for all meats both conventional and grass-fed. When cooking meat, there are two methods. The dry heat method is the process where fats and water are pulled from the meat, thus firming it up until it reaches the desired doneness. Dry-heat methods include pan-frying, broiling, roasting, barbecuing, grilling, stir-frying, and sautéing. Dry-heat cooking methods are appropriate for tender cuts of meat (loin cuts for example) those that come from the parts of the animal that do the least amount of work. When you press down on a rib-eye steak it’s soft and squishy. The job of the cooking process is to remove the water and fat until the steak toughens just enough to make it firm but juicy.
The dry cooking method will do this. The moist-heat cooking methods are used for tougher cuts of meat and include braising, stewing, crock-pot cooking, and boiling. Tougher cuts come from the animal parts that do a lot of work, such as the shoulders. When muscles do a lot of work they form a connective tissue protein called collagen, which makes the meat tough. The chef’s job is to break down the collagen making the meat tender. Some cuts that work with moist-cooking methods also work with a dry-heat method called Super-slow roasting. Super-slow roasting can be used for tougher cuts such as shoulder roasts, beef chuck roasts, steaks, top rounds, and eye of rounds. In this method the cuts are put in the oven at 170 degrees F and allowed to roast for several hours. The resulting meat is extremely flavorful and juicy, because the juice does not escape at such a low temperature.
4. Ease up on the seasoning and sauces
Trust that grass-fed meats have sufficient flavour to stand on their own.