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PERSONAL CHEF

PERSONAL CHEF
FOOD FOR REAL PEOPLE

Saturday, January 5, 2013

BACK TO (SOME) BEEF KNOWLEDGE

I want all of you to know how much I really love beef, I love it and won't lie. Although I do love awesome vegan meals, and I can actually go on for months without beef if I can be surrounded with great vegan chefs creating tasty healthy meals, well back to beef.

You see, I'm really not focused on just getting a recipe for anything, I like to stir up the imagination of the home cook. Okay let's stir up the imagination shall we?

First to be a creative cook at home, you must understand certain things, such as food science and I'm not suggesting in anyway shape or form that you become a food scientist, no not at all. However, you should understand what happens when in this case beef and its different cuts are cooked a certain way to come up with a particular result.

For instance, let's first get into the different grades of beef.

First the best grades are considered PRIME, and in the U.S. it is graded by the USDA, the United States Department of Agriculture. It is graded by where the cattle is raised, and what kind of quality fat content the beef product contains. Simply put, the more marbleization (fat) the meat has, the better the grade.

The next grade will be CHOICE, this grade can be found in retail markets, unlike the Prime where it is sold to fine dining establishments or expensive gourmet shops. Believe me, there's is a big difference between a retail supermarket's cut of rib eye, and a gourmet cut of rib eye, I once cooked for a client that wanted the best rib eye, so I purchased it from a local gourmet shop, and the fat that rendered in the pan was awesome, it made an epic pan sauce, deglazed with some red wine and some herbs, the flavors are unparalleled. I do suggest for finer cuts to purchase Choice grades of beef if you can't afford or find Prime cuts.

And the last is SELECT, this is the last grade sold in most supermarkets, it has less marbleization, and not a good selection for any type of pan searing or roasting, it has less fat content resulting in less flavors for pan sauces or gravies, though sometimes you can find a cut that has some fat in the cuts, I do suggest if you purchase cuts to impress go for at least the choice grade. However, select grades have certain cuts that are cheap, inexpensive and very good for slow cooking.

Good cuts of SELECT for these types of cooking.

SELECT GRADES 

Chuck Roast- The Chuck is the  shoulder part of the cattle, generally a chewy part, now if you are stewing or braising. This is a good part, and there is no need for you to purchase a Choice or Prime cut of Chuck roast for stewing or braising.

What is stewing? Well stewing is generally done when you cut up your beef into bite sized cubes, seasoned, and tossed around in some cooking fat, browning it, and then a liquid is added with vegetables and is simmered for a while to make everything tender, most stews are right in between a braise (less liquid) and a soup (lots of liquid).

What is a braise? Braising is similar to stewing in that a braise uses tougher cuts of beef, such as near the leg area where muscles are tougher, such as the shank area, or the round areas, or the brisket (chest) areas. Braises start off like a stew, where the tough cuts of meat are heated in cooking fat, and seasoned, and then a little amount of liquid is added most likely some wine and herbs or broth, or both. The liquid added is for flavor of course, but not to give the final product lots of gravy or sauce, just enough to spoon a few tablespoons over the cuts when plated. Again for this type of cooking method, you need not purchase a Prime or even a Choice grade of beef. Select will do just fine.

Both of these methods drops into the Moist Cooking Method, it consists of the Dry cooking method and then Moist. So Stewing and Braising falls into the Moist method.

Soups are another Moist method of cooking, this is where bones with marrow are used, generally to make a great beef soup broth, beef bones are roasted in a very hot oven, to loosen the fats inside, the cook takes the bones, skims off the top fat, and adds a liquid, generally a broth of veggies or just plain water in a large stock pot and boils it and then simmers it for hours developing a rich brown beef flavored broth that can be used for soups. When adding beef cuts to soup, the tougher cuts need to be boiled separately or together with the soup broth to make it tender.

Cuts good for soup are the same as for the stews and braises, flanks (cut across the grain sliced thin), chucks, shanks, round.

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Now for the awesome cuts for grilling and roasting, the Dry Heat Method.

This is where the finer grades comes into play, you will need at least the Choice grades.

Rib Roasting tips: Do not purchase a cut called "Cross Rib Roast" it is just a bad dried up cut. By-pass this cut altogether.

STANDING RIB ROAST

This cut is the Prime Rib, where fat content is supreme.
Cooking this cut is easy, season it with herbs, some salt and pepper, and roast it in an oven at anywhere from 300 to 350 deg. f, and use the 18 minutes per pound method. Or use an instant read thermometer inserting it to the thickest part of the cut if it registered around 130 deg f, it should be good to go.


This is what a nice cut of Choice grade prime rib looks like when it is cooked to medium, notice the fat in the front, always find a cut with fat content when you plan to roast or grill.

Plan to use this cut and nothing else for a fine roast, do not confuse this with a pot roast that is considered a moist cooking method.

GRILLING

Grilling is considered a dry method of cooking, such as roasting, this cut the Tri Tip choose either a Prime or Choice grade, it is a well marbled product, from the bottom of the loin section it is fairly tender, its shape is triangular, and depending of the region where you live, you may find this cut or may not, sometimes you will find Tri Tips that are cut into strips, this makes for great marinaded Korean style grilled beef, do not over season or over cook them it is great medium to medium well.

Look at this grilled Tri Tip, it was seared on a hot grill, but the inside is nice and pink, this is how it should look like when done grilling.


Another awesome cut to grill is the Top Sirloin, when purchasing this cut, look for at least a Choice grade, with good amounts of fat, see the top of the steak? That's what you want because the flavors are there. These are cut around 1 1/2 inches thick. When grilling top sirloin steaks this thick with this much fat, some chefs will hold the steaks with tongs, and sear the fat over high heat just to turn it to a char, then lay it down flat for about 4 minutes per side, again a cut like this you do not want to cook too much.

I hope this gives you the home cook some insight on what cuts to get and do it right the first time.

More suggestions:

Moist heat method, stews, braises, soups, you do not need Prime or Choice grades of beef, use Select, and purchase the tougher cuts, ask the meat guy what cuts he has for what you will be cooking, he or she will be helpful.

Dry heat method, roasting, grilling, pan searing, stir frying, use tender cuts with well marbled fat contents, such as rib sections of beef, again ask the meat guy what to get. And get at least the Choice grades of cuts.