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Meat - Meat Essentials

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
Photo: Meat benefits from cooking to tenderize it and to add flavor, and, more importantly, cooking also kills many harmful bacteria. Methods of cooking have evolved to suit particular cuts, and are designed to get the very best flavor and texture out of the meat. However, some meats, such as beef, can be eaten raw if they are of sufficiently good quality and flavor. These are most enjoyable when made easy to chew, by being prepared in thin slices, such as carpaccio, or finely ground or chopped, as in steak tartare. © Provided by DKBooks Meat benefits from cooking to tenderize it and to add flavor, and, more importantly, cooking also kills many harmful bacteria. Methods of cooking have evolved to suit particular cuts, and are designed to get the very best flavor and texture out of the meat. However, some meats, such as beef, can be eaten raw if they are of sufficiently good quality and flavor. These are most enjoyable when made easy to chew, by being prepared in thin slices, such as carpaccio, or finely ground or chopped, as in steak tartare.

© Provided by DKBooks

Photo: Coarse-grained cuts, like this brisket, are often used in stews and casseroles, and need to be cut across the grain to keep them tender and palatable. Trim off the fat, then cut at right angles to the direction of the grain. © Provided by DKBooks Coarse-grained cuts, like this brisket, are often used in stews and casseroles, and need to be cut across the grain to keep them tender and palatable. Trim off the fat, then cut at right angles to the direction of the grain.

Photo: Prime cuts, like this fillet, are so tender that the direction of slicing is less important. If stir-fry strips are required, then cutting with the grain is advisable. This is not recommended for tougher cuts except when dicing. © Provided by DKBooks Prime cuts, like this fillet, are so tender that the direction of slicing is less important. If stir-fry strips are required, then cutting with the grain is advisable. This is not recommended for tougher cuts except when dicing.

Photo: For cubes, cut fillet steak across the grain into pieces, then cut each piece into slices against the grain. Lay the slices flat, then cut into manageable cubes. Cubes cook quickly and are ideal for sautéing. © Provided by DKBooks For cubes, cut fillet steak across the grain into pieces, then cut each piece into slices against the grain. Lay the slices flat, then cut into manageable cubes. Cubes cook quickly and are ideal for sautéing.

Well-done is brown all through; it feels firm and springs back quickly.

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Medium has a 25 percent pinkish-red center and feels fairly firm and springy.

© Provided by DKBooks

Cut the meat into large chunks or slices if not being cooked whole. If you want thick gravy, roll the meat in flour before browning it. Heat some oil in a large pan and brown the meat all over; do not overcrowd the pan.

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Photo: Score the rind widthwise with a very sharp knife or a scalpel, keeping the lines parallel and close together. First work from the middle toward one edge, then turn the meat around and work from the middle toward the other edge. This is easier than scoring in a long line. Always tilt the knife blade away from your other hand and make sure the knife cannot slip toward your body. © Provided by DKBooks Score the rind widthwise with a very sharp knife or a scalpel, keeping the lines parallel and close together. First work from the middle toward one edge, then turn the meat around and work from the middle toward the other edge. This is easier than scoring in a long line. Always tilt the knife blade away from your other hand and make sure the knife cannot slip toward your body.

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

For cubes, cut fillet steak across the grain into pieces, then cut each piece into slices against the grain. Lay the slices flat, then cut into manageable cubes. Cubes cook quickly and are ideal for sautéing.

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Meat benefits from cooking to tenderize it and to add flavor, and, more importantly, cooking also kills many harmful bacteria. Methods of cooking have evolved to suit particular cuts, and are designed to get the very best flavor and texture out of the meat. However, some meats, such as beef, can be eaten raw if they are of sufficiently good quality and flavor. These are most enjoyable when made easy to chew, by being prepared in thin slices, such as carpaccio, or finely ground or chopped, as in steak tartare.

Prime cuts, like this fillet, are so tender that the direction of slicing is less important. If stir-fry strips are required, then cutting with the grain is advisable. This is not recommended for tougher cuts except when dicing. © Provided by DKBooks Prime cuts, like this fillet, are so tender that the direction of slicing is less important. If stir-fry strips are required, then cutting with the grain is advisable. This is not recommended for tougher cuts except when dicing.

© Provided by DKBooks

Coarse-grained cuts, like this brisket, are often used in stews and casseroles, and need to be cut across the grain to keep them tender and palatable. Trim off the fat, then cut at right angles to the direction of the grain.

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Score the rind widthwise with a very sharp knife or a scalpel, keeping the lines parallel and close together. First work from the middle toward one edge, then turn the meat around and work from the middle toward the other edge. This is easier than scoring in a long line. Always tilt the knife blade away from your other hand and make sure the knife cannot slip toward your body.

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Photo: Rare has a 75 percent red center and is soft, with only a slight resistance. © Provided by DKBooks Rare has a 75 percent red center and is soft, with only a slight resistance.

Photo: Medium has a 25 percent pinkish-red center and feels fairly firm and springy. © Provided by DKBooks Medium has a 25 percent pinkish-red center and feels fairly firm and springy.

Heat the griddle on a high heat until smoking. Brush the meat with oil and cook for 1–2 minutes. Turn and repeat. Serve thin steaks at once. Turn thick steaks again, placing them at a 45° angle to create a pattern. Cook for 1–2 minutes more.

Photo: Well-done is brown all through; it feels firm and springs back quickly. © Provided by DKBooks Well-done is brown all through; it feels firm and springs back quickly.

Rare has a 75 percent red center and is soft, with only a slight resistance.

Photo: Cut the meat into large chunks or slices if not being cooked whole. If you want thick gravy, roll the meat in flour before browning it. Heat some oil in a large pan and brown the meat all over; do not overcrowd the pan. © Provided by DKBooks Cut the meat into large chunks or slices if not being cooked whole. If you want thick gravy, roll the meat in flour before browning it. Heat some oil in a large pan and brown the meat all over; do not overcrowd the pan.

Photo: Heat the griddle on a high heat until smoking. Brush the meat with oil and cook for 1–2 minutes. Turn and repeat. Serve thin steaks at once. Turn thick steaks again, placing them at a 45° angle to create a pattern. Cook for 1–2 minutes more. © Provided by DKBooks Heat the griddle on a high heat until smoking. Brush the meat with oil and cook for 1–2 minutes. Turn and repeat. Serve thin steaks at once. Turn thick steaks again, placing them at a 45° angle to create a pattern. Cook for 1–2 minutes more.

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Prime cuts, like this fillet, are so tender that the direction of slicing is less important. If stir-fry strips are required, then cutting with the grain is advisable. This is not recommended for tougher cuts except when dicing.

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Meat Essentials

Meat is a good source of protein, vitamins, iron, and fat, and has always been a prestigious and celebratory food, in part due to the fact that it is a relatively expensive ingredient. Although some people avoid meat altogether, on the whole, more meat is being eaten now than ever before. However, we do now appreciate that smaller meat portions, combined with more vegetables, grains, and pulses, produce a healthier diet. Meat is generally younger and more tender than it used to be, and it is also often leaner. One drawback to breeding very lean animals is that it can make some meat dry and tasteless, and so, although it is advisable to remove large amounts of visible fat, the small amounts that flavor well-marbled meat so superbly are considered to be an acceptable part of a balanced diet. Regional variations in preparing and cooking meat are enormous, but the qualities of each cut remain constant—some are most suitable for broiling or roasting, while others need slow, gently cooking to make them as tender and flavorsome as they can be.


Buy

Good-quality meat should have little odor and the fat should look creamy (lamb and beef) or white (pork). Always use the cut most suited to your recipe.


Color

The meat of each animal has its own basic color. This varies according to diet, age, and maturation. In general, exercise, outdoor rearing, a grass diet, and maturing makes meat darker.


Visible fat

Tiny flecks of fat throughout the muscle is called marbling. This makes meat succulent; too much fat can make it greasy. Very lean meat can dry out if not properly cooked.


Texture

Tender meat comes from young animals, meat that has been properly matured, and prime cuts. Cheaper cuts often have a coarse or firm texture but proper cooking can improve their texture.


Smell

All meat has its own characteristic smell; mutton and goat have the strongest. All meat, even when matured, should smell sweet. Recently opened vacuum-packed meat occasionally smells sour for up to an hour after opening.


Store

Raw meat carries bacteria and must be stored carefully to prevent contamination. The most important consideration when storing meat is the temperature—meat should never be allowed to become too warm, or to sweat.


Refrigerate

Domestic refrigerators should run between 32 and 41°F (0° and 5°C), which are safe temperatures in which to store meat. Remove meat from any packaging and place it in a container or on a plate and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. This prevents the meat from contaminating other products in the fridge and keeps flavors from being absorbed from other food. Store processed meat in the coldest part of the fridge. Cover and cool cooked leftovers before storing in the refrigerator, then use them within two days. Always store cooked meat above, not below, raw meat to prevent contamination.


Freeze

If meat is kept frozen and airtight it can be stored for years in the freezer without becoming harmful. However, some meat and meat products (especially fat or cooked meats) will deteriorate over time, leading to loss of flavor or texture, and so are less enjoyable. In these cases a few months of freezer life is advised. Always freeze meat before its use-by date; exclude all air, and wrap it thickly to avoid “freezer burn,” which tastes unpleasant. Thaw meat in a dish in the refrigerator to prevent liquid from contaminating surfaces or other food. Make sure meat is completely defrosted before cooking.


Prepare

Farm animals offer us a variety of meats; each of these produces both tough and tender cuts, and also fatty and lean cuts. All of these can be delicious, depending on how we butcher, cut, cook, and carve it. The amount of preparation required for cooking meat will vary, depending on the intended use of the meat and also the cut—for example, whether it is on or off the bone, or particularly fatty.


Cut

Meat is made of fibers that give it a “grain”. When meat is cooked, the fibers toughen. Correct cutting is important, since some meat can feel tough and stringy if it has been sliced in the wrong direction. If meat is sliced across the grain, it shortens the fibers, making it feel more tender. This is important when carving roast meat. Some meat is naturally tender, so it can be sliced with the grain, which is easier to do. Cutting into cubes—both across and with the grain—results in quick-cooking pieces.


Butterfly leg of lamb

This is a leg that is boned so that the meat can be spread out in order to broil or barbecue it more quickly and evenly. The leg bones comprise the shank at the narrow end, and the thigh bone and pelvic bone at the meaty end. Take great care when cutting toward your fingers or body.

Place the leg meatiest side down. Holding the pelvic bone in one hand with the knife edge turned toward it, work the knife around the edge of the bone and pare away the meat.

Once the thigh bone is exposed, cut down to the bone all the way to the knuckle side of the shank. Pull up the thigh bone and pare away the meat from all sides of the bone.

Once the whole thigh bone is completely exposed, pull it upward away from the shank and ease away the meat that is attached around the knuckle.

Pare away the meat from the shank bone (it is visible on one side) and work up toward the knuckle and thigh bone. Cut through any remaining sinews and remove all the bones.

Slash the thickest muscles so that all the meat is of an even thickness when laid on the work surface. Flatten out all the muscles until the meat piece is roughly square.

The butterflied leg is now ready for seasoning and broiling. If it is to be stuffed and rolled, cut slices off the thickest muscles and lay them in the thinnest parts to make the roll more even.


Score pork skin

There are four simple steps to getting crisp crackling: score the rind with a sharp knife, rub it with salt and oil, roast at a high temperature for 15 minutes, and then do not baste the joint for the rest of the cooking time.

Marinades are great for flavoring meat such as beef and pork, and bringing it to life under the broiler or on the barbecue. Marinate the meat for 1–5 hours, depending on the type and density of the cut.


Asian marinade

Whisk together 2 tbsp dark soy sauce, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, a splash of mirin or dry sherry, 1–2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, and a pinch each of grated fresh ginger and garlic. Add a splash of olive oil to thicken, then brush on the meat, covering it completely.


Mediterranean marinade

Mix together 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, a good pinch of oregano, a crushed garlic clove, and some salt and pepper. Brush on the meat, covering it completely.


Cook

High-temperature cooking (broiling, roasting, frying, stir-frying) uses tender cuts that are browned for flavor, cooked quickly, then removed from the heat before the inside becomes too hot. As meat heats up, it toughens and releases moisture; when it reaches 170°F (77°C) internally, the protein (blood) coagulates and loses moisture and further cooking makes the meat tougher and drier. So most fast-cooked meat benefits from being slightly undercooked, then rested to finish cooking. Slow cooking (stewing, pot-roasting, simmering) gradually softens the collagen (gristle) in tough cuts, to keep meat tender.


Roast

Joints of meat that are on the bone and have a covering of fat, such as a rib roast or the sirloin shown, need longer cooking than lean, boneless joints. For a beef joint, cook first at an oven temperature of 425°F (220°C) for 25 minutes to brown the meat, then roast at 375°F (190°C) for 15 minutes per 1lb (450g) for rare beef, 20 minutes per 1lb (450g) for medium, and 25 minutes per 1lb (450g) for well-done.


Roast sirloin

Place the joint, fat side uppermost, in a roasting pan. If lean, brush it with oil, melted dripping, or butter, but if there is a covering of fat, none is necessary. Put the pan in the oven.

Once cooked, transfer the meat to a carving board, cover loosely with foil and leave to rest for 15–30 minutes. Run a carving knife between the ribs and meat to separate them.

Discard the bones and set the meat fat side up. Cut downward, across the grain, into thin slices. Always use a guarded carving fork when carving toward your hand.


Roast leg of lamb

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Using a sharp knife, make deep slits over the joint 2in (5cm) apart. Press halved garlic cloves deep into the holes with some rosemary tips.

Brush the surface of the meat all over with oil or melted butter, season with black pepper and a little salt, and place the joint in a roasting pan.

Place the roasting pan in the middle of the oven and roast for 20 minutes per 1lb (450g) for rosy pink meat. Remove from the hot oven, cover with foil, and rest for 20–30 minutes.

To carve a leg, start by slicing across the grain in the center of the leg as shown. Cut even slices 1cm (1/2in) thick, working from the center to the edges.


Roast shoulder of pork

Score the skin with a very sharp knife across the grain of the meat. Make parallel cuts about 1/4in (5mm) apart, cutting from the center right to the edge. Turn the joint around and score from the center to the other edge. Rub the skin thoroughly with salt and a little oil.

Put the joint on a rack in a roasting pan, and cook in a hot oven for 20-30 minutes, until the skin colors. Turn the oven down to 300°F (150°C) and roast for 11/2 hours. Add some vegetables (onions, carrots, parsnips, lemons), to the pan. Cook for 1–2 hours more.

When the meat is cooked, lift it onto a carving board and rest in a warm place for 20 minutes. Remove and keep the roasted vegetables warm, too. Remove the crackling by slipping a knife just under the skin, leaving the fat on the joint.

Carve the meat into thick slices using a sharp carving knife, cutting downward across the grain. Cut the crackling into serving pieces with kitchen scissors and serve them with the pork on a dish with the roasted vegetables and some gravy.


Resting meat

Fried, broiled, and roasted meat is more tender and succulent if it is slightly undercooked and left to rest. When the protein on the outside of the meat is fiercely heated it stiffens, pushing the juices toward the center. Resting meat allows the juices to be reabsorbed by the outer edge, while the heat is distributed toward the center, giving an evenly pink, moist slice. The meat continues to cook gently while it rests so the resting process finishes the cooking. The meat needs to be kept warm while it rests; also a warm plate is sufficient for steaks, small roasts should be covered with foil, medium joints need a cloth over the foil, while large joints, and pork with crisp skin are best rested uncovered in a very cool oven. Resting times depend on thickness: rest steaks for 5–10 minutes, joints for up to 40 minutes.


Fry

This cooking method is suitable for all steaks and chops. A hot, ridged griddle needs less fat than pan frying. The cooking time depends on the meat’s thickness: very thin steaks of 1/4in (5mm) need a very hot pan and no resting; thick steaks up to 1 1/2in (3cm) need resting. If the meat is thicker than this, it is better oven-roasted.

Heat the oil until starting to smoke, then lay the meat in the pan gently and leave to brown for 1-2 minutes. Turn and repeat.

Turn the meat and cook on the other side for 1–2 minutes. Thicker steaks may need to be cooked for 2–5 minutes more, or to taste.


Rare, medium, or well-done?

Knowing when meat is cooked perfectly takes practice, especially when everybody’s idea of “done” is different. Looking at the color of the meat will help you to gauge doneness, however, as well as testing with your finger to judge “give.”


Brown

Meat is usually browned before stewing to give color and extra flavor to the sauce. Occasionally, a more delicate flavor and pale color is desired—when cooking veal, for example—then meat is simply cooked gently from raw without browning.


Griddle

A ridged cast-iron griddle pan mimics a barbecue by draining off fat and burning grid lines onto the meat. Use the technique shown here for both, though excess fat can flare on a barbecue.


Braise and stew

Braising and stewing are slow-cooking methods that use liquids to keep the meat moist. They are excellent ways of using cheaper cuts of meat. Stewed meat is cut into smaller pieces and completely covered with liquid, while braised meat is cooked with less liquid in slices or as a whole joint.

Cover the meat pieces with water, stock, wine, or another liquid. For a joint, add liquid one-third of the way up the meat.

During the cooking, check that the meat is not drying out and top up the pan with more liquid if necessary.

Add herbs, spices, and diced vegetables about 45 minutes before the end of the cooking so they will remain firm.


Make stock

Worth making in quantity and freezing, a rich stock makes many dishes, such as soups and casseroles. Meaty scraps and bones such as rib and backbone give flavor, while those with cartilage, such as knuckle bones, give a silky texture. Aim for a mixture.

Brush the bones and meat trimmings with oil and place in a roasting pan. Add onions, carrots, and celery sticks, cut in quarters. Roast at 450°F (230°C) for 45 minutes.

Put everything into a stock pot, with some celery, a bay leaf, thyme, and rosemary. Cover the bones with hot water. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, then simmer for 1–2 hours.

Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a heatproof container. If completely clear stock is needed, strain again through a muslin cloth. Use immediately or freeze when cool.

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