I like to cook; and with 7 children and frequent company, I often cook for large numbers of people. I like good food with a minimum of fuss. Since we live about 45 minutes from a grocery store, I also like recipes that use common ingredients I keep on hand. For special occasions, however, both Glenn and I like to experiment with exotic ingredients and unusual techniques. I’ll be adding new recipes almost every month, both easy ones and adventuresome ones. Check back often!
First, a short cooking lesson. There are two basic ways to cook beef: dry heat and moist heat:
- Dry heat methods include dry roasting (with no liquid), broiling, grilling and stir-frying. Success with dry heat methods depend on the cut (naturally tender cuts are the most suitable), cooking temperature (relatively high temperatures), and time (removing the meat before it overcooks). More on this below
- Moist heat methods include roasting with liquid (technically braising or pot roast), simmering in a liquid or sauce, and grilling or broiling a sauce-covered cut. Moist heat cooking is quite forgiving (i.e., it’s tough to destroy a potroast, although it can be done!). Success depends on the right combination of heat, time, temperature, and duration. High heat, moderate duration (like 350 ‘F for about 3 hours depending on the size of the cut) or low heat, long duration (225 ‘F for up to 8 hours) both accomplish the same goal: breakdown of sinew, fat and collagen to yield a tender, moist cut of beef. Moist heat can turn an inexpensive cut of our grass fed beef into marvelously fork-tender delicious beef, full of deep rich flavor with none of the mouth-coating fat typical of these cuts. All of your favorite recipes using slow moist cooking are appropriate for our grass fed beef.
Dry heat cooking of lean grass fed beef requires a few changes in how you cook, but none are complicated or difficult. The key thing to remember is inter-muscular fat in meat acts as an insulator during the cooking process helping to keep natural meat juices from cooking away. Lean beef lacks this fat, and needs a little more attention when cooking in order to maintain its tenderness and juiciness. One thing we have made a regular practice of in larger cuts that we dry roast is to always sear the beef before roasting. This locks in juices and flavor and make a big difference in the final product. (You’ll find many excellent chefs who say searing makes no differences and the “locking in juices” is a myth. We think with typical grain fed beef, which is much fattier, searing may not make much difference in the final product. We have definately seen a difference, however, with our lean beef. We think the searing “myth” is actually based in fact that harkons back to an earlier day when all beef was more like our grass fed beef.).
Our grass fed beef is very tender, due to our growing methods and our long dry-age, but because it is very lean, our grass fed beef will cook faster than grain fed beef. It is also easily overcooked. The difference between a succulent steak cooked to medium rare, or an overdone piece of shoeleather, is often only the matter of a minute. Beef with lots of fat is more forgiving of sloppy cooking. Armed with attention and a meat thermometer, however, you will find that you can easily prepare our grass fed steaks to rival the very best restaurant quality grain fed steaks.
Any of your favorite recipes will work, as long as you pay attention to internal temperatures.
A few Do’s to remember about cooking Alderspring Grass Fed Beef :
- Use a thermometer and follow the recommended temperatures. Beef will appear more pink than you are used to for the temperature because of the different fat composition.
- Use a tongs to turn the meat rather than a fork.
- Salt to taste after cooking.
- Let sit loosely covered at least 5 minutes before serving (longer on a large roast). This allows moisture to be redistributed in the beef and minimizes moisture loss through steam in very hot beef.
- Complete thaw meat; partially frozen beef cooks unevenly.
- Thaw in your refrigerator for 12-24hrs to allow ice crystals to thaw gradually and be absorbed into the meat before cooking. If you are in a hurry, submerge the meat in its air-tight (and water tight) cryovak packaging in a large bowl of water. Change the water every 10 minutes or so. Most steaks and ground beef will thaw within half an hour this way.
A few Don’ts to remember about cooking Alderspring Grass Fed Beef:
- Don’t overcook. Grass fed beef requires about 30% less cooking time than grain fed beef and will continue to cook when removed from heat. Monitor temperature to serve as a measure for doneness. Instructions on each of the cut pages (below) will give you some guidelines for time and temperature.
- Don’t microwave. This process can change the texture and flavor of beef, and reduce tenderness.
- Don’t defrost roasts or steaks in a microwave oven – it causes tough spots and reduces moisture.
- Don’t cook steaks to medium-well or well-done. If you usually like your meat-well done, try a steak done to medium. Grass fed steaks have a different texture and taste at medium. If you are a die-hard well-done fan, add a little marinade, and cook as carefully as possible.
Favorite Cooking Hints
This a hodgepodge of things that work for me.
Grinding spices. After my husband comandeered my coffee grinder to grind spices for a brisket rub, I decided we should have two coffee grinders: one for my coffee and one for spices. If you haven’t used fresh-ground spices, you are in for a treat, and it really isn’t that much of a hassle. Clean the grinder by wiping out with a paper towel.
GENERAL HINTS AND HELPS
We use this list both as a way of saving money, minimizing time and travel shopping, and avoiding the irritation of not having ingredients on hand.
My list primarily functions as my shopping list. Each week I print and post my list on the refrigerator and everyone in the family may check off needed items. The list goes with me on town trips (which we try to keep to one a week) and on bigger shopping trips to larger cities (3-4 hours away and once every two months or so).
Forgetting something is a big deal when a store is nearly an hour away.
The list also is an important money-saver and works with my price book. The price book has typical sale prices for the items we buy regularly. When an item goes on sale, I stock up.