|Do's and Dont's of Beef|
Beef Varieties and Season
There are 2 main categories of beef available: yearling beef and mature ox. Once we heard of prime beef as somewhere between the two, but this distinction has largely disappeared. Yearling beef is 10-18 months old: mature beef is more than 18 months old. Yearling has a small amount of creamy fat, tends to be light red in colour, and has a fairly floppy texture, little marbling and a mild flavour. Mature ox has firmer fat, is generally firmer in texture, is a darker red with definite marbling and has a more pronounced “beefy” flavour. Be aware that feed and breed can influence the colour of both the fat and the flesh.
Consumers are also able to choose between grain-fed and grass-fed beef. Grain-fed or lot0fed beats are fed grain-dominated rations for a minimum of 3 months in controlled conditions. Such beef has maximum marbling. Grass-fed beats are raised and fattened on pasture. The majority of beef in Australia is grass-fed. Advocates of grain0fed beef suggest that climatic variations and seasonal differences can lead to an inconsistency of quality in grass-fed beef. (Certainly in a drought year the condition of beef cattle deteriorates.) Advocates of grass-fed feel that the best animals give a ‘beefie’ flavour. There is also concern about the environmental implications of growing so much grain to sustain the grain-fed beef industry.
Whether it’s grain- or grass-fed, all beef is aged to some degree. Ageing gives tenderness by allowing naturally occurring enzymes in the meat to break down muscle fibre. It is achieved by hanging the carcass for a certain length of time – a process increasingly taking place inside vacuum-packaging for an average of 2 weeks.
Beef Selection and Storage
Beef cuts are described as being from the hindquarter or the forequarter. The tender cuts with little connective tissue can be roasted, fried or grilled but the tougher cuts should be stewed or braised, which softens the connective tissues. Each of these cuts has a specific name and should be asked for as such in your butcher shop. Request the appropriate cut for the appropriate cooking procedures – do not try to save money and purchase a cheaper cut and then try to grill it rather than stew it. Some cuts that are more expensive per kilogram may not have as much waste as other cheaper cuts.
Beef for Roasting
For memorable roast beef that evokes Empire and largesse one cannot do better than splurge on q wing-rib sirloin from the hindquarter or a standing-rib roast from the forequarter. These magnificent cuts are expensive, but the flavour is incomparable. Both can also be ordered as boneless joints – sirloin, porterhouse of Scotch fillet – which are easier to carve, but the meat lacks the special sweetness that comes from being cooked on the bone and is less dramatic in presentation. A large piece of rump can also be roasted, although most chefs agree it’s a fabulous choice for the barbecue or grill. Fillet is everyone’s roasting favourite, and is delicious and easy to handle.
It’s not recommend to roast corner cut topside or bolar blade – or certainly not the preferred method of roasting, which relies on high oven temperatures and a long resting time – but both are suited to pot roasting. The meat is seared at a high temperature in a cast iron pot on top of the stove; the temperature is then lowered and a little liquid is added during the cooking time to moisten the dish and provide a small amount of concentrated juice.
Beef for Grilling or Frying
All the prime cuts are sold sliced ready for grilling or frying; these are often cut 5cm thick slices this is essential if you like your beef rare or medium rare. A large cut (for example a T Bone cut) will then serve two people; simply slice the meat of the bone on the diagonal. Oyster blade should be cut thinner and is better fried than grilled.
Beef for Braising
Beef for braising offers infinite variation of flavour and style. The round, Topside, Fresh Silverside and Skirt steak from the Hindquarter can all be braised, while the Forequarter provides Bolar blade , Blade steak and Spare Ribs. All cuts recommended for Braising can be cooked in a piece or cut into small or large cubes or slices for some very famous preparations.
Beef for Stewing
Gravy beef makes superb pies and beef broth. Chuck steak is a great choice for beef curries. The Round, Topside, Fresh Silverside, Skirt steak, Bolar Blade, Blade steak and Brisket can also be stewed.
Minced beef is available in several grades. However Clover Country Meats has the premium grade readily available.
Corned beef has a definite place in our history and been sustained for many generations. It is usual to buy meat already salted from the butcher, usually Silverside in the piece or girello, which is the ‘eye’ of the Silverside, a smaller, cylindrical muscle. Once we might have requested rolled brisket, but this is rarely seen these days.
Cry-vac Packed Beef
Cuts available cry-vaced tent to be whole muscles (fillet for example), rather than slices or with the bone in. Cry-vac meat looks different in the bag from unpackaged fresh meat. It’s purple-red colour caused be an oxygen-carrying protein known as myoglobin. On exposure to air this protein absorbs oxygen and within a short time the meat regains its natural colour. A common comment about cry-vac meat is that there is a bad smell when the bag is opened. Provided the vacuum has not been broken (and it if has the bag will leak), this smell is not a concern and, again, after a short time in fresh air this ‘confinement’ odour will disappear.
Refrigerate raw beef immediately when you get it home. The ideal way to store fresh meat is to put it on a rack in a container and cover it with a damp cotton cloth (this keeps the meat moist, while the juices, which can sour meat, collect under the rack). Next best is to wrap the meat in greaseproof paper. Note that frost-free refrigerators dry out food quickly – so protect and check your meat.
Large joins of meat should be used within 5 days, Cubed meat should be used within 2-3 days, while minced beef should be used within 48 hours, and frozen meat should be thawed in the refrigerator.
Longterm storage of cry-vac meat must be refrigerated. Always store this meat with the fat surface uppermost to prevent juices seeping into the fat and causing discolouration. Beware of any bubbles that appear in cry-vac beef, as they indicate the meat might be off. The shelf life of cry-vac meat after it has been removed from the bag is less than for fresh meat. Use as soon as possible, certainly within 2 days.
Preparation and cooking
Remove meat from the refrigerator a good hour before roasting or grilling it, especially if you like rare meat. You do not want a grilled exterior and a frigid interior. Trim off most visible fat from beef curs before roasting, frilling or braising. Most, not all!
When roasting a prime cut of beef, such as wing-rib sirloin, leave a 1cm cap of fat to melt and baste the roast as it cooks. The roast has been prepared for easy carving. If you purchase a roast that the upper spinal bones has not been removed you will need to slice the meat away from the bone frame. Turn it on its side and then slice it as for a boneless roast.
If the silver membrane has not been removed, remove any from a fillet of beef, as it shrinks during cooking.
Beef is better roasted in a higher heat for a shorter time than at a lower temperature for longer. Allow plenty of resting time, the meat will sit happily, wrapped loosely in a double layer of foil, in a warm spot for up to half an hour, Cutting into unrested meat will lose the precious juices,
Cook roasting joints on the bone in a preheated oven at 240 degree for the first 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180 degree. For a boneless roast, roast at 220 degree for the required time. Refer to the roasting table below for an approximate cooking time to allow per 500g. If you use a meat thermometer, your meat will be rare when the internal temperature reaches 60 degree; medium meat is achieved at 65 degree and well-done meat at 70-75 degree. The temperature of cooked meat continues to rise a little while resting, so remember to remove the meat from the oven just short of the desired internal temperature. Be aware that the shape and thickness of the joint will also influence cooking time. A fillet of beef will cook in a shorter time (up to half the time if long and thin) than the same weight to topside.
To grill or fry
If you are grilling a T-bone or other steak that has an edge of fat, snip this and get right through to the meat in several places, so that the membrane that lies between the fat and the lean does not curl and pucker the edge of the steak as it grills. Remove all membrane and connective tissue from cuts such as chuck or blade before grilling. Always have your griller, char grill pan or frying pan hot before you add the lightly oiled meat. Allow the meat to seal well before turning it to cook the other side. A rare 5cm thick steak on the bone will take about 10 minutes to cook; off the bone, allow about 7 minutes. Rest, wrapped loosely in foil, for 5-10 minutes before serving.
To braise or stew
When cutting meat for a braise or stew, follow the natural separation of the meat as far as possible, then cut across individual muscles. Meat that is cut willy-nilly across several different muscles can twist and bend in very strange ways in the cooking pot and can be tough. The connective tissue on such cuts as chuck or blade will melt to tenderness when braised slowly.
Whether a dish is a stew or a braise, the result will be better if it is cooked gently for longer. Braising involves cooking a piece or pieces of meat at a low to moderate temperature in a covered cast-iron or earthenware casserole for a long time in just enough liquid to ensure a succulent result. The meat may or may not be floured and sealed in hot oil before cooking. Aromatic vegetable and other ingredients are usually added. Expect a cut suitable for braising (for example cornercut topside or bolar blade) that will feed 4-6 people to take about 2 hours at 170 deg.
Stewing is an imprecise term for a technique that is very similar to braising, with rather more liquid involved, and more likely to be done on top of the stove than in the oven.
Note: This information was taken from the cook’s companion by Stephanie Alexander