Cooking Beef the Right Way

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Cooking Beef the Right Way

Hilton Waikoloa Village Chef Charles Charbonneau

Chef Charles Charbonneau at the 2009 Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range

Everyone wants a flavorful, tender and juicy cut of beef. Cooking beef is a balancing act—you want it cooked to your preferred degree of doneness—rare, medium or well—and you want to reduce moisture loss.

Beef—including beef that is fed and finished on grass—is cooked with either dry or wet heat. The cooking method used depends on where the meat is located on the animal.

Meat from the middle of the animal, where the muscles are used least, should be cooked via quick, dry heat: grilling, broiling, sautéing, stir-frying, deep-frying and roasting. Steaks are found in the middle meat.

End meats, like round steak and rump roasts, should be cooked with long, wet heat to break up the cut’s connective collagen and elastin.

Dry Heat or Wet Heat?
Grilling, broiling and pan-frying: rib eye, t-bone, porterhouse steaks
Kebabs: tenderloin absorbs marinated flavors best and is tender
Oven roasting: top sirloin, tenderloin, rib roasts, top rump roasts
Stir-frying: flank, top round, sirloin steaks
Pot roasting, braising, stewing: swiss steak, chuck arm roast, brisket, short ribs, rump roast, stew meat

How to Amp Up the Flavor of Beef
Cook beef in two stages with high and low heat to amp up the flavor.

High heat—above 300-500º—produces a chemical reaction between the meat’s amino acids and sugars. Called the Maillard reaction, it results in a flavorful crust on the meat’s surface. When using dry heat for example, grill a steak by starting the meat on the hottest area of the grill until it browns and then move it to a cooler area of the grill to finish cooking. When cooking a roast on low heat in the oven, finish it under the broiler for a few minutes to create a crisp crust.

When using wet heat to cook a pot roast, sear it first to create more flavor and browning. Searing provides beef with a tasty crust full of complex flavors; it does not, however, seal in juices. Pat the meat surface dry and sear it until it’s a deep brown, but not charred.

Lower the Temps, Time for Grass-fed Beef
Low heat evenly cooks beef to the required doneness. The key to keeping meat juicy is cooking duration. With grass-fed beef, which is leaner, less cooking time and temperature is needed, so turn down the flame. To insure you don’t overcook, use a meat thermometer.  Cookbook author Shannon Hayes recommends cooking grass-fed beef to 120-140º, which is lower than USDA recommended temps of 145-170º for grain-fed beef. Cooking beef that has been fed and finished on grass at the lower temps also helps reduce the sacrifice of the nutritious CLA and Omega-3 fats to the fire.

Check out a list of grass-fed cookbooks, including those by Hayes.

Executive Chef Charles Charbonneau of the Hilton Waikoloa Village shares a favorite recipe for preparing grass-fed beef using the wet method of braising, preceded by high heat browning. He accompanies it with Pineapple Slaw and provides that recipe also.