If you are cooking meat and you OVERCOOK or UNDERCOOK it, you may be in for some serious trouble by your taste buds, stomach, or guests’ opinions of your ability to cook. By learning how to identify cuts of meat and the proper cooking method, you can manipulate the cooking process to serve an fine dining steak at home. No one likes eating tough meat or getting food poisoning, so let’s learn how you should cook your meats and why.
Meat consumption gets a bad rep due to its cholesterol content, however it also provides some nutritive benefits that you can’t find anywhere else. Meat is high in the B-vitamins of thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin and high in the minerals of iron and copper. By consuming meat, you can get your daily values of all of these vitamins and nutrients, which are tough to find elsewhere in other non-animal food sources. By understanding both the good and bad nutritional sides of meat, you can utilize this knowledge to your advantage to choose lower fat cuts of meat to reduce cholesterol content, while still getting all the nutritive benefits! But, how do you know which cuts of meat are lower in fat without using Google? Let’s start by learning about the shapes and cuts of meat.
First of all, the shape of the bone identifies the cut of meat. Secondly, the cut of meat determines the tenderness. The most tender cuts come form the least used muscles, such as the loin and backbone. These cuts include tenderloin, filet mignon, and top loin. The medium tender meats come from the shoulder, such as the chuck. The least tender meats come from the most used muscles, which include the flank and brisket cuts.
In the more tender cuts, you can notice more marbling, or fat deposited around organs and muscles. Tough cut needs to be cooked well done because they have more collagen, which needs more time to be softened. The tenderness of meat can be increased with a “vinaigrette” because vinegar (acid) and salt increase tenderness by decreasing the pH and increasing water-holding capacity of muscle. This is why meats are “marinated” before cooking.
In turn, the shape of bone determines the method of cooking because different heats are used for different cuts. Dry heat is used for tender cuts near backbone (loin, sirloin), while moist heat is used for less tender cuts with more connective tissue (bottom round, chuck, brisket).
Dry heat methods:
- Carry-over cooking occurs for about 10 minutes after meat has been removed from oven, where the internal meat temp will rise 15-25F degrees. Allow roast to stand 30 minutes before carving due to carry over cooking.
- 325F is ideal temperature for roasting.
- Higher temperatures will increase shrinkage and toughen.
- A slow-cooked roast yields less waste.
Moist heat methods:
- Braising: Flour, brown, cover, and simmer in liquid.
- Simmer: Heat in water to 170-185F with appearance of bubbles.
- Steam: Heat over, not in water.
- Stewing: Add water or other liquid during cooking.
Despite which method you used, it is important to note the safe minimum internal temperatures to prevent under or over cooking. The best way to check is with a meat thermometer, but if you don’t have one, the palm method is another “handy” tool.
Safe minimum internal temperatures:
- 145F: pork beef, veal, lamp, steaks, roast, fish
- 160F: ground beef, ground veal, ground lamb
- 165F: turkey, chicken, duck
Next time you’re cooking meat, remember how you should cook your meats and why! By utilizing this article, you can educationally choose a cut of meat to get the most nutritive benefits and cook it the best way possible. Now, head of to the store and choose your cut of meat and cooking method!