Tonight started two weeks of “Meat”-beef, pork, lamb and veal. I had a picture in my head of Tim Allen grunting like a caveman while grilling a 72 oz. Porterhouse steak when I walked into class. Men do tend to love their red meat, and I do too, every so often. Red meat has amino acids that chicken and fish don’t have and is high in iron, so women shouldn’t be afraid to order a nice filet mignon every month or so.
This evening’s class dealt with the anatomy of the animals and dry cooking techniques like grilling, frying, broiling and roasting. I’m really hoping they don’t test us with an outline of a cow or a pig and instructions to “fill in the cuts…” There are a lot to know!
First, we went over how a cow is fed. Many of us want to buy meat from cows that are “grass fed.” Actually, ALL cows are grass fed, either they are allowed to graze or fed hay. Then, they’re given corn and grain to fatten them up before they end up on our plates. Corn increases fat content.
Marbling increases with fat content, obviously. Cows that are grass fed from start to finish have less fat and taste a bit different. They’re more muscular, so they’re naturally leaner. For all cows, pigs, lamb and sheep, the most tender area is that around the loin. This region starts from behind the shoulder and goes to the rump. These are the best cuts of meat for high heat, dry cooking.
The ribs have good marbling, so rib-eye and prime rib (or standing rib roast if you want to get fancy) are very tasty options. Because they’re bone-in, they have lots of flavor.
Next is the center loin or short loin, where the tenderloin is from. This area is known for extremely tender meat with very little connective tissue. You’ll see a very thin skin around the area; this is called “silver skin” and can be easily removed if desired. Filet Mignon is cut from the tenderloin. This cut is great for pan searing. The center cut from the loin is the Chateaubriand. It’s like the filet, only bigger and is usually prepared for two people.
Now for the two favorite cuts of men who grill everywhere: the T-bone and the Porterhouse steaks! The T-bone is made up of two different steaks connected by a T-shaped bone. It’s half tenderloin/half NY strip steak. The porterhouse is almost the same, but has a little more tenderloin and a little less strip, as it is cut from the rear end of the short loin. The short loin is considered the best section for meat and also includes strip steaks, roasts, sirloin and related cuts like tri-tip.
The plate and flank sections are around the belly of the animal. This is where you get skirt steak, good for Carne Asada, and flank steak, which is leaner than skirt. Both are delicious grilled and benefit greatly from marinades to tenderize the meat before cooking. Because these cuts are less tender, the grain will show more. Make a note to slice against the grain when serving.
Hanger steaks are considered a “butcher’s cut.” They get their name because they literally hang from the kidneys. Butchers like to keep this for themselves as it is more tender than people realize and is very tasty grilled or pan seared. Flat Iron steaks are also a butcher’s cut. This is a small section of the shoulder muscle and is named because it is shaped like a flat iron.
The round section is a bit tougher than the others. Top round steaks are better cooked to medium-rare doneness so they don’t get too tough. These cuts of meat are perfect thinly sliced for cutlets or rolled meat dishes. Pounding the cutlets helps to tenderize the meat. Bottom round is better for braising and stewing, which I’ll talk about next week.