By Chef Jill McCollum, CC
Cooking a big chunk of beef can be intimidatingâ€¦Did you purchase the right cut? How should you cook it? And how can you best bring out the flavor and juiciness?
For beef, there are eight "primal cuts." At the top of the animal, starting near the head and going back toward the tail, they are chuck, rib, short loin, sirloin, and round. Underneath the animal, from front to back, they are brisket, plate, and flank. The tenderness or toughness of the cut depends on how much the animal has had to use the muscle. Therefore, cuts near the shoulder or leg, which are used often for movement, are going to be tougher. The muscles that are not used as much, in the center of the animal, include the rib, plate, and loin. These cuts are cooked in different ways to maximize flavor and tenderness.
A good cut of meat will have specks of white fat evenly distributed through the meat. Leaner cuts of beef, such as flank and round, have less fat and can benefit from marinades and dry rubs.
The grain of meat also plays a factor in its cooking and serving. Flank and shoulder steaks, often sold as "London Broil," are a single muscle and have a long, distinctive grain running along the cut. These steaks must be cut across the grain; they will then be tender. If you cut these steaks with the grain they will be tough and inedible.
The Best Cuts
For grilling, broiling, and pan frying, the best cuts of meat are rib eye steaks, strip or shell steaks, or T bone, which contains both the strip and tenderloin steaks. Sirloin and round steaks are generally going to be tough and dry. Flank steaks are good when quickly cooked and sliced across the grain, as described above.
For roasting, top sirloin, tenderloin, standing rib roasts, and top rump roast are good candidates.
For stir frying, flank, top round, and sirloin steak are good. These cuts are best cooked quickly.
For kabobs, tenderloin is the best bet. This cut absorbs flavors easily and it is very tender.
For pot roasting and braising, chuck and rump are the best cuts. These cuts have more collagen and need long, slow cooking in a wet environment to reach their optimum tenderness. Chuck has the most flavor and is the most tender.
For ground beef, chuck is the way to go. Most lean ground beef is chuck, but if you're not sure, just ask your butcher.
2 Â½ pounds beef baby back ribs, cut into serving size pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
2 celery ribs, cut in half
2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
Â¾ cup barbecue sauce
1 dash hot pepper sauce
Place ribs in a 5-qt slow cooker. Add the water, onion, celery, 1 teaspoon garlic, and peppercorns. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until meat is tender. In a small saucepan, combine the barbecue sauce, hot pepper sauce, and remaining garlic. Cook and stir over medium heat for 5 minutes or until heated through. Remove ribs and discard cooking juices and vegetables. Brush ribs with sauce and serve; you may also place on a hot grill and cook over medium to low heat for 8-10 minutes turning occasionally and brushing with remaining sauce.
Creamy Cole Slaw
1 head cabbage, shredded
3 medium carrots shredded
Â¾ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon black pepper
Â½ teaspoon salt
Â½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 tomatoes, diced
Shred cabbage and carrots. In a separate bowl mix together mayonnaise, seasonings, and diced tomatoes. Combine with cabbage and carrots and mix well. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
Quick and Easy Brownies
2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter
Â½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
Â½ teaspoon baking powder
Â½ teaspoon salt
Â½ cup walnut halves
Melt the butter or margarine and mix all ingredients in the order given. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes in a 9x13 inch greased pan.