I eat far less meat today than I used to, for the same reasons many others do: Less meat is better for your health, the environment, and of course your budget. So I look at meat as a treat, and when I do cook it I want it to taste good. That means buying meat from a reliably good source, selecting the right cut for the cooking method, seasoning it well, and cooking it as well as I can.

Judging doneness can be intimidating to all but the most experienced cooks. Everyone seems to think there’s some trick to getting a steak medium-rare or a rib falloff- the-bone tender, but the truth is that cooking meat is like cooking anything else: You need to know which technique to choose for your ingredient (or, in this case, which cooking method to use for the animal and cut you have) and then practice until you get a feel for the process. Meanwhile, if things don’t come out quite the way you’d hoped, you’ll likely still be pleased: You cooked the food yourself, after all.

Here are the easiest, most efficient ways to grill, broil, roast, pan-sear, braise, and stir-fry. You’ll learn how to flavor meat before, during, and after cooking. Most important, you’ll discover that handling meat isn’t a big deal. And since the techniques are the same whether you’re cooking beef, lamb, or pork, you’ll expand your recipe repertoire quickly and enormously.

Beef Basics

Buying Meat

Most of the meat in this country—beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, whatever—is produced industrially. The sad and often inhumane process includes routine antibiotic treatment, growth hormones, an unnatural diet, and often bad living conditions. Since labels don’t help much, if you want to know where an animal came from and how it was raised, you’ve got to ask or do some digging. Your best bet is usually to buy your meat from a farmers’ market, butcher, co-op, or directly from a farm. If you seek out good, ethically raised meat, your eating experience will improve dramatically.

Cooking the Common Beef Cuts

Large cuts with most of the fat around the outside:

Prime rib (rib roast)
Sirloin roast
Top round
Rump roast
Round roast

Small cuts, with most of the fat around the outside:

Rib-eye steak
Porterhouse steak
T-bone steak
Sirloin steak
Flank steak
Skirt steak
Strip steak
Filet mignon

Fatty “stew meat,” whole or cut into chunks:

Chuck roast
Chuck steak
Arm roast
Shoulder roast
Round steak
Short ribs

Ground Beef

If you have a food processor, consider grinding your own meat, as shown with The Burger. For the times you buy preground, some tips: Most supermarket “ground beef” is a mix of many parts of many cows, so you have no idea—zero—what cut you’re getting. Look for label details like ground round, ground sirloin, or ground chuck, which correspond to specific cuts. (Or ask for help.) There should also be a ratio on the package, something like 75/25, 80/20, 85/15, or 90/10. This is the proportion of meat to fat. (Sometimes the label will say just 90% lean.) For juicy, flavorful ground beef, shoot for 80 to 85 percent. Yes, it’s going to have more calories than the leaner mixtures (it’ll also cost less). But if you eat meat as “a treat,” then when you do cook it, you want it to taste good.


You can either insert a thermometer into the thickest part or make a small cut and peek inside. For maximum juiciness, take steaks, roasts, and burgers off the heat one stage (about 5°F) before the desired doneness and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes to come up in temperature.

A RARE 120–125°F. Bright red center.
B MEDIUM-RARE 130–135°F. Bright pink center.
C MEDIUM 140–145°F. Light pink center.
D MEDIUM-WELL 150–155°F. No traces of pink.
E WELL DONE 160°F and above. Dark brown/gray throughout.

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