Beef - a meat for all seasons
- Use the right cut for the right purpose.
- Hang tenderizing produces the best result.
- Eat less – but better.
- Young fat cow tastes the best.
- Look for marbling.
Humans have been eating beef since pre-historic times. Argentinians eat
more beef per person than anyone else on the planet, each wolfing down almost 55 kg
a year. Luxembourgers, Australians and Americans closely follow them. One
single animal provides a large number of different cuts, each with many
different characteristics. What you need to bear in mind when you choose and
cook beef is:
Use the right cut for the right purpose
This can be tricky to achieve with beef. Every part of the animal can be seen
as a delicacy, as long as it is treated in the right way. You transform muscles
that have worked a lot, with a lot of cartilage and connecting tissue, to tasty
delicacies by cooking them at a low temperature over a long period. More
refined parts are the most delicious using the opposite approach.
48 to 66 degrees celsius
Fine parts are sensitive. They often become – especially if the piece of
meat lacks interspersed fat – too dry. Vice versa – if the meat has not reached
the desired temperature – it can taste raw and be difficult to cut. The temperature
span between the two is narrow, between 48°C and 65°C.
If you visit meat restaurants in different countries you will discover
that opinion varies about what is the “correct” temperature – it’s a flexible
truth. In Sweden, for example, 55°C often corresponds with “medium-rare”. In
Australia, for example, the number would probably be 45°C – a difference of 10°C!
This excellent description of beef comes from restaurant AG in Stockholm
or ‘Blue’: Raw interior,
- Rare: Half raw interior,lukewarm
- Medium-rare: Half-cooked interior,45°C
- Cooked inside, 55°C. The meat is pinkfrom the cut surface to the center
- Medium-well: Cooked interior, 65°C.The meat is only pink in the center.
- Well done: Cooked interior, 80°C.The meat is grey from the cut surface to the middle.
Meat from beef should tenderize for at least two weeks. Tenderizing by
hanging for up to two weeks produces the best result, but due to the time it
takes and the fact the process makes the
meat lose weight, the cost per piece goes up. In many stores, you will mostly
get vacuum-tenderized meat, which has not suffered any loss of weight. The
quality can be just as good, but the difference in taste can be substantial.
Less but better
A hint when you purchase meat is to buy less, but better quality. You
will enjoy the taste more eating beef that has been tenderized by hanging, even
though it has lost more water than meat has been vacuum tenderized.
Perfect beef is about opinion and taste. Expect different truths from
different meat chefs, but the following is a starting point:
- Meat from younger animals is leaner and more tender, but tends to have
- Meat from older animals is more fatty with deep tastes, but can be
tougher regardless of the degree of tenderizing.
- The best taste comes from a young cow that has calved at least once and
had the time to fatten up.
- A castrated bull (”steer”) produces tasty as well as tender meat.
- Female animals are more delicious and tender than male animals.
- The age of the animal should not be more 50 months.
The fatter the better
Interspersed fat (”marbling”) makes the meat more delicious and juicier.
The fat on the outside also contributes to the taste, cut it off after cooking
or on the plate.
Different cuts for different countries
Australia, Brazil, the United States and India are the world’s largest
producers of beef for consumption rather than milk production, although the
latter has the lowest per capita consumption. Argentina, Ireland, Russia,
Uruguay and New Zealand are also major exporters. The most popular breeds are Hereford,
Angus, Sebu, Limousin, Charolais, etc.
Beef is usually divided into primal cuts, which differ from one country
to another. For instance, there are 35 differentiations between the way the
French and the English prefer to cut beef, while Koreans cut their beef in 120
different ways. So it is no wonder that in very many countries butchers are
considered to be true trade professionals, with butcher stores being passed on
from one generation to another.