Pasture-raised meat offers terrific gastronomic opportunities, but realizing the potential of the meat is more likely when home cooks bring a little more awareness than they might when cooking conventional meat, which has been industrially-engineered to provide margin for error (at a large cost, of course).
Tips for pasture-raised meat
- Pasture-raised meat cooks faster than conventional meat. Use an instant-read digital thermometer to check your meat's progress towards the temperature of your choice. Your meat can easily get overcooked, if you're not watching temperatures.
- Lean cuts often benefit from serving with fattier sauces. To be sure, this is true of conventional, non-pastured meat as well. But since cut for cut, pastured meat will generally be leaner than its conventional counterpart, it's a tip worth emphasizing for pastured-meat cooks. (Pro tip: A tip can be tender and also lean. Case in point, Filet Mignon. It's tender, but being lean, it tastes best with a fat-based sauce.)
- For steaks and chops, consider the reverse sear. It's a proven technique to make sure you achieve the sear you desire, without creating an imbalance between surface and interior temperature that can lead to over-cooking.
- Beef and pork grow strong at pasture, and their hard-working muscles develop robust fibers and collagen-rich connective tissue. This can lead to toughness in the cuts that come from the workhorse muscles in the shoulders, hips and limbs, which we generally butcher as roasts. Mitigate roasts' toughness and maximize healthy, unctuous collagen by:
- Using a low-and-slow cooking method to allow collagen to break down and melt into meat, and minimizing lean cuts' exposure to high heat
- To serve, cut against the grain of the meat (this severs the tight muscle fibers)
- You may also optionally consider tenderizing -- marinades, and/or physical tenderizing -- but in our experience #1 and #2 are more important and you may be able to skip tenderizing
- For additional perspective on cooking pasture-raised beef and pork (sorry no comparable chicken resource at this time), check out cooking pastured beef and cooking pastured pork
Tips for trimming meat
Our processing partners have skilled butchers who cut meat to where it's ready for home cooks. But there are some cuts that benefit from a little preparation in the home kitchen after you un-package them.
- Many people remove the layer of silverskin from the underside of pork ribs. Though slippery, it comes off pretty easily once you get a good grip. A paper towell can help with this. Having said that, a prominent Washington Post food writer feels strongly that you're better off keeping the silverskin on.
- The Hanger Steak is a cut where you definitely want to remove the silverskin that runs the length of the cut. You'll be separating the steak into its two halves before you cook. It's not hard.
- Skirt Steak benefits from light trimming.
- There are a number of myths around the benefits of keeping fat caps untrimmed, though a fat layer can have advantages in some cases. Here Meathead Goldwyn does a full analysis of the pros and cons, and comes down to a bottom line recommendation to trim fat caps to 1/8", in general.
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