Beef Tips and Techniques

Shopping | Thawing | Marinating | Rubs | Cooking | Carving
General Safety and Handling | Ground Beef Safety and Handling | Nutrition

Shopping

  • Lean boneless cuts yield up to 4 servings per pound.
  • Beef cuts with some bone yield up to 3 servings per pound.
  • Bony cuts yield no more than 1½ servings per pound.
  • One serving of a rib roast is equal to half a rib, so if you will be serving 8 people, a 4 rib roast should be purchased.
  • 16 ounces (one pound) of ground beef produces about 4 cooked 3-ounce servings, which is the serving size recommended for a healthy diet.
  • When planning a meal, it is always better to purchase too much beef than not enough. Always be prepared for people with larger appetites. If there are leftovers, cooked beef will keep in the refrigerator for several days or the unused portions may be frozen for long term storage.
  • You can save money by purchasing larger portions of beef and then cutting them into smaller cuts at home. Larger cuts of beef often cost less per pound because less preparation is required from the butcher. Just make sure that you have a sharp knife and that any beef that will not be used promptly is stored properly until it is ready to use.

Thawing

  • Beef that is not fully defrosted should not be cooked because the exterior of the beef may become overdone before the interior has had a chance to cook to the proper temperature.
  • When thawing beef, it is easier to cut it before it is fully defrosted. After cutting, the beef can then be refrigerated until it has fully thawed. Fresh raw beef that has not been frozen can be placed in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up a bit, making slicing much easier.

Marinating

  • Quantity: The marinade should totally cover the meat in order for it to work effectively.
  • Soaking time: When using tender cuts of beef, the marinade is used basically to flavor the meat so a soaking time of 2 hours or less is all that is required. Tougher cuts of beef should be soaked in the marinade for several hours or overnight in order to tenderize the meat as well as flavor it.
  • Refrigeration: Always marinate beef in the refrigerator.
  • Proper containers: Since the marinade contains an acidic ingredient, reactive containers such as metal bowls should not be used. It is best to use containers such as glass or plastic bowls or plastic bags that can be sealed.
  • Reuse: The marinade should not be reused for any other purpose because of the bacteria that may be present from having been in contact with the raw meat. The only way the marinade can be reused is to boil it thoroughly and then use it as a basting liquid or as part of a sauce for the meat.

Rubs

  • Application: A rub can be rubbed onto the meat, but the moisture from the meat can cause the dry ingredients to stick to your hands. The best results often occur when the ingredients are sprinkled evenly on all sides.
  • Ingredients for a dry rub: Some of the ingredients that may be used for a dry rub include black pepper, cumin, chili powder, crushed red pepper, celery seed, garlic powder or fresh crushed or minced garlic, salt, and brown sugar.
  • Paste rub: A small amount of liquid may be added to the mixture in order to create a dry paste, which may be preferred in some cases. Some of the liquids that are often used are vinegar, cider vinegar, wine, or fruit juice.
  • Sugar should be limited: The amount of sugar used should be limited because it will melt and burn during the cooking process, especially if the beef is grilled or broiled. Too much of the burnt sugar will provide unpleasant results. Only a small amount is necessary to provide adequate flavor.
  • Results: Both the dry rub and the paste will form a flavorful crust when the beef is cooked. Rubs are most often used with beef ribs that will be grilled or barbecued, but they can be used with almost any cut of beef.

Cooking

  • Some beef cuts that are usually not very good candidates for roasting may be considerably improved if they are marinated first before roasting.
  • If beef stew is a bit too salty, an easy remedy is to add a few more pieces of chopped potato or tomato to help soak up some of the saltiness.
  • When grilling steaks, use tongs to turn steaks. Using a fork pierces the meat allowing juices to escape. Hamburger patties should be turned with a spatula.
  • Although it is healthy to trim fat from beef cuts, some of the outer layer of fat should not be removed until after the meat is cooked. The outer fat layer helps to seal in juices and keeps the meat tender.
  • The outer fat layer should be slashed at about 1 inch intervals around the perimeter of the steak so that the meat will not curl up during the grilling process.
  • Grilled beefsteaks are safe to eat even if the middle is still a bit pink. In fact, it is recommended that steak not be overcooked to ensure optimum flavor and tenderness.
  • When grilling steak, make sure the heat is not too high so that the meat doesn't get charred on the outside before the interior is cooked to the appropriate doneness.
  • Steaks become tougher the longer they are cooked, but even a well done steak can still be relatively tender and juicy if it is quickly seared on all sides before it is allowed to cook thoroughly.
  • Beefsteaks are among the most popular types of meat that are cooked on the grill. Most people select tender cuts such as the Porterhouse, T-bone, tenderloin, or sirloin steaks, but there are other less expensive steaks that can be used as well:
    • The tri-tip steak is excellent when grilled, but it can easily become very tough if cooked improperly. The fat should not be trimmed until after cooking because it helps to seal in the juices, keeping the meat somewhat tender.
    • Flank steaks are very lean and are full of flavor. They are delicious when grilled, but they will become very tough if cooked too long. It is best to marinate them before cooking.
    • Skirt steaks have much more marbling than flank steaks, so they are juicier if they are not overcooked.

Carving

  • A beef roast should be allowed to stand for 10 to 15 minutes before carving so that the juices are reabsorbed into the meat.
  • In order to carve beef properly, a sharp knife must be used.
  • The carving knife should be held at the same angle for each slice.
  • Don't try to carve a beef roast in the roasting pan or on a platter. Placing the roast on a cutting board makes the carving job much easier.
  • The beef should be carved across the grain, which makes the resulting slice more tender.
  • Tender cuts of beef can be cut into slices of any thickness, but tougher cuts should be carved into thin slices.
  • Fresh beef can be placed in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up a bit, making slicing much easier.

General Safety and Handling

  • Make sure any juices from raw beef do not come in contact with any other food items. Packaged raw beef can be placed on a plate in the refrigerator to ensure that none of the juices drip onto any other food items in case that there is a leak in the package.
  • Do not allow beef to reach room temperature before it is cooked, as this can promote the growth of harmful bacteria. Beef should be cooked as soon as possible after its removal from refrigeration.
  • Leftovers should be placed in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as the meal is over. Beef should not be away from refrigeration longer than 2 hours after cooking. Cooked food left at room temperature for more than two hours should be discarded.
  • When eating outdoors, food should not be consumed that has been without refrigeration for more than an hour, especially in hot weather.
  • Beef that has been ground, cut into chunks for stew or kabobs, or cut into strips for stir-fry is much more perishable than larger cuts of beef. This is because there is more surface area for bacteria to grow on.
  • After meat has marinated, the marinade should be discarded because of its contact with the raw meat.
  • Raw beef that has been thawed should be used as soon as possible it should never be refrozen because this increases the risk of food poisoning when the meat is finally used.
  • Traditional guidelines usually state that medium rare beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of no higher than 130°F. With increased concern over bacteria that may be present in the internal portions of beef , it is now recommended that whole beef cuts be cooked to an internal temperature of not less than 145°F.

Ground Beef Safety and Handling

  • Ground beef should be defrosted in the refrigerator and never at room temperature.
  • Ground beef should be cooked as soon as possible after it is defrosted.
  • Ground beef patties should not be cooked unless they have thawed fully. A frozen or partially frozen patty will not cook evenly and the center will not cook to the proper temperature even though the outside may be completely cooked.
  • Ground beef must be cooked to an interior temperature of at least 160°F.
  • Ground beef should be purchased before or on the "sell by" date or "last date of sale" and then used within 2 days of purchasing.
  • It is recommended that ground beef dishes such as meatloaf be checked for doneness with a meat thermometer. This is especially important when the meat has been blended with dark sauces that can mask the color of the meat, making it difficult to determine if any pink color remains, which would indicate that the meat is not fully cooked.

Nutrition

  • Careful inspection of beef in the United States makes it safe to eat. Because of strict codes, there is little concern that beef provided to the consumer will be infected with animal diseases which may be harmful to humans.
  • When shopping for beef, look for "loin" and "round" in the names of the cuts because these tend to be the leanest.
  • Marbling refers to the bits of fat that are scattered throughout a cut of beef. The marbling helps to make the meat tender and flavorful, but it will not significantly increase the level of fat that is consumed, especially if the beef is cooked using low fat cooking methods and if the outer layers of fat are removed before cooking. (It is important to note that removing the outer layers of fat may make the meat a bit tougher after it is cooked).
  • Remove as much excess fat as possible to make the cut of beef as lean as possible. Although this may be desirable for people who want less fat in their diet, this will also make the beef a bit tougher after it is cooked. The fat can be removed after cooking, but some of it will melt and be absorbed into the meat during cooking.
  • Low fat cooking methods including broiling, grilling, steaming, stewing, braising, baking, and roasting, should be used for preparing beef.
  • When cooking beef in the oven, it is beneficial to place a rack in the pan or baking dish and place the beef on the rack so that fat can drain away from the beef.
  • Fat can be skimmed from the surface of beef soups, stews, and sauces before serving. Soups and stews can also be chilled to make the removal of fat easier because the fat will rise to the surface and congeal, allowing it to be removed in solid pieces.
  • Place cooked hamburger patties on paper towels and pat them with more paper towels to absorb as much of the excess grease as possible before serving.

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