My Secrets to Success with Grassfed Meats
Grassfed meat is far healthier than factory meat, and has been one of the most valued foods of humanity for uncounted thousands of years. It is rich in nutrients, easy to digest, and can help the body recover from all kinds of injuries and illnesses.
Yet, when you speak of grassfed meat, most Americans think it is far inferior to “corn-fed” meat. And most Americans think it is tough and not very tasty.
Is grassfed meat tough? If you cook it wrong, it is tough. And if you cook it wrong, it will not taste very good.
But the secret is that properly cooked grassfed meat is not only tender, but much more delicious than “corn-fed” meat, or any factory meat. Once you realize that grassfed meat is different and should be cooked differently, you are on the path to enjoying the most delicious and nutritious meat you have ever tasted.
As the author of two cookbooks devoted to cooking grassfed meat, I know this is true.
Here are a few tips:
The Fatter the Better
Grassfed meat is much leaner than factory meat. Yet the best grassfed meat has some marbling, tiny flecks of white fat that can be seen in the meat. Grassfed fat is full of vital nutrients, such as omega-3s and CLA, and makes the meat more tender and delicious. I always buy the fattest, most heavily marbled grassfed meat I can find. Our ancestors did the same.
Leave the Fat On
Because we live in a society that has a phobia created by skilled marketers about animal fat, most butchers and processors will trim all fat off meat as a matter of course. This is a true shame, because a good cap of fat on roasts and steaks was prized by our ancestors. This healthy fat bastes the meat as it cooks, making it tender and delicious.
Buy Only One Hundred Percent Grassfed and Grass Finished Meat
This is a matter of some controversy, because finishing meat on grain is so accepted in our culture, and because a number of traditional farmers would let their cows graze on the grain stubble left on the fields after harvest. Many people, even in the real food movement, believe that beef is better if the cattle are finished on grain for a couple of weeks, or longer.
I respectfully disagree. Properly cooked grassfed meat tastes much better to me and is just as tender, if not more so, than any grain finished meat. Grain feeding leaves an aftertaste that I do not like, while the rich flavors of meadow plants and green living grass are something I completely enjoy and cherish.
By one hundred percent grassfed, I mean that the animal be fed on nothing but green living grass when the weather permits, and dried grass, or hay, when grazing is not possible. To get this kind of meat, you must take the trouble to know where it comes from, and how it is raised. But this trouble is truly worth the bother.
Buy the Meat at the Right Time of Year
Grass is particularly rich and green and full of nutrients at a particular time of the year, when the weather and conditions are right. Meat from cattle that has been fattened on rich green grass at the right time of the year is much fatter, more tender, and more flavorful. Every real grassfed rancher knows when their meat is best, and some of them only process their meat at this peak time. That is the ideal time to buy a large quantity, and freeze it. Because grassfed meat is not fed factory feed, this matters very much. Some producers are fortunate enough to have rich green grass for most of the year, but most are not.
Cook It at Room Temperature
Grassfed meat is much more tender if it is at cool room temperature before you cook it. Meat taken straight from the refrigerator is too cold, and cooking cold meat often results in tough meat. Of course, you have to pay attention to where you are, as meat can warm up very quickly in a hot, tropical climate.
The meat should be cool to the touch, not cold, not warm.
Some health authorities warn against letting meat warm up to room temperature, so the choice is yours. Personally, neither I nor anyone I have cooked for has ever had a problem from this.
Do Not Marinate Grassfed Meat in Large Amounts of Wine or Vinegar
I have found that using too much wine or vinegar in marinades actually toughens grassfed meat. I learned this from a cook from Georgia, the nation in the Caucasus which is famous for its grilled meats.
This is puzzling, as many old recipes call for marinating meat in large amounts of wine and/or vinegar. However, most of these recipes are for stews or pot roasts, where the toughening effect is much milder. My research has also convinced me that these liquids, which preserve food, were used in these marinades to actually preserve the food.
Marinate Grassfed Meat in Fat-Based Marinades
If you do not marinate grassfed meat in wine or vinegar, what do you marinate it in? For our ancestors, the answer was simple—traditional fats. Using the right kind of traditional fat to marinate grassfed meat can make the meat tender and delicious. Unless the meat is very well marbled, grassfed meat is best with a traditional marinade, though this is not necessary for slow-cooked dishes such as stews and pot roasts.
Turn Down the Heat
Factory meat is full of water, much more so than grassfed meat. This means that high, direct heat is often used to cook factory meat as a way to deal with the water and to concentrate the weak, blah flavors of this kind of meat.
Grassfed meat is much denser, has much less water, and toughens greatly when cooked with direct high heat. Medium heat may not work for factory meat, but is great for grassfed meat.
When It Comes to Stews and Pot Roasts, Cook It Low and Slow
Stews and pot roasts are two of the most delicious ways to enjoy grassfed meat. Grassfed stews and pot roasts are at their tender, flavorful best when cooked slowly for a long time, until a fork easily penetrates the meat. This ancient test for doneness is foolproof. When the fork goes in easily, the meat will be at its peak of delicious flavor.
Properly cooked grassfed meat is the most delicious and nourishing food on the planet, in my opinion. I never tire of it, as the taste of meat from every producer is somewhat different, as the grass and meadow plants are different in various areas, giving a wonderful variety of tastes.
These are only some of the many tips I have learned in cooking grassfed meat. My cookbooks, Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue, are full of recipes, marinades, and more tips designed specifically for grassfed meat
Stan Fishman is the author of Tender Grassfed Meat. His book describes in detail how to cook grassfed beef, grassfed bison, and grassfed lamb. The book follows the nutritional principles of Dr. Weston A. Price, and uses only the best natural ingredients. The book can be purchased through Amazon.com. Hear Stanley on Livin LaVida Lowcarb radio podcast.