Most of us are accustomed to eating beef from cattle finished on grain. The finishing process builds up intramuscular fat and can result in tasty, fat-marbleized meat. But many of Washington’s small and medium-scale cattle ranches finish their cattle on forage and pasture, resulting in a much leaner beef with lower levels of fat and cholesterol. And this leaner meat requires a different approach to cooking.
Here are a few tips from 3 Sisters Cattle Company and the American Grassfed Association to achieving the best results with pasture-fed beef.
- Because the meat has less fat, it could use a little cooking oil for frying or grilling.
- Sear the beef over a high heat on a grill or stovetop skillet to seal in its juices, then proceed with a lower temperature to finish grilling, frying, or roasting.
- Cuts like steaks are less forgiving. Those from pasture-fed cattle are best prepared rare or medium-rare. The steaks also require about a third less cooking time than conventional beef. Remove the meat from the heat source when it is about 10 degrees from your goal temperature and (as with most steaks and roasts) cover and let rest for up to 10 minutes. That will allow the meat to finish cooking through and the juices to redistribute, providing a moist and more tender product.
- If you prefer your meat well done, then low and slow is your motto. Consider cooking your meat in a slow cooker—with a sauce to add moisture.
- When making burgers with very lean ground beef, consider making additions compensate for the lack of fat. Try diced up peppers or caramelized onions to add moisture. The leaner burgers will also require about a third less cooking time, so keep an eye on them.
- Turn the meat with a spatula or tongs. A fork would pierce the meat and let precious juices escape.
- Steer clear of the microwave for defrosting or cooking. The result will be one tough steak.
Read more about 3 Sisters Cattle Company and grassfed beef in “A Cattle Drive“