Love a perfectly cooked steak, burger, or roast every so often? Here are a handful of truths that will lead you to consistently better beefing.
Fair warning, this is not a comprehensive guide to everything you will ever need to know about buying, preparing, and enjoying beef. The cow is a large—and glorious—animal, and there’s no quick-trick, listicle shortcut to fully understanding all that is beef. But I recently got to talking with my brother in beef enthusiasm (and truly, a master of meats on a level most of us only dream of someday reaching), Cooking Light’s Senior Editor Tim Cebula, and we agreed that even if you don’t know everything, knowing a few select somethings can make a major impact on how you live your best beef life. Thus, here are 5 general truths about beef that we believe everyone should know in order to make informed beef choices. Because knowledge is power… your beef, your choice.
1. Not everything that’s labeled “steak” at the grocery store should be treated like… a steak.
You will find a number of pieces of meat in the beef case of your local supermarket that have “steak” in their title, but not all “steaks” are akin to the cuts you’d typically order from a steakhouse menu. Some of these steak cuts need a little more love and attention to get them to an enjoyably tender place; for example, you wouldn’t want to approach preparing an eye of round steak like you would a NY strip. Unless you have fangs.
So, if you’re looking for the super succulent beef experience that doesn’t require much effort (the kind a most of us think of when we hear the word “steak”), you’ll want to look for these cuts: tenderloin steak (A.K.A filet mignon), ribeye steak (A.K.A. Delmonico), porterhouse steak (A.K.A. T-bone), or New York strip steak (A.K.A. top sirloin). These are all examples of steaks that are simple and quick to prepare by searing in a screaming hot cast-iron skillet.
The meat is passing from rare into medium-rare when juices begin to bead up and pool on the surface of the meat as it’s cooking. When the juices collect to the point that they start to run off the meat and sizzle and hiss on the pan (or the grill), it’s headed into medium territory.
3. Slow roasting (at temperatures ranging from 225° to 275°) is a mind-blowing, life-changing technique for big cuts like top or bottom round and rib roasts.
Slow roasting is also the absolute only way to make eye of round palatable. This is a great technique for creating a super succulent roast beef situation with a less expensive cut than beef tenderloin. The end result is a perfectly juicy roast that’s done to perfection from end to end, without any nasty dry, gray edges you’ll get from higher-heat roasting.
4. Salt your steaks well before cooking.
I’m talking 2-12 hours before your meat hits the heat. This way, the beef absorbs the salt as in a dry brine, and the flavor penetrates to the inside of the beef.
5. Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.