Last Updated on January 27, 2023 by Nazmin Sarker
In one form or another, meat appears on the table in most homes at least once a day, providing good nutrition for every member of the family.
Recognizing the cuts that come from each animal and knowing the best way to cook them is very important. But as the same cuts from animals of variant quantity will vary in tenderness, it is equally necessary to be able to judge the quality of the meat itself.
USDA marks: USDA marks: All fresh meat sold across state lines bears a notice mark with the legend “U.S. inspected and passed” significant that the meat is wholesome, was processed under a sanitary setting, and is correctly labeled.
This stamp is applied only to large wholesale cuts, so it may not appear on smaller cuts packaged for retail sale. Meat that does not cross state borders may sometimes carry the inspection stamp of a state government agency.
USDA grade stamps, in the form of a small shield, indicate the quality of beef, veal, and lamb, e.g. prime, the top grade, usually sold to restaurants, and choice, the quality most widely available. Prime and choice are considered to be high-quality grades, but certain choice cuts may be less tender than others because of the wide range of cuts in this grade.
USDA good, a lower grade sometimes found in supermarkets, is leaner and often less juicy than higher-grade meat. Grades are usually not marked for pork since much pork, such as ham or sausage, carries a packer’s brand.
HOW MUCH MEAT TO BUY
If the meat is boneless, plan on ¼ to ⅓ pounds per serving. If it has a little bone, allow ⅓ to ½ pounds per serving. If very bony, allow ½ to 1 pound per serving. Plan to have extra servings ready for hearty appetites.
Refrigerate pure meat as soon as possible after purchase in the meat portion or in the coldest period of the refrigerator. Store prepackaged meat in its original wrapping and use it within 2 days, or freeze it and use it within 1 or 2 weeks.
For longer freezer storage, overwrap the package with freezer wrap. If the meat has not been prepackaged, remove market wrapping paper, rewrap the meat loosely in waxed paper or foil (tightly in the case of variety and ground meats), and refrigerate.
Use ground beef, stew meat, and a variety of meats within 1 or 2 days, and other meats within 2 days. Frozen meat should be placed in the freezer or freezer compartment of your refrigerator as soon after purchase as possible.
Only freeze meat that is fresh and in top condition. Cut large pieces into meal-size portions. Trim excess fat from cuts and, wherever practical, remove bones to conserve freezer space.
Enough chops, steaks, or patties and small cuts such as short ribs for a single meal may be packaged together, with foil, plastic wrap, or a double thickness of waxed paper different slices, so that they will be easy to several while still frozen.
Ground meat should not be seasoned before freezing (freezing intensifies flavors and hastens rancidity); simply shape it into patties or divide it into amounts required for meat loaves or other recipes. Freeze gravy and stuffings separately from cooked meat.
Wrap the meat tightly in freezer wrap; label with the name of cut, weight or number of servings, and date, and freeze as quickly as possible, at -10°F. or lower. Keep frozen meat at 0°F. or lower and use within recommended storage period.
There are six basic ways of cooking meat. Most tender cuts are best cooked by dry heat: roasted or cooked on a rotisserie, broiled or grilled, pan-broiled or pan-fried. Less tender cuts should be cooked slowly in moist heat: braised or pot-roasted, or cooked in liquid. We give correct cooking methods for each cut throughout the part.
Roasting: Preheat over to 325°F. for most meats. Season meat if desired and place fat side up on the rack in open roasting pan. In some roasts (e.g. pork loin, standing rid roast), bones form a natural rack. Insert meat thermometer (page 188) and roast meat to the desired degree of doneness.
Roasts continue to cook after they are removed from the oven, so you may wish to stop cooking when the thermometer reads about 5 degrees below reading for the degree of doneness desired.
Cooking on a rotisserie: This is also a form of roasting. As with other dry-heat methods, low to moderate temperatures should be used. Meat cuts should be as uniform in shape and thickness as possible.
Insert the spit through the center of the roast lengthwise, fastening the meat securely so that it does not slip. Test for level by rotating the sputter in the palms of your hands. Insert the meat thermometer.
If it does not stay securely in position, after the approximate roasting time, stop the rotisserie, insert the thermometer and read the temperature. Following the manufacturer’s directions, cook the meat to the desired degree of doneness.
Meat cooked on a rotisserie is self-basting, but it may be basted occasionally for added flavor and color. Sweet basting sauces should not be applied until the last half-hour of cooking.
Broiling or grilling: Steaks and chops should be at least ¾ inch thick, and ham slices at least ½ inch thick. Trim excess fat from meat and slash the edge of fat at 2-inch intervals so it won’t curl during broiling. Preheat the broiler if the manufacturer directs, or prepare coals.
Rub the broiling pan rack with a piece of fat trimmed from the meat. Place the meat on the rack, then place the pan in the broiler. Steaks, chops, and patties ¾ to 1 inch thick should be 2 to 3 inches from the heat; cuts 1 to 2 inches thick should be 3 to 5 inches from the heat.
Broil meat until the top is browned (lightly browned for cured and smoked pork). Season top if desired (ham and bacon will not need seasoning) and with tongs, turn the meat. Broil until the desired degree of doneness; cut a slit near the bone and check the color to test doneness.
Pan-broiling: The meat cut should be no more than 1 inch thick and it will take about half as long as if broiled in the broiler. Place meat in an unheated heavy skillet or on a griddle. Most meats have enough fat to prevent sticking.
However, if the meat is very lean, the pan may first be brushed lightly with fat or rubbed with a piece of fat trimmed from the meat. Over medium-low to medium heat, cook meat slowly, turning occasionally. Pour off fat as it accumulates so that meat does not fry. Brown meat on both sides.
Pan-frying: In a skillet, over medium to medium-high heat, using a little hot salad oil or other fat if necessary, brown the meat on both sides. (Add a little salad oil only if the cut is low in fat, such as liver, or if meat is coated with flour or bread crumbs.)
Season, if desired, and continue cooking over medium-low to medium heat, turning occasionally, until done. Do not cover, or crispness will be lost. Serve meat at once.
Braising: In a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat in a little hot salad oil or fat melted from meat, brown the meat on all sides; spoon off drippings. Season meat and add a little liquid if needed.
Less tender cuts require liquid; tender ones, such as pork chops, may not. Cover the pan tightly to keep in the steam and simmer the meat over low heat or at a preheated 325°F. to 350°F. oven until fork-tender.
Cooking in liquid: Large cuts: In a large, heavy saucepot, over medium-high, brown meat on all sides to develop flavor and color. (Corned beef and other cured meats are not browned.) Add hot or cold liquid to cover the meat; season, if desired.
Over high heat, heat liquid to boiling; reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer (don’t boil) until the meat is fork-tender. Add any vegetables just long enough before the meat is done to cook them. If meat is to be served cold, chill it in the cooking liquid in the refrigerator to improve juiciness and flavor and reduce shrinkage.
Stewing: For a browned stew, in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, in a little hot salad oil, brown the pieces of meat on all sides, a few at a time, removing them as they brown. Meat may be coated with flour before browning.
When all pieces are browned, return the meat to the pan. For a light stew, omit flouring and browning. Add hot or cold liquid just to cover the meat. Season, if desired; cover and simmer (don’t boil) until the meat is fork-tender.
Add any vegetables just long enough before the meat is done to cook them. When done, remove both meat and vegetables to a warm dish and keep it hot: if desired, thicken the remaining liquid to make a gravy or sauce. Serve the gravy over the meat and vegetables or pass it in a gravy boat.
Meat tenderizers: These are derivatives of natural food-tenderizing agents found in some tropical fruits which soften meat tissue only while the meat is cooking. Be sure to follow the directions on the label: don’t use more and don’t leave it on longer than the label recommends, or the meat surface might become mushy.
Also, don’t use it on naturally tender cuts, such as sirloin steak, or on beef tendered with papain. Mechanical methods: Grinding makes the meat tender, as does “cubing,” which breaks down the connective tissue by machine. Pounding meat, as directed in some recipes, achieves the same results.
Beef “tendered with papain”: This is a scientific commercial process that utilizes protein derivatives from such fruits as papaya (papain). The tendering develops only as the beef cooks, making it possible to cook more beef cuts with dry heat, and shortening the cooking time for those cuts that must be cooked by moist heat.
Aging: This improves the tenderness of some beef cuts. At the storage plant, beef is hung for a specified time, in rooms with controlled temperatures and humidity.
Marinating: Soaking meat, particularly in acid mixtures such as lemon juice or vinegar, tenderizes the meat and adds flavor. Often herbs and spices are included in marinades.
USING A MEAT THERMOMETER
For meats that are roasted in an open pan, insert the thermometer so that its point is centered on the thickest part of the meat. Make sure that it is not resting on bone or in fat, or it will not register the correct temperature.
If necessary, pierce the meat with a skewer first to make the insertion of the thermometer easier.
When roasting frozen meat, insert a thermometer about halfway through the roasting period, when meat is partially thawed (check first with a skewer).
For rotisserie cooking, the dial type of thermometer is recommended. Insert it at a slight angle or through the end of the roast halfway between the spit and the surface of the meat, making sure that its point is not resting on bone or fat, or touching the spit.
Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness accurately. Some dial types, left, have short stems for rotisserie cooking.
Remove the cooked meat and any vegetables to a warmed platter; keep warm while making gravy.
For roasts: Into a 2-quart saucepan, measure ¼ cup fat from the roasting pan (or use butter or margarine). Pour 1 cup water or bouillon into the roasting pan; stir to loosen the brown bits in the bottom of the pan.
Into fat in a saucepan over medium heat, stir ¼ cup all-purpose flour; cook, stirring constantly until brown. Slowly stir in liquid from the roasting pan; add 1 cup water and heat to boiling, stirring until thickened.
If you like, add the bottled sauce for gravy to make a rich color; add salt and pepper to taste. (Makes 2 cups.)
For pan-fried meat: In a skillet over medium heat, in ¼ cup hot drippings (or butter or margarine), cook ¼ cup all-purpose flour until brown.
Gradually stir in 2 cups water, milk, or bouillon; heat to boiling, stirring until thickened. If you like, add bottle sauce for gravy to make a rich brown color; add salt and pepper to taste. (Make 2 cups.)
For pot roasts and braised meat: Spoon fat from pan liquid; measure liquid and heat. For each cup of liquid, in cup, blend 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour with ¼ cup water; stir into simmering liquid and cook, stirring, until thickened. Season if needed.
For stews: Thicken gravy as for pot roasts but use only 1 tablespoon of flour for each cup of liquid.
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