Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Right Methods of Cooking Meat Properly

The Right Methods of Cooking Meat Properly

Few things are as frustrating as finding an excellent buy on meat, only to cook it improperly and have it inedible.  But delicious cuisine can be achieved by using the right cooking method for the cut of meat.  Below are some typical methods and some suggestions for which cuts of meat will work best. 

Dry Heat:  This method cooks food where heat is used without adding moisture.  It can involve short cooking times for small items (steaks and chops) or longer cooking times for larger pieces (roasts).  This process creates a “crust” on the outside of the meat, developing complex flavors and aromas.  Dry heat cooking uses very high temperatures (above 300°F/150°C), and is best for tender cuts of meat.  Some common methods of dry heat cooking are pan frying, roasting and grilling. 

Pan frying is used for small pieces of meat.  Delightful cuisine can be achieved with this method.  Steaks, like sirloin and porterhouse, and chicken breasts do well with this method, as do lamb chops (cut from the rib, not the shoulder, but more on that a little later).  To ensure good results, be sure your pan is hot enough before adding your food, and be sure not to crowd the pan to help maintain the high heat needed to sear quickly.  

Pan frying

Roasting is similar to pan frying.  It also uses high heat but takes place in the oven where the entire surface of the meat is exposed and cooks at the same time.  This method works well for larger cuts of meat that would take too long to cook in a pan.  Beef roasts cut from the upper section of the cow (like a standing rib roast), a loin of pork, whole chicken, turkey (either whole or breast), and leg of lamb are good examples of meats that will result in fine cuisine with this method.  


Grilling requires almost direct contact between the food and the heat source.  Nearly all meats that can be pan fried can also be grilled.  Just keep in mind that well marbled cuts of beef like T-bones and sirloin tend to hold their moisture and flavor better than lesser cuts when grilled.  Chicken breasts and pork chops can also do well on a grill.  Marinate them first or use an herb rub to created delightful cuisine with extra flavor.  As with pan frying, it’s always a good idea to ensure the grill is hot enough, and then use a rolled paper towel dipped in oil to grease the grill grate to keep meats from sticking.


Moist Heat:  This method uses lower temperatures than dry heat, generally between 140°F - 225°F (60°-140°C), and also incorporates some kind of liquid, like stock, wine or beer, in the process.  Because the meat is heated throughout, , it allows the food to cook more evenly.  Moist heat requires more time but will yield succulent, delicious cuisine.  Some common types of moist heat cooking include braising and stewing. 
Braising is used for older meats, like mutton or shoulder cut lamb chops.  Stewing is good for large batches of meat that contains a lot of connective tissue. Beef shins are a good example.  Using a dry heat method for these would result in something tough and flavorless.  However, searing quickly to form an outer crust, then continuing the process at a lower temperature with liquid for several hours will produce a full-flavored and tender result.  As the connective tissue breaks down, it thickens the liquid, making its own gravy.  Additionally, the meat absorbs the flavor of whatever it’s cooked in, adding to the delicious cuisine. 

Cuisine that incorporates the proper cooking methods will help ensure a delightful result.  

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