Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cheap Healthy Beef Part II: Beef Tips

For more information and recipes, check out Cheap Healthy Beef Part I: Recipes and Methodology.

First, "Hi!" to all the folks linking over from A Good American Wife. Blogmistress and fellow foodie Anne penned a super-nice post about CHG, for which I should give her many cupcakes. If you haven't seen AGAW yet, please check it out. The writing is aces and the recipes are to die for. (See: Rice and Eggs.)

Now - business. Yesterday, we set off on quest to find relatively inexpensive, lean cuts of bovine. Today, some tips to keep in mind:

PURCHASING

Know how to spot bum beef. This tip sheet from the Beef Council is a great resource, including who-knewisms like, “Fresh ground beef does go through a number of color changes during its shelf life,” and “Choose steaks, roasts and pot roasts that are firm to the touch, not soft.” I can only hope that, “Purchase before or on the ‘sell by’ date printed on the package label” is a given.

London broil is a preparation, not a cut of beef. Whenever you marinate, broil, and slice a steak across the grain, that’s London Broil. It’s a cooking method. However, supermarkets often call any slice-able steak (Top Round Steak, Chuck Shoulder Steak, etc.) a London Broil since it allows them to group inferior cuts of meat under the same name. For instance, according to Cook’s Illustrated, a Top Sirloin Steak will make for good London Broil, and a Chuck Shoulder Steak a not-so-good one.

A Flank Steak is rarely a Flank Steak. Flank Steaks are tender, flavorful cuts from the underside of the cow (the flank), and usually go for upwards of $5 or $6 per pound. But more often than not, grocery stores advertise a lesser cut of meat like Top Round Steak or Sirloin Tip Steak as Flank Steak. They’re fine on their own, but if you want the higher-quality Flank Steak, make sure that’s what’s on the label. Actually…

In general, beware of misleading labels. As highlighted by the Flank Steak/London Broil brouhaha, cheaper, less tasty cuts of meat are frequently labeled as more flavorful, expensive ones. Always check so you know what you’re buying.

PREPARATION

ALWAYS eat beef in moderation. In addition to its general deliciousness, beef is a decent source of zinc, iron, protein, vitamin B12, selenium, phosphorous, niacin, vitamin B6, and riboflavin. However, to stave off that heart attack, keep in mind that 12 ounces of beef is still 12 ounces of beef, no matter how lean the cut may be. Excess consumption has been tied to obesity, cancer, and a billion other problems.

Trim visible fat. Like chicken, the fat content of beef is greatly reduced when you cut off the globules you can see. Even if they’re left on for the cooking process, chopping ‘em later will help your heart.

Keep it clean. Beef is a Petri dish for food-borne illnesses. To reduce the chance of catching some exciting new strain of meatotchulism, soap your hands often, don’t let raw beef touch other foods, and wash cooking surfaces and utensils constantly. Oh, also …

Keep it cold. There are a thousand reasons for this (the foremost one being certain death), so I’ll again let the Beef Council explain the whys and hows of handling raw meat.

ADDITIONAL LINKS

Get Rich Slowly has a fantastic post about the benefits of buying meat in bulk.

Hillbilly Housewife tells us how to make our own leaner ground beef.
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