I certainly don’t intend on teaching you how to cook meat; at least that is not a major objective of this article. I aim at bringing safe practices in preparing meat as internationally acceptable while highlighting the different ways of preparing your protein in order to preserve it’s nutritional and palatial integrity. I also want to bring to lime light the various alternatives to frying for weight watchers, CVD patients and Diabetics. I hope you enjoy it cos the topic alone makes my mouth water. Let’s get started:
Why is beef called a “red” meat?
Oxygen is delivered to muscles by the red cells in the blood. One of the proteins in meat, myoglobin, holds the oxygen in the muscle. The amount of myoglobin in animal muscles determines the color of meat. Beef is called a “red” meat because it contains more myoglobin than chicken or fish. Other “red” meats are veal, lamb, and pork.
Iridescent Color of Roast Beef
Sliced cooked beef or lunch meat can have an iridescent color. Meat contains iron, fat, and many other compounds. When light hits a slice of meat, it splits into colors like a rainbow. There are also various pigments in meat compounds which can give it an iridescent or greenish cast when exposed to heat and processing. Iridescent beef isn’t spoiled necessarily. Spoiled cooked beef would probably also be slimy or sticky and have an off-odor.
Meat and poultry may carry E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Toxoplasmosis, Trichinella spiralis, and Listeria. Fish and seafood may carry Vibrio cholerae and hepatitis A. Thorough cooking is required to kill these disease-causing agents. The only way to know if meat is thoroughly cooked is to take the temperature of the meat.
According to USDA, “A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal pre
Fish should be cooked until it reaches 145°F at its thickest point. It should be opaque and flaky when tested with a fork. Raw shrimp should turn pink. Lobster should turn bright red.
The length of to achieve these temperatures will depend on:
A. The amount of meat and the size of the pieces being cooked.
B. Whether the meat is cooked from the fresh, thawed or frozen state.
C. The cooking method (frying, roasting, boiling).
D. Type of equipment used for cooking (oven, crock pot, stew pot, grill).
E. Additional ingredients cooked with the meat (potatoes, stuffing, etc.).
Other points to keep in mind to cook meat safely include:
I.) Turn meat over at least once during grilling.
II.) Reheat pre-cooked meat to 165°F.
III.) If you cook meat from frozen state, add 10-20 minutes cooking time per pound.
IV.) Never brown or partially cook meat and then refrigerate.
V.) Precooked ham should reach 140°F.
Never brown or partially cook beef to refrigerate and finish cooking later because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed. It is safe to partially pre-cook or microwave beef immediately before transferring it to the hot grill to finish cooking.
For safety, the USDA recommends cooking hamburgers and ground beef mixtures such as meat loaf to 160 °F (71.1 °C) as measured with a food thermometer. Cook all organ and variety meats (such as heart, kidney, liver and tongue) to 160 °F (71.1 °C).
Cook all raw beef beef and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F (62.8 °C) as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
For approximate cooking times for use in meal planning. Times are based on beef at refrigerator temperature—40 °F (4.4 °C). Remember that appliances and outdoor grills can vary in heat. Use a food thermometer to check for safe cooking and doneness of beef.
An important part of the process is allowing your beef to rest for up to ten minutes before serving (depending on size). Some experienced chefs recommend letting your beef rest for half the time it was over a flame.Resting is necessary because at temperature the muscle fibres have tightened and are unable to retain their juices. A beef straight off the heat and cut open will instantly lose all its juices.If you allow the beef to cool for a few minutes, then the muscle fibres relax, hold the juices better and you end up with a much more flavorful beef.
ALWAYS let your meat come to room temperature before doing anything to it. Then, salt and pepper it and let it stand at least 40 minutes before cooking, or cook it immediately.
The two cooking types:
dry heat and wet heat
There are lots of different ways of cooking beef. But they all boil down to two main types of cooking: dry heat, and wet heat.
Usingdry heat is the best way to cook beef and other tender cuts of meat. Dry heat cooking causes the exterior of the meat to brown and caramelize which gives the steaks a richly browned complex flavor. This is partly a result of the sugars inherent in the meat going through a series of complex reactions called the “Maillard reaction.” The moisture on the surface of the meat also evaporates and the juices becomes concentrated, forming the appealing brown crust.The second thing that happens is that the beef loses its moisture. It evaporates from the surface first, and then the moisture from the inside moves outward. This gives the meat a more concentrated flavor. Unfortunately, losingtoo muchmoisture can make your beef pretty dry. So be careful not to overcook it!
Grill:This tends to be the method of choice for meat-lovers. Make sure your barbecue is piping hot (at least 450 degrees F). Pour a little olive oil on a paper towel or a small brush and rub the grill slats before you lay the steak down. Once it’s on thegrill, reduce the heat to medium and keep the lid down (and quit peeking!) After4-5 minutes, it’s time to turn the steak over and let it go another 4-5 minutes on the other side.
Oven Roasting:This cooking method takes place in an open pan in the oven without liquid. Lower oven temperatures result in less moisture loss, producing higher yields. Some very tender cuts with less connective tissue can be roasted at higher temperatures with juicy, flavorful results: tenderloin, rib and ribeye.
Stand Time: Since the internal temperature of a roast continues to rise after cooking, it’s best to remove the roast from the oven when the thermometer registers 5°F to 10°F below the desired doneness. Roasting illustrates how the protein denaturing process can sometimes be reversed. If a roast is immediately carved after removing from the oven a substantial amount of juice is squeezed out and lost. But when the roast is allowed to stand for 15 to 20 minutes, the proteins are able to reabsorb some of the moisture that was released during heating, producing a firmer, juicier, easier to carve roast.
NOTE: Frying is a method grouped under this, but I won’t expantiate on it, purposely, for the sole reason of its health demerits.
Cooking with ‘wet heat’ is a process where food is cooked by being placed into a hot liquid or exposed to steam. Wet cooking methods are excellent at softening tough fibers in foods. The moist heat improves tougher cuts of meats like a beef chuck, shank or brisket, highly fibrous vegetables like collard greens or pea pods andlegumeslike beans and lentils.Wet heat is also a low-fat cooking method because little or no added fat is needed.
Braising is great for cooking tough yet flavourful ingredients.Braising happens in two steps.First, you use dry heat to brown food. Second, add a small amount of liquid at low heat to make it more tender.The liquid slowly cooks the food, developing deep flavour while breaking down tough fibers.Cook foods until they are “fork-tender” meaning you can pierce them with a fork.
People often think of boiled foods as overcooked and having little nutrition.However, boiling can be desirable in some cases and is a faster way of cooking foods compared with dry heat. When boiling foods, it’s important to cook them at a full boil.This means you should see lots of big bubbles forming quickly in the liquid.
Steaming uses moisture from a small amount of boiling or simmering water to cookfood.Tosteam foods, do not place them directly in water.Instead, put food on a rack or a steamer basket and place this over the liquid.Put a lid on the pot to help trap in the moisture. Steaming is a better choice than boiling or poaching when you are trying to keep the food’s flavour, shape and texture. Cooked foods also lose fewer nutrients when they are steamed.Steaming does not require any added fat, so it’s a low-fat and easy way to prepare any kind of food. Steam with your favourite vegetables and then add freshly squeezed lemon juice to bring out the flavour.
Poaching cooks food gently in liquid at a temperature below the boilingpoint.Topoach foods, add water or broth and heat until the liquid starts to steam but before it starts to boil.Try poaching delicate foods like seafood in thistea poached salmon made with fruit salsaor white-meat poultry (chicken or turkey breast). This is an excellent technique to make sure foods do not overcook before the inside is done.
Simmering uses a low temperature to gently cook foods.Bring the liquid to a low temperature until tiny bubbles just begin to form at the surface of the liquid.Keep a close eye to make sure the temperature remains at a low heat to prevent larger bubbles from forming, as this will result in boiling. This is a good cooking method for tough meats, because it tenderizes the meat while creating a flavourful broth like thisveggie and beef noodle bowl. Simmering is also a great way to tenderize meats for stews and chowders, like thischicken and corn chowder.