The Culinary Corner / What’s your beef?

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Welcome to my little corner of culinary delights.  Eating beef appears to be more popular in the U.S.A. than in any other country.

Unlike pork, there should be little if any fat over which to be concerned.  The fat issue with beef is to select a tender cut that is well marbled.  Marbling is the “lean to fat” yield ratio.  It suggests the amounts of internal fat interlaced with the meat.  Lower quality meats have less internal fat.  The objective in having this fat is to assure a juicier and tender steak or roast.  Unfortunately, your health may pay the price for this particular culinary delight.  There is also aged meat which adds a certain distinct quality.  But that goes beyond our present purpose.

The most tender cuts would be those muscles that are least active in the animal such as the loin and ribeye.  The more active muscles are therefore tougher and generally has a stronger flavor.  For those who have eaten game animals, such as wild duck or deer (venison), know of that difference.

Veal is the most tender and flavorful.  It comes from baby calves that had little chance to use their muscles.  Your dairy farms strive to sale as much milk and cream as possible.  In order for this, the cow must have a calf for the cow to start producing milk.  And then that calf is killed and slaughtered so it would not be consuming its mother’s milk.  Due to the limited supply, veal is very expensive.

Once the dairy cow can no longer produce, it is slaughtered.  Due to its age, the meat is tough and gristly.  It is therefore used in making dog food and similar products such as hamburger technically known as “forced meat”.  However, its bones and sinews are ideal for making beef stock and gelatin.  Older cows have less fat.  Therefore, fat trimmings and scrap from other slaughterhouses are shipped in and included with the ground hamburger meat.  How is your appetite for a quarter pounder® now?

Paying attention to the grading system is important.  But first learn what it is and how it works.  Maturity grading is measured in months and goes by letter ranking.  For example, “A” rating or “grade A” represents from 9 to 30 months of life.  “B” would be next and goes up to 42 months, “C” up to 72 months, “D” up to 96 months with “E” going on past that.  Naturally, the highest quality beef is grade A which is under 30 months of age.

Next to consider are the eight levels of quality grading.  In this category, we go by name description.  I shall give them in descending order of quality; Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner.  Some of these terms may be foreign to those unfamiliar with culinary procedures.  Prime beef is typically used in quality steakhouses.  Select grades and some Choice grades can be found in butcher shops and grocery stores.

Until next time, peace to all.