How to cook Meat: Pt. 1

In my search for goat meat, and then serving it up in a delicious manner, I came across a little flaw in my plan.

I didn’t have any idea on how to cook meat correctly.

One could see how that would be a problem. Sure I know how to pan fry, and can place meat chunks in a slow cooker with the best of the Betty Crocker Cookers. But I didn’t want that. (“Betty Crocker Cookers”, for those who do not know, are people who take a cake mix, add frosting, and think themselves a pastry chef…i.e. Deluded food combiners).

There are two basic subjects to take into consideration when cooking meat:

  • How to cook it
  • How to flavor it

Today, I discuss how to cook it, as how you cook meat directly influences how you are going to flavor it. So consider this entry Part 1 of a two part series.

There are only two methods in apply heat to any product: Dry methods and wet methods. Each of those have several sub-methods.

Dry Heat

Dry heat is best for tender cuts of meat.

Grilling – Direct heat: where food is placed directly over the heat source. Ideal for small cuts like kabobs, tenderloin, burgers and chops
Indirect heat: where food is placed on the grill rack away from the coals or gas burners, is good for large cuts like loin roasts, ribs, shoulder and fresh ham. Think of a spit with the meat contiually being rotated away from the heat source.

Broiling – Broiled meat cooked very close to a heating element. Broiling by direct heat in an oven is good for tender cuts that are thinner. It also can be used for less tender cuts, like top round steak or flank steak, that have been marinated to tenderize them.

The thicker the meat the farther from the broiler it should be cooked. For cuts 3/4- to 1-inch thick, cook 2 to 3 inches away; for cuts 1 to 2 inches thick, cook 3 to 4 inches from the heat.

Meat usually is turned once during broiling. Sautéing/Stir Frying – Coming from the French word “to jump,” as the food in the pan is supposed to sizzle (jump) as it cooks. When the skillet is hot, add enough oil or other cooking fat to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. Sautéing properly depends on the cooking fat forming a layer between the food and the pan, so make sure you use enough (but not too much).

Good for small bits of meat, and various fillets. Often used to deliver other flavors and ingredients. Panbroiling – Panbroiling is quick and easy and requires only one pan. A well-seasoned cast-iron pan is perfect for panbroiling because you need a pan that is thick enough so it doesn’t warp when you preheat it with no liquid in it. Add the meat and cook over medium to high heat, turning it once to sear each side, then turning more often if needed to finish cooking. You can use a baster or spoon to remove fat as it accumulates.

Only add a little fat or oil to pan if the meat you are cooking is lean (has little fat of its own). Otherwise, leave it liquid free. Also differs from sautéing in that the meat is the primary (if not, only) ingredient. Perfect for steaks, chops and fillets.

Roasting – This is sort of “baking” the meat. This is good for large cuts of meat from tender areas, such as beef top round roast, eye round roast, round tip roast and tenderloin roast as well as pork loin roasts, crown roasts and tenderloins. The meat is placed, fat side up, on a rack in an open pan. Roasts are never covered nor is liquid added. (When you “roast” a turkey in an oven bag or a covered roaster, it actually is steaming.) Im nay cases, the fat of the meat is rendered, allowing for more flavor.Roasting means an initial high heat, browning the meat, and then cooking at a lower heat.

Is there a difference between baking and roasting? Sort of. Baking means cooking in a hot oven with little or no browning. With roasting, the whole point is to get that deep, flavorful browning, which an initial blast of high heat provides.
Wet Heat
Wet Heat is best for non-tender cuts of meat. Which makes sense when you think about the etymology of recipes. The tougher parts of an animal were put in stews, or curries or other sauces in order to help, not only tenderize the meat, but to add a specific flavor to cover up the lack of taste the initial cut of meat undoubtedly had.

Braising – Braising is a cooking method usually used for tougher cuts of meat, such as pot roasts, rumps, shanks and ribs. After panbroiling the cuts of meat (hopefully cut roughly the same size) until brown, liquid is added (in the form of stock, wine or a combiantion thereof) until it reaches about halfway up the sides of meat, and then placed in the oven, of covered and simmered on the stovetop.

Stewing – Made with smaller cuts of tough meat, it covered completely with a liquid of choice and cooked until the meat is tender. Different types of stew require different steps.

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What it boils down to (boils….get it?) is this: Cooking meat properly hinges on one important concept – Cook less tender cuts with moist cooking methods and more tender cuts with dry cooking methods.


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