Several years ago, consumers often paid more and ended up with tough and bland cuts. This left some negative connotations for the grass-fed beef industry. It turns out that it is likely that these sub-par cuts came from inexperienced farmers.
This is what you need to know to make sure you get the most flavorful and tender grass-fed beef .
- Mature cattle
- Most cattle spend their first months consuming predominantly grass and mother’s milk. After that, grain-fed cattle are fed grain to speed weight gain, allowing them to be slaughtered at 18-20 months. Grass-fed cattle allow their cattle to roam freely, only grazing on grass and are slaughtered between 20-28 months. These extra months are what make the most difference in the flavor.
- Older cows mean more fat marbling and rich color that adds to the flavor.
- The right breed
- Make sure the producer has chosen cattle that are meant to roam continuously, grazing the fields. Certain cattle are bred to flourish on grass alone. (British versus European breeds).
- This free movement, continuous greenery, fresh air, and sunlight adds to the rich and earthly flavor of the meat.
- Grass-fed only
- Watch out for the dubious spins some producers put on the labels. Pasture raised, for example, means they start of grass-fed (as they all do) but are grain finished. This is no different than grain-fed beef – other than they may have a little more room to roam.
- How it is prepared
- Follow the same recipes for mature grass-fed steaks cook as you would conventional well-marbled ones.
- Whether fresh or previously frozen – bring the meat to room temperature and pat dry before cooking. This way the pan doesn’t cool when the meat makes contact.
- Keep it simple and allow the natural flavors of the beef to come out. No oil or butter needed; as the steak hits the heat, the fat begins to melt, coating the mean and the pan. Just a slight dusting of sea salt and you are all set.
- Sear in a hot pan. The hotter the pan, the faster the sear. Be sure sear both sides plus the edges – this ensure the juices stay inside. Good rule of thumb is 1 minute each side and then about 2 minutes searing the edges.
- Turn off the heat and allow the meat to sit about 2 minutes per side. Depending on the thickness this can vary; check the temperature to determine if it is cooked to your liking (rare, medium, well-done).
- Put on cutting board and cover with hot pan (preferably cast iron) while the meat rests for another 5-10 minutes so the juices can redistribute.
- Reputable farm
- Make sure you purchase from a reputable farm or butcher who can provide all the information you need on how the cattle was raised and recommend a cut that is right for you.