Recipe: Filet of beef with roasted vegetables, Parmesan and rocket
- Credit: Archant
Emma Crowhurst offers some tips on cooking beef
When choosing meat, your recipe will usually specify exactly what sort of cut or type of meat to buy. It can be daunting to go to a meat counter and to have ask for something, especially if you haven’t a clue what it should look like. Using a good butcher would be my first recommendation. They can tell you all about cuts of meat and what they should be used for. When choosing beef for quick cooking, such as for a barbecue or pan-frying, you need to decide how much to spend. Filet steak is quite expensive, sirloin and rib eye are both a little cheaper, and rump would be cheaper still.
All of these cuts are better served quite rare, as the juices in the meat are what keep it tender. The more cooked a steak is, the more dried out the fibres are. If you prefer meat well done, just cook until the juices are clear, rather than totally dried out.
There are several factors that affect the tenderness of a piece of meat.
The age of the animal obviously must be taken into account. The younger the animal, the less exercise it will have taken and therefore the more tender its meat will be.
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The other main factor is from where the meat is taken on the animal. Meat from parts of the body that do the most work, such as legs, neck and shoulder, will be tougher and have more connective tissue (which is the name for the structures that support muscles in meat). The more connective tissue a piece of meat has, the longer and slower the cooking time required.
The tougher cuts of meat can be cooked in ways to soften the connective tissue, so that it is not obvious when you eat the meat. This softening of the connective tissue is actually what gives a casserole its richness. When connective tissue breaks down, it releases gelatine, which gives soft, sticky tenderness.
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Long, slow, gentle cooking will break down the connective tissue, leaving a butter-soft consistency to the meat. Another benefit is usually a rich, delicious sauce that needs little or no finishing. It is often considered to be the case that the tougher cuts of meat have more flavour.