Meat for Dinner? Don’t Be Afraid!

It’s been a few weeks since we hugged out interns goodbye, signaling the end of summer and my cooking of weeknight suppers. The transition has been strange as I learn to cook for just myself each night. My eye for proportions is all askew, and I’m afraid I’m still having a hard time cooking for less than 25 people. Oh well, lots of leftovers…

I certainly learned a great deal this summer, and overcame many kitchen fears. As ironic as it may be to work at a livestock farm, I was incredibly insecure in early June when it came to cooking meat – especially large cuts. Armed with what I like to call The Meat Bible (The River Cottage Meat Book), I timidly turned its introductory pages, gearing myself up for memorizing difficult techniques and exact salt-to-water brine ratios. Yet what I read on page 28 gave me the most important lesson of all:

…knowing what good meat is, in the raw state, adds an extra dimension of pleasure to both your shopping and your cooking, because good meat is a pleasure to find, a pleasure to handle, and a pleasure to cook with. Get the good meat habit, and the sense of anticipation and excitement about what you are going to cook will always outweigh any anxiety that it might go horribly wrong. This is the confidence trick that means ninety-nine times out of one hundred that you will succeed triumphantly.

So I offer you a couple of principles to cooking grass-fed meat. This is by no means a full list – just some of the basics to help kickstart your adventures in grass-fed cooking. (And read all the way to the end, because I’m feeling gift-y and want to offer a comment contest!)

Grass-fed meats are leaner, and therefore need to be cooked more slowly, at lower temperatures.  Shannon Hayes, author of The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook, has developed a chart (and handy refrigerator magnet) for internal temperatures of grass-fed meats. Check it out here.

Brine your chicken – it’s worth every extra minute it takes (and it doesn’t take that much longer). Brining produces a very moist and well-seasoned bird. This is also a good idea for your Thanksgiving turkey.

Sear beef or pork cuts quickly in a pan (or at a high oven temperature) before settling down into your long term roasting temperature. This allows for a crust to form on the outside, locking in flavor and resulting in a moist and delicious final product. Another key? Letting the meat rest for 10-20 minutes after it comes out of the oven so the moisture can redistribute itself throughout the meat.

To find a farm near you that produces grass fed and pastured meats, check out

So let’s get the good meat habit together! My challenge to you this week is to obtain a cut of meat that you have never or rarely worked with before. Cook it, and leave me a comment on this post about how you did it and what the outcome was. I’ll choose a winner next Monday at 12 noon and post the winner on Tuesday’s blog. Be excited about what you are cooking and it will help you succeed triumphantly…Happy cooking!

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About Brie Aronson

Brie Aronson came to Polyface from southern California. During college, she was diagnosed with food allergies and had to begin asking about the source of every single thing she put in her mouth. This led to an interest in all things food and she sought out a way to learn how it can be produced ethically and sustainably. Her desire is to help people shift their focus from counting calories, being intimidated by their kitchens, and being disconnected from the land to one that experiences the life-giving enjoyment of food. Having completed the internship in summer 2010, she now assists with the buying clubs and sales building, leads school tours of the farm, and will be the summer 2012 farm cook.

12 Responses to Meat for Dinner? Don’t Be Afraid!

  1. Charles Borrego says:

    You’re up early this morning Brie… Great blog. I’ll be passing this along to my wife. Thanks!!!


  2. alan ireland says:

    PLease just keep doing all that you all do!

  3. Megan Volmer says:

    A few months ago I bought a grass fed beef quarter and have been enjoying it. Last night I cooked a sirloin tip roast. I have cooked many roasts, but usually cook them in the crock pot, but since this was a “good” roast I actually roasted in the oven. Went online and found a simple technique. 500 degrees for 10 min per pound and then turn the oven off and leave it for 10 min per pound. Threw in some red potatoes and just sprinkled some seasoning on top. (I had seared it.) It was very flavorful. My kids loved it.

  4. Cyndi Lewis says:

    Thank you for the tips on cooking grass-fed meat! Nothing is worse then ruining a good piece of meat!

  5. What a timely post! My hubby just got the first deer of the season and has spent quite a few hours cutting it up (finished that part last night, now he’s just got to pack them). Since we are somewhat used to eating every part of the animal (almost every), I think I’ve cooked every cut you can usually get, but I will look for a cut that I don’t cook often and report back. He really loves to cook it over a wood burning ceramic oven/grill. It is great for searing and then bringing back down to a lower temp to finish off. I just got the Family Cottage Cooking Book (I might be messing up the word order for the title) yesterday and I love it. I am excited to hear about their meat book too! Great post and great challenge idea!

  6. Angie says:

    I have a big family in Miami were I would have to cook for lots of people. Now I moved away from them and is it just my honey, his dog and me. after almost 5 years it is still hard to keep in mind I am not cooking for 50 people.. lol It seems to me it’s just easyer to cook for alot of people.. All I can say is freezer… :0)

  7. Joe Betgfeld says:

    I was watching a cooking show on grass fed beef. The host cooked beef shanks in a slow cooker for about 4-5 hours
    added the meat, along with some onion, garlic, water (half up the pot or crock pot). Take them out after 4-5 hours. Shred the meat with
    2 forks then put them in a frying pan and carmelize the meat a little. You can add Cumin and Oregano to give it a little mexican flair.
    Then add the meat to your favorite tortillas topped with cillantro, homemade salsa, and sour cream. Yummo!

  8. Leilani says:

    I am really enjoying the grass fed beef we put in the freezer this year but, you are right you have to learn different approaches to cooking it. Low and slow along with marinating in an olive oil mix and not adding salt until the end of the cooking process seems to make a huge difference.

  9. Jennifer says:

    Our family just butchered one of the two pigs we raised this year. We decided to do something a little different ; we saved the head. We removed the brains, eyes, and hair, brushed it’s teeth, split it and stuck it in a pot. Then we cooked it till the meat was falling off the bones, and picked the meat off the bones . We then added the meat back to the broth, thickened with cornmeal, seasoned it with salt, pepper and sage, and poured into bread pans.Twenty pounds of delicious scrapple! We’ll never throw away all that head meat again!

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  11. Jay says:

    Tips for cooking grass fed beef are always welcomed. When you cook it the right way it comes out so tasty and juicy. I just placed an order from the new catalog that La Cense Beef has. They have lots of tips also. You should check them out.