STEAKS IS HIGH
Since the first product that SlopPress created was a Steaks Is High apron I felt it would be only fitting that my first major article would be about beef. So my aim here would be to provide comprehensive information from gate to plate about our bovine friend.
You Are What You Eat
In general grass feeding results in a stronger tasting product than grain feed. Plants are filled with poly unsaturated fatty acids and chlorophyll which help the meat taste and smell better.
Age and Exercise
Exercise does the body good but is also bad for your meat. Exercise results in a greater portion of red fibers which makes the meat more flavourful however exercise also makes the meat a lot tougher. So there is a tradeoff, generally you rather have tender piece of meat then a tough brick with flavour. A clear example of this is how the parts of the cow that get more exercise like the legs, and shoulders are much tougher than areas that get less exercise such as the loin and the ribs.
Nowadays, cows are raised to be slaughtered for meat. They are often fattened up at a feed lot, confined in small spaces to reduce physical activity and slaughtered before they reach 30 months (a cow takes about 2 years to reach adulthood).
People often admire the marbling of their steak but do they know what they are talking about. Marbling refers to the intramuscular fat or the white fat tissues in the red matrix of muscle. Fat is what makes the meat tender. Fats weaken the connective tissue, they melt when heated rather than drying out and they lubricate the tissue. Without fat the meat becomes dry and tough. When heated the fats melt and are transformed into very pleasant smelly molecules that help give beef that unique taste.
Number One Stunner
When an animal dies rigor mortis kicks in and the enzymes in the meat start attacking other cells and turn them into small flavorful molecules. In general beef is killed using a captive bolt pistol (think about that device Javier Bardem used in No Country For Old Men). This device strikes the cow in the forehead to stun the animal in order to prevent pain and suffering of the animal. This stunning reduces the stress put on the animal which results in less lactic acid build up and better flavour. Lactic acid is a bad thing that lowers enzyme activity and causes fluid loss.
We hear it all the time, dry aged beef, but what does that mean. Beef is one of the only meats that benefit from aging. The aging results in a slow chemical change in which the meat becomes more flavourful and tender. Dry aged beef is when the meat is kept at 1-3 degrees Celcius with a humidity of 70-80%. The humidity level allows the meat to lose moisture gradually, and the controlled cold temperature minimizes the growth of bacteria. Dry aged beef is also hung so the gravity can assist in stretching the muscles which help keep the meat tender. This takes up more real estate in the facility and takes more time but results in a much more expensive and therefore a less readily available product.
Wet aged is the normal practice where meat is cut up, packaged and shipped to market. This meat is kept in plastic wrap where the enzymes do their thing creating flavour molecules but not to the extent that dry age process does.
Home Sweet Home
You still have a chance at home to age your beef. Storing your beef in your fridge days before you need it will allow those enzymes to create those desireable flavour crystals. Here is how Shirley Corriher author of the book Cookwise states how to store your beef.
Place the unwrapped meat on a rack over a dish that is lined with a paper towel and leave uncovered for 2 to 7 days in your refrigerator, which is between 2.2 degrees C and 4.4 degrees C. It will turn dark and the surface will dry out. When you are ready to cook cut away the dried surface area.
If you are freezing your steaks, I like to put them on a cookie sheet and stick them in the freezer. The next day or when frozen if earlier I ll take them out and wrap them up in 2 layers of plastic wrap and in a zip lock bag to prevent freezer burn. Putting your steaks on a cookie sheet allows your steaks to freeze faster, preserving the quality of the steak. This is similar to what is done in a commercial food processing facility with a plate freezer and will result in a higher quality meat and a cheaper energy bill.
I ll leave the cooking up to you or wait for the other guys on the blog list their favourite steak recipe.