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"Mastering the Art of Cooking Perfect Meat: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners"


This is a very broad topic, so for today I'm going to narrow it down to Spring & Summer cooking methods. Specifically, roasting, grilling and sauteing. Still lot's to cover, so let's get started!




Animal proteins are mostly made up of water, so the cooking time and the temperature of the cooking medium affect their outcome. Cook them too much or too long, and they become tough and dry, plus their yield will be significantly diminished. Optimizing the cooking process will preserve the quality and integrity of the product without excessive moisture loss.

Some products are naturally tender, for example, a tenderloin steak, a fillet of salmon, or a chicken breast, and should be cooked minimally to retain moisture. Other cuts, including those from the shoulder, breast, and belly areas of beef and pork, require extended cooking time to achieve tenderness. By understanding the composition of meats, poultry, and seafood and the differences in the various cuts on a carcass, a cook can adequately prepare them for maximum tenderness, flavor, and moisture retention.


The texture of uncooked meat and poultry is soft and relaxed, but as heat is applied, the protein bundles begin to coagulate or denature, squeezing out moisture. Collagen within meat and poultry connective tissue begins to melt and gelatinize at about 140°F (60°C). As the proteins continue to expel moisture, they contract, toughen, and eventually dry. However, continued cooking will ultimately cause the proteins to break down and become tender again. Fish and shellfish proteins differ from meats and poultry because they coagulate at a lower temperature, generally between 120-130˚F (50-55˚C), and fats and gelatin in the muscles also melt at a lower point. Fish proteins lose moisture and become dry at 140˚F (60˚C). To conserve their texture and moisture, most fish and shellfish should be cooked no higher than 130˚F (50˚C).


Roasting and Baking Meats and Poultry


Roasting and baking methods cook foods by hot-air convection in an enclosed chamber. There are three basic methods for roasting and baking; slow-roasting, fast-roasting, and combination methods that use both slow and fast methods.

Slow Roasting - Generally between 200-300°F/93-148˚C, slow-roasting is beneficial for large cuts of meat or whole poultry because it produces a tender product while preserving moisture and yield. One disadvantage of this method is that it lacks the ability to create Maillard browning so the product is often seared before or after the actual roasting process.

 Fast Roasting - Between 350-450°F/175-230°C, fast roasting rapidly cooks small items while developing color and texture.


Combination Method – The combination method uses high heat at the beginning or the end of the cooking process to create Maillard browning along with lower temperatures to properly cook the interior of the food. Ducks and geese are examples of items that are often started at a higher temperature to render the fat layer under their skins before finishing at a lower temperature.


Seasoning

Roasted items are seasoned to enhance their flavor and brushed with oil to prevent drying to crisp the exterior and to develop color.  Brining, curing, and marinating boosts flavor, retains moisture, and act as a tenderizer for meats or poultry prior to roasting. Other complementary enhancements include herb, spice, bread crumb, or nut coatings. Small portion-cut items including fish fillets, pork tenderloin, or chicken breasts can be pan-seared, browned under a broiler, or caramelized with a blow-torch before finishing in the oven. Roasted items may be supplemented with aromatics like onions, celery, and carrots placed under the roast during cooking. The pan drippings can then be developed into a natural jus to serve with the roast.


Preparation Method

Best Choice for Roasting and Baking: Beef and veal top round, lamb leg, fresh or cured ham, rib roast, loin roasts, whole tenderloin (beef, pork), pork ribs, a whole, halved, or portion cut poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, goose), whole fish, fish fillets, and fish loins, whole shellfish, lobster tails, crab legs

 Accompaniments: Natural gravy, au jus, jus lié, sauce condiments (chimichurri, chermoula, salsa), classic small French brown or white sauces, béarnaise and hollandaise variations


GRILLING

The intense heat used for grilling creates something called a Maillard Reaction through the rendering of fats and caramelization of the sugars in the proteins. Flavor development is further enhanced because of the fats that render and drip on the heat source.


What to Grill

Grilling and broiling are most suited for naturally tender items that need a relatively short cooking time, including steaks, chops, fish fillets, and shellfish. Hamburgers, sausages, and skewered foods, including vegetables like onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, and peppers, are also good candidates. Larger steaks and chops can be started on the grill, and finished in an oven, to prevent excessive charring and minimize bitter flavors. Whole fish or fillets can also be grilled in specially designed baskets or on wood planks.


Best Choice for Grilling: Beef, pork, veal, lamb, venison loin, rib, and tenderloin steaks and chops, burgers, skirt steak, flank steak, poultry breasts, Cornish hens, quail, squab, fish steaks (tuna, swordfish), small whole fish, shrimp, scallops, kabobs

Best Choice for Broiling: Fish steaks and fillets, lobster, shrimp, oysters, clams

Accompaniments: Compound butters, sauce condiments (chimichurri, chermoula, salsa), classic small French brown or white sauces, béarnaise and hollandaise variations

Meats

Seasoning – Liberally season with salt and pepper, or use a dry rub, with garlic powder, onion powder, and red chili flakes. Rub lamb with fennel pollen or ground rosemary. Brush with a neutral oil (canola or soybean oil)Heat Index: High to medium high

Chicken & Other Poultry

Seasoning - Brine or marinade poultry, add complimentary spices, including sage, thyme, and lemon zest.

  • Brush with a neutral oil (canola or soybean oil)

  • Brush with a diluted barbecue sauce (apply towards the end of the cooking process), avoid sugary sauces, brines, and marinades – they will burn easily at high temperatures

Heat Index: Medium to medium-high heat


Seafood

Seasoning – Season with salt and pepper, fresh herbs like chives, tarragon, or parsley, or a dry rub like Cajun seasoning.

  • Brush with a neutral oil (canola or soybean oil)

Heat Index: Medium to medium-high heat is best for cooking all forms of seafood, from whole fish, to fillets or steaks, to clams and oysters, or shrimp and scallops on a skewer

Vegetables & Fruits

Whole corn in the husk, sliced squash or root vegetables, halved fruits like peaches or avocado.Seasoning - Marinade or season & oil Heat Index: Medium heat


Resting Time

  • Remove from the grill when slightly undercooked, to allow for carryover cooking

  • Place on a tray or pan and keep warm

  • Let rest for a few minutes to allow the juices to redistribute before carving

Grilling Tips

  • For rare-cooked steaks use high heat, for well-done steaks use lower heat

  • For rare steaks use thicker cuts, for well-done steaks use thinner cuts

  • For well-done steaks, mark the steak and finish in an oven


Sautéing Meat, Poultry, and Seafood


Sautéing uses a small amount of butter or oil in a shallow pan over relatively high heat. Meats and poultry are cut into thin slices, known as escalope in a French, or scaloppini in Italian. They may also be portioned into cutlets, known as schnitzel in German, or cut into tournedos (small medallions). Small poultry breasts, and seafood including shrimp and scallops can be sautéed whole. Fish fillets, depending on the size, can be cooked whole, like a small trout, or portion cut into tranches (slices), or goujons (fingers). Always season the product first. Dredging in flour is often done to add color, texture, and to retain moisture. The sautéed items can be finished by deglazing the pan with liquids, including wine, stock, or a sauce.


Sauté Preparation Method

Best Choice for Sautéing: Scaloppini (veal), beef tournedos, thin pork cutlets, boneless lamb loin medallions, chicken and duck breasts, fish fillets (tranches, goujons), shrimp, scallops

Accompaniments: Pan sauces prepared a la minute, classic small French brown or white sauces, béarnaise and hollandaise variations




Well, hopefully that's enough to release your inner meat beast in the kitchen! If not consider booking one of our Private Chefs for the Spring & Summer of 2024. Cheers, and have a happy hump day!

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