Cooking Grass-Fed Steaks
Farming for grass fed beef takes a lot of work, care, and love, and so when we sell our beef we are proud of our product. We also realize this is in investment you are making in quality beef that is healthy, nutritious, and delicious for you! Many times we see/hear customers grilling their steaks too long, cooking them well done (eek!), or making typical cooking mistakes and it just breaks my heart... so we want to give you some tips on cooking your grass fed steaks properly.
I won’t reinvent the wheel, because much of what I’ve learned about cooking grass fed beef I owe it to Shannon Hayes and the Radical Homemaker’s cookbooks, so I will just quote below one of her very well written and truthful blog posts on mistakes done when cooking grass fed steaks. Here goes…
5 Typical Mistakes When Cooking Grass Fed Steaks
1. Wet steak. Thawed steak is going to be moist. In order to sear it properly, it must be dry before you put it on the grill or in the frying pan. If the steak is not blotted dry with a towel before you apply salt and pepper, it will not sear, it will steam.
2. Wrong pan size. If you are cooking your steaks indoors, be sure to choose a skillet that allows ample room to sear them. When the steaks are too crowded, even if they have been blotted dry, the excess moisture will cause them to steam rather than brown, leaving them with an unpleasant gray pallor. Make sure your steaks have at least 1 inch of space around them in the skillet to prevent this from happening.
3. Wrong direct-heat temperature. Often in our hunger for a great steak, we fail to wait for our grills and skillets to heat up properly. If the grill or skillet is not hot enough, the meat will start to roast, but it will not achieve that glorious sear that adds flavor. If grilling, hold your hand about 4 inches above the grate. When you can hold it there for no more than 4 seconds, the grill is hot enough for you to sear your meat. When cooking indoors, place the skillet over a hot flame. When you see steam rising off the skillet, you are ready to grease it with a little fat and begin searing.
4. Failure to allow for indirect cooking time. High heat is critical only when we begin cooking steaks to achieve the sear. A steak should be exposed to high direct heat for no more than 2 minutes per side. After that, in order to guarantee tender and juicy meat, it should be removed from the flames and allowed to finish in indirect or low heat. If you are cooking the steak on the grill, simply move it off the flames and put it on the side of the grill that is not lit, set the cover in place, and allow it to cook for about 5-7 minutes per pound. If you are cooking it indoors, once the steak has seared, transfer the skillet to a 300 degree oven for about 5-7 minutes per pound (or to a 200 degree oven for about 10 minutes per pound). During that indirect time, the internal muscle fibers will come up to temperature slowly without contracting too tightly and toughening. Also, the proteins and sugars will have time to caramelize over the surface of the meat, giving the steak that characteristic glossy look and rich taste.
5. Wrong doneness temperature. USDA temperature guidelines suggest that beef should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 145 degrees. Yuck. When you are using reliably-sourced grassfed meat, you don’t run the same risks of consuming food borne pathogens. Thus, cook the steak to an internal temperature of 120 degrees for rare, 140 degrees for well-done (or better yet, don’t cook it well done… ever!)
6. Marinating the wrong meat. Did I say there were only 5 commonly-made mistakes? Oops. I just thought of another one. So there are actually six. At my market booth, folks have a tendency to purchase the rib eyes, top loins, porterhouse, t-bones and sirloin steaks when they are planning a steak dinner. Those are perfect if you are planning to season them only with a little salt and pepper. However, if you are planning to marinate your meat, these are the wrong steaks to bring home. These tender cuts of meat have the most delicate flavors, and their beefiness is easily upstaged by most marinades. Furthermore, if marinated too long, the acid in marinades pre-cooks the meat, turning it gray and leaving an otherwise tender steak mushy. If you have a marinade you plan to use, select the lower-priced cuts, such as the sirloin tip or London broil (top round steak). Those cuts have enough extra flavor and connective tissue to stand up to the marinade. Their more pronounced beefy flavor won’t be overpowered by the stronger seasonings, and the acid in the marinade will help break down some of the connective tissue.
So there you go… enjoy your grilling season and grass fed steaks! And for cooking advice of other cuts, check out an earlier blog post I wrote on Cooking Grass Fed Beef.
Marisa usually writes about nutrition, grass fed beef, organic agriculture, as well as sharing delicious recipes; Paul writes about farm work- sharing his stories and experiences, and most times... we both collaborate on the stories!