When I think about cooking beef, the first thing that comes to mind is a big, juicy steak cooked on the barbecue, with a baked potato and some greens on the side. Yum, mouth-watering!
Steak is probably my favorite way to eat beef, but there are plenty of other cuts that I love to cook... and eat! Pot roasts, ribs, beef stews, hamburgers... there are so many fantastic options.
But all these options means that there's a lot to know about cooking beef. In this series of articles, you'll find everything you need to learn how to cook beef. No more tough, dry results - just delicious, tender beef.
But first, a little about beef in general.
First, I'll talk a bit about what beef is made of: all the different things that make up beef, and how they affect cooking and the meal you end up with. Then I'll talk about the two types of cooking: dry heat and wet heat, and how you can use these to get the best possible beef.
Finally, I'll talk about how to actually cook beef. I've made two categories:
The first thing to know is what makes up a piece of beef. There's actually quite a bit going on in there! But to know how to cook beef, the main things you need to worry about are:
The first thing that happens is that they bunch together into fibres. Then, as you cook the beef, the fibers lose moisture and shrink, making your meat tougher.
Every piece of beef has some fat in it, some more than others. Is that a good thing? Well, it's tough to say.
Fat has a bit of a bad reputation, right? Too much fat in your diet can cause health problems, so sometimes it's best to go for a leaner cut.
On the other hand, when you cook your piece of beef, the fat creates a protective layer around your protein fibers, which helps prevent the meat from drying out. It also adds a lot of flavor. So it's your call whether you go for the cut marbled with fat or a leaner cut.
Meat is actually mostly made up of water. A piece of beef is at least 60%, and up to 75% water! When you cook a piece of beef, some of that water is lost. The less water you lose, the juicier the beef you end up with, so it's important not to overcook your beef.
The good news? Collagen melts when you heat it, so a piece of beef that has lots of it can be tenderized by cooking. The only catch is it needs to cook for a long time to melt all the collagen. The best way to cook a cut of beef that's high in collagen is to cook it slowly at a low heat.
Unfortunately, you can't break down elastin the same way. The only way to do it is by physically breaking the bonds. You can do this by pounding the meat or grinding it. In fact, cuts of beef that are high in elastin often end up as ground beef.
Well, after reading all this, you may realize that cooking beef is pretty tricky. Cook it too much and you end up with tough, dry meat. But if you don't cook it enough, it might still be tough because of all the collagen in there.
The key to knowing how to cook beef is knowing the cut of beef you're working with. Each cut has its own particularities and needs to be cooked a certain way to get the best results.
Once you understand what each cut is made of and why, knowing how to cook beef is easy! There are just a few little rules to follow.
For example, steaks are low in collagen and elastin, so you can cook them quickly at a high heat to get tender, juicy results. A flank steak, on the other hand, is much tougher. It's better to braise it. The low, wet heat will break down all that tough collagen, and keep the meat moist.
In the cooking beef by cut section, you'll find out what each cut of beef is made of, and how it needs to be treated to get the best possible meal.
There are lots of different ways of cooking beef. But they all boil down to two main types of cooking: dry heat, and wet heat.
When you cook using a dry heat, a few different things happen. First of all, the surface of your beef forms a delicious, flavorful crust.
The second thing that happens is that the beef loses its moisture. It evaporates from the surface first, and then the moisture from the inside moves outward. This gives the meat a more concentrated flavor.
Unfortunately, losing too much moisture can make your beef pretty dry. So be careful not to overcook it!
When you cook with a wet heat, your beef loses less moisture. It still loses some, but even then the cooking juices make up for it. This lets you cook your beef longer, which can really help out a tougher cut.
In the how to cook beef by method section, you'll find the different ways of cooking beef. Grilling, perfect for steaks. Roasting, great for round roasts. Stewing, a good way to cook a tough piece of shank. And lots more!
In this section, I'll go over different methods for cooking beef – from roasting to frying up steaks. I've split these up into dry heat and wet heat methods.
What could be better than hamburgers on the grill? Check out our article on how to make a hamburger for all the tips and tricks you need to make a perfect burger.
Roasting. If you're wondering how to cook beef for special occasions, try cooking roast beef. Start with a large tender cut, and end up with slices of pure deliciousness!
Pan-frying. Find out a great way to cook steak in our article on how to pan fry steak. It's a great alternative to grilling on cold days or if you don't have a grill!
Each cut of beef has its own particularities. If you have a cut of beef and you don't know what to do with it, just browse down. Our articles will tell you what to do!
There are so many delicious ways to cook ground beef. To find out how to cook beef into delicious dinners, check out our ground beef articles:
Confident that you know how to cook beef? If you've got the cooking techniques down (or even if you don't!), check out our easy beef recipes.