Steak Cooking Methods
|01-16-2010 10:45 PM
Beef develops its desirable flavor and aroma during cooking. True meaty, umami flavor begins with the application of heat as it transforms proteins, carbohydrates and fats into their smaller, more flavorful components of amino acids, sugars and fatty acids.
All beef cooking methods fall into two main categories: Dry Heat Methods and Moist Heat Methods. For tender beef cuts use Dry Heat Methods and for less tender cuts use Moist Heat Methods. Tender cuts come primarily from the middle of the animal – the rib and loin – because they are support muscles that receive less exercise and contain less connective tissue. Less tender cuts come primarily from the front and hind sections of the animal – the chuck and round – because these are heavily exercised muscles that develop more connective tissue. While beef cooked in liquid develops a different flavor than beef that is roasted or broiled, heat in general produces the same affect on beef proteins.
As heat denatures myofibrillar proteins causing them to gradually shorten or toughen and release liquid, connective tissues solubilize and begin to break down. The key internal temperature at which these changes begin to take place is 149°F. When beef with low amounts of connective tissue, such as loin and rib cuts, are cooked beyond this temperature, the additional heat continues to toughen them. So fast cooking at higher temperatures is preferred (dry heat). Beef with higher levels of connective tissue, such as some chuck and round cuts, need longer, slower cooking (moist heat) to allow time for the connective tissue to convert to gelatin and become tender.
The sarcoplasmic proteins – hemoglobin and myoglobin – are also denatured during cooking. The color change in these pigments is the primary indicator for degrees of doneness in beef. As the temperature of the beef increases, the muscle becomes progressively opaque, changing from red to pink to brown. The color of beef juices also changes from pink to pale amber.
Dry Heat Cooking Methods:
Skillet Cooking/ Sauté/ Stir-Frying
Characterized by quick cooking at higher temperatures, dry heat methods use uncovered pans, direct heat and no additional liquid. Browning via the Maillard Reaction is a key flavor factor. Best used with tender cuts, dry heat methods minimize the toughening effect of heat on muscle fibers.
Broiling & Grilling: Cooking time is critical in broiling and grilling since thinner cuts such as steaks, kabobs and burgers, are cooked at higher temperatures and can easily overcook.
Oven Roasting: This cooking method takes place in an open pan in the oven without liquid. Lower oven temperatures result in less moisture loss, producing higher yields. Some very tender cuts with less connective tissue can be roasted at higher temperatures with juicy, flavorful results: tenderloin, rib and ribeye.
Stand Time: Since the internal temperature of a roast continues to rise after cooking, it’s best to remove the roast from the oven when the thermometer registers 5°F to 10°F below the desired doneness. Roasting illustrates how the protein denaturing process can sometimes be reversed. If a roast is immediately carved after removing from the oven a substantial amount of juice is squeezed out and lost. But when the roast is allowed to stand for 15 to 20 minutes, the proteins are able to reabsorb some of the moisture that was released during heating, producing a firmer, juicier, easier to carve roast.
Sauté/Stir-Frying: A variation of sautéing, stir-frying cooks thin, uniform beef pieces quickly in a small amount of fat in an open skillet or wok. For best results, use tender beef cuts, though some less tender cuts, such as flank, can be stir-fried when cut into thin strips. The classic Chinese technique called “velveting” enhances the texture of stir-fried beef strips with the aid of a cornstarch marinade. The cornstarch binds the flavors to the beef by sealing in juices and protects the beef during cooking.
Moist Heat Cooking Methods:
- Braising/ Pot Roasting
Cooking in Liquid/ Stewing/ Poaching
A slow, gentle process, moist heat methods take place over low heat in a tightly covered pan to which liquid has been added. Beef is typically browned before adding the liquid to add color and flavor. Best used with less tender cuts, moist heat methods solubilize collagen and develop natural beef flavors. Steam, which is produced from the liquid and retained by a tight-fitting cover, converts tough collagen into tender gelatin.
During long, slow cooking in moist heat, beef flavor components leach into the cooking liquid creating delicately flavored meat. The lack of strong browned beef aromas also reduces flavor intensity. So ingredients such as broth and wine are often used in place of water to produce a flavorful, aromatic sauce or gravy. The difference between cooking in liquid/stewing and braising/pot roasting is in the amount of liquid. Cooking in liquid/stewing uses more liquid, usually enough to cover the beef.
Steak Cooking Tips
Choose pans that are thick enough to heat evenly without scorching.
Size matters! For best results, use the pan size specified in the recipe. If the pan is too small and beef is crowded, browning will be inhibited. If the pan is too large, overcooking may result.
Nonstick pans are easier to clean and they allow cooking with less fat.
When cooking with acidic ingredients, such as vinegar, wine and lemon juice, use pans with a non-reactive interior surface, such as nonstick, anodized aluminum and stainless steel. Reactive metals such as aluminum and cast iron can affect the taste and color of dishes with acidic ingredients.
Place beef on a rack in the broiler (including meatloaves and patties) or in a roasting pan to allow fat to drip away during cooking.
Use an oven thermometer to verify that your oven is accurate.
Getting It Ready: Follow These Smart Handling Tips When Preparing Beef
The secret to moist flavorful meatloaves and meatballs is to mix lightly. Over mixing will result in a firm, compact texture after cooking.
Pat steaks, cubes and pot roasts dry with a paper towel for better browning.
Partially freeze beef until just firm before cutting into strips for stir-frying.
Salt beef after cooking or browning. Salt draws out moisture and inhibits browning.
Keep It Clean: To Avoid Cross-Contamination and Prevent Food-Borne Illness, Follow These Easy Steps
Wash hands well in hot soapy water before and after handling meat and other fresh foods.
Keep raw meat and meat juices away from other foods, both in the refrigerator and during preparation.
Wash all utensils, cutting surfaces and counters with hot, soapy water after contact with raw meat.
Keep carving boards separate from other food preparation or serving boards.