Grass-fed meats are different
We highly recommend these cook books for grass fed meats:
• The Grass-fed Gourmet Cookbook by Shannon Hayes
• Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
• The Complete Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells & Denis Kelly
Cooking tips for grass-fed meats
Thaw to room temperature without a microwave
Never use a microwave to thaw ANY of your grass-fed meats. This process can change the texture and flavor, and cause tough spots, reducing tenderness. Thaw your beef or lamb in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours or, for quick thawing, place your vacuum-sealed package in water for a few minutes. Then bring your grass-fed meat to room temperature before cooking. You can season the meat and let it sit at room temperature for a couple of hours before cooking. Do not cook it cold, straight from a refrigerator. Don’t cook frozen or partially frozen beef or lamb; it makes the meat dry and tough. POULTRY IS THE EXCEPTION: it should be kept below 40 degrees until cooking time.
SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT POULTRY
Poultry should be kept below 40 degrees until cooking time. If frozen, thaw in the fridge, remove from plastic bag, rinse thoroughly inside and out, pat dry, season and cook.
If you like to marinate your meat, choose a recipe that doesn’t mask the delicate flavor of grass-fed meats, but enhances the moisture content. A favorite marinade using lemon, vinegar, wine, beer or bourbon is a great choice. Some people use their favorite Italian salad dressing. If you choose to use bourbon, beer or vinegar, use slightly less than you would for grain-fed meats. Grass-fed meats cooks more quickly, so the liquor or vinegar won’t have as much time to cook off. For safe handling, always marinate in the refrigerator.
Herb rubs are a great way to season grass-fed meats. After thawing the meat, sprinkle each side of the steak or roast, rub in the seasoning, and let stand at room temperature for an hour or two before cooking. For several simple and tasty rub recipes, refer to The Complete Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells & Denis Kelly.
Always pre-heat your oven, pan, or grill before cooking grass-fed meats.
Do not overcook
Your biggest culprit for tough grass-fed meat is overcooking. This meat is made for rare to medium-rare cooking. Grass-fed meats have a different texture and taste at medium. If you usually like your meat well done, try cooking to medium. If you must have your meat well-done, then cook it at a very low temperature in a sauce to add moisture.
Grass-fed meats have high protein and low fat levels. The meat will usually require 30% less cooking time and will continue to cook when removed from heat. For this reason, remove the meat from heat 10 degrees before it reaches the desired temperature. Watch the thermometer carefully. Grass-fed meats cooks quickly; your meat can go from perfectly cooked to over-cooked in less than a minute.
Never use a fork to turn your meats; precious juices will be lost. Always use tongs.
When grilling, sear the meat quickly over high heat on each side to seal in its natural juices. Then reduce the heat to medium or low to finish the cooking process. Baste to add moisture throughout the grilling process. Grass-fed beef requires 30% less cooking time, so watch your thermometer and don’t leave your steaks unattended.
When preparing hamburgers on the grill, use caramelized onions, olives or roasted peppers to add low-fat moisture to the meat while cooking. Some moisture is needed to compensate for the lack of fat. Make sure you do not overcook your burgers. 30% less cooking time is required.
Stove-top cooking is great for any type of steak, including grass-fed. You have more control over the temperature than on the grill. Since grass-fed meat is low in fat, coat with virgin olive oil, truffle oil, or favorite light oil for flavor enhancement and easy browning. The oil will also prevent drying and sticking. You can use butter in the final minutes, when the heat is low, to carry the taste of fresh garlic through the meat, just as steak chefs do.
Roasting in the oven or crock pot
When roasting, sear the meat first to lock in the juices and then place in a pre-heated oven. Reduce the temperature of your grain-fed meat recipes by 50 degrees, i.e., 275 F for roasting, or at the lowest heat setting in a crock pot. The cooking time will still be the same or slightly shorter, even at the lower temperature. Again, watch your thermometer and don’t overcook your meat. Use moisture from sauces to add to the tenderness when cooking your roast.
Rest after removing from heat
Let meat sit covered in a warm place for 8-10 minutes after removing from heat to let the juices redistribute. Tent with foil while the meat rests.
Save your leftovers. Grass-fed beef or lamb slices make great, healthy luncheon meats with no additives or preservatives.
The above cooking tips are condensed and modified from: www.americangrassfedbeef.com/
TIPS FOR COOKING YOUR PASTURE RAISED TURKEY
1.Please be flexible. If you are buying your pasture-raised turkey from a small, local, sustainable farmer, thank you VERY much for supporting us. That said, please remember that pasture-raised turkeys are not like factory-farmed birds. Outside of conscientious animal husbandry, we are unable to control the size of our Thanksgiving turkeys. Please be forgiving if the bird we have for you is a little larger or a little smaller than you anticipated. Cook a sizeable quantity of sausage stuffing if it is too small (a recipe appears below), or enjoy the leftovers if it is too large. If the bird is so large that it cannot fit in your oven, simply remove the legs before roasting it.
2. Balk about the price in private. Look, I’m not going to lie. If you are used to picking up a free turkey from the grocery store, then the $5-$7 per pound ticket on a pastured turkey seems expensive. If you’ll notice, however, the farmer selling it isn’t exactly getting rich off you. He or she is selling it based on the farm’s expenses. (and grain is VERY expensive these days!) Factory birds from the grocery store are not cheap, either. The price is a rouse. You pay for industrialized food ahead of time through your taxes. I guarantee that, once you get home, experience the amazing flavor, the ease of cooking it and the fact that you don’t suffer gastrointestinal illness after (as so many folks do with factory farmed birds), you will agree the price was worth it.
3.Know what you are buying. If you don’t personally know the farmer who is growing your turkey, take the time to know what you are buying! “Pastured” is not necessarily the same as “free-range.” Some grass-based farmers use the word “free-range” to describe their pasture-raised birds, but any conventional factory farm can also label their birds “free-range” if they are not in individual cages, and if they have “access” to the outdoors – even if the “outdoors” happens to be feces-laden penned-in concrete pads outside the barn door, with no access to grass. “Pastured” implies that the bird was out on grass for most of its life, where it ate grass and foraged for bugs, in addition to receiving some grain.
4.Brining and Basting optional. If tradition dictates that you season your meat by brining your bird and baste it as it roasts, by all means, do so. However, many people brine and baste in order to keep the bird from drying out. This is not necessary, and basting only wastes energy as you continually open the oven door. Pastured birds are significantly juicier and more flavorful than factory farmed birds. You can spare yourself this extra step as a reward for making the sustainable holiday choice! (By the way, those turkey roasting bags are not necessary, either.)
5.Monitor the internal temperature. Somewhere along the line, a lot of folks came to believe that turkeys needed to be roasted until they had an internal temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Yuck. You don’t need to do that. Your turkey need only be cooked to 165 degrees. If the breast is done and the thighs are not, take the bird out of the oven, carve off the legs and thighs, and put them back in to cook while you carve the breast and make your gravy. That entire holiday myth about coming to the table with a perfect whole bird and then engaging in exposition carving is about as realistic as expecting our daughters will grow up to look like Barbie (and who’d want that, anyhow?). Just have fun and enjoy the good food.
6.Cook the stuffing separately. I know a lot of folks like to put the stuffing inside their holiday birds, and if Thanksgiving will be positively ruined if you break tradition, then stuff away. However, for a couple reasons, I recommend cooking your stuffing separately. First, everyone’s stuffing recipe is different. Therefore, the density will not be consistent, which means that cooking times will vary dramatically. If you must stuff your bird, allow for about 12-15 minutes per pound cooking time, but be assiduous about monitoring the internal temperature of the meat and the stuffing. Due to food safety concerns, I happen to think it is safer to cook the stuffing outside the bird. Plus, it is much easier to lift and move both the bird and the stuffing when prepared separately, and to monitor the doneness of each. Rather than putting stuffing in my bird’s cavity, I put in aromatics, like an onion, carrot, garlic and some fresh herbs. When the bird is cooked, I add these aromatics to my stock pot. The aromatics perfume the meat beautifully, and the only seasoning I wind up using on the surface is butter, salt and pepper.
7.Do not cover your bird! Covering it will only make the skin rubbery and soggy. Do not put tin foil over the breast. It is an unnecessary waste of aluminum.
8.No need to flip. I used to ascribe to that crazy method of first roasting the bird upside down, then flipping it over to brown the breast. The idea was that the bird would cook more evenly, and the breast wouldn’t dry out. When I did this, the turkey came out fine. But I suffered 2nd degree burns, threw out my back, ruined two sets of potholders and nearly dropped the thing on the floor. Pasture-raised turkeys are naturally juicy. Don’t make yourself crazy with this stunt. Just put it in the oven breast-side up like you would a whole chicken, don’t cover it and don’t over-cook it. Take it out when the breast is 165 degrees (see above). If, despite the disparaging comments above, you still want to show off the whole bird, then bring it into the dining room, allow everyone to ooh and aah, then scuttle back to the kitchen, and proceed as explained above.
9.Be ready for faster cook times. Pasture-raised turkeys will cook faster than factory-farmed birds. Set the oven temp for 325 degrees and figure on 8-10 minutes per pound for an un-stuffed bird, 12-15 minutes per pound if stuffed. Don’t worry — It WILL brown! But remember: oven temperatures and individual birds will always vary. Use an internal meat thermometer to know for sure when the bird is cooked.
10.Use a good-quality roasting pan. If this is your first Thanksgiving and you do not already own a turkey roasting pan and cannot find one to borrow, treat yourself to a really top-quality roaster, especially if you have a sizeable bird. Cheap aluminum pans from the grocery store can easily buckle when you remove the bird from the oven, potentially causing the cook serious burns or myriad other injuries in efforts to catch the falling fowl. Plus, they often end up in the recycling bin, or worse, landfills.
11.Pick the meat off the bird before making stock. If you plan to make soup from your turkey leftovers, be sure to remove all the meat from the bones before you boil the carcass for stock. Add the chunks of turkey back to the broth just before serving the soup. This prevents the meat from getting rubbery and stringy.