What are the top tips for cooking with beef?

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Answered by: Joni, An Expert in the Key Tips and Tricks Category
Whether it be a succulent steak, juicy burger or melt-in-your-mouth pot roast, beef is often considered one of the most versatile and flavorful ingredients on the market. Fortunately, cooking with beef doesn't require you to be a professional chef. Here are five tips for anyone interested in putting beef on their dinner menu.

1) Consider buying direct. Although many people choose to buy beef as needed from the grocery store, purchasing directly from a rancher is another great option. Not only does direct sourcing give you the opportunity to learn exactly how your meat is raised, but it can also help you save money on your grocery bill. For every step of the process your food goes through, more markup is needed to cover the costs. By going directly to a rancher for your beef, you can eliminate extra markups. Additionally, direct sourcing allows you to have the beef processed into your favorite cuts. Prefer ground beef instead of roasts? No problem. Want your T-bones split into strip and filet steaks? This is a great way to do it.

2) Use your freezer. If you choose to buy a full or half beef, most of your meat will need to be frozen regardless of how large your appetite is. This may not be as feasible if you do not have a large chest freezer, but it is a great way to stay stocked up and keep your meat safe to eat for long periods of time. For quality purposes, however, it is best to consume frozen ground beef within 3 to 4 months and roasts or steaks within 4 to 12 months. Once you know which cut you will need for your next meal, you can thaw it in the refrigerator or microwave.

3) Choose healthy recipes. Beef is known as an indulgence, but you can still use it as part of a healthy diet. Try to focus most of your meals around lean cuts (less than 10 grams of total fat and 4.5 grams of saturated fat). Some of these include 93 percent lean ground beef, T-bone steaks, sirloin steaks, top and bottom round roasts, and tenderloin roasts. Trim all visible fat and be sure to stick to appropriate serving sizes of 3 to 4 ounces.

4) Preparation is important. Planning meals ahead of time allows you to make the most of how you cook your beef. Steak for example, benefits from being marinated for at least 24 hours. Larger cuts, such as roasts, can take all day to cook if you want the best flavor and tenderness possible. In addition, the highest condition is maintained through slow, gradual thawing methods. This may mean you will need several days to thaw beef out in the refrigerator. For the inevitable last minute meals, however, cuts such as ground beef can be thawed more quickly and cooked on the stovetop without sacrificing quality.

5) Keep cooking simple. One of the most common mistakes that occur when cooking with beef is overdoing things. Beef has a great natural flavor, so allow that to come through the seasonings. Also, when cooking burgers and steaks, do not poke, prod, flip repeatedly or constantly check on your meat. Over-handling beef will cause it to lose much of its juiciness and flavor. Finally, consider preparing beef to a medium-rare finish. With the exception of ground beef, which needs to be cooked to 165 degrees for safety, beef maintains the best texture and taste when not overcooked.

Beef is an ingredient known to produce excellent eating experiences. It can be dressed up for a romantic evening or down for a Saturday afternoon barbeque. Whatever the occasion, and whatever your level of culinary skill, these tips can help you make beef the highlight of your next meal.

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