Because various muscles have different composition, applying the right type of heat, or cooking method, will bring out that cut’s best qualities.
Generally, Dry Heat cooking methods refer to processes where no additional moisture is added to the cooking cycle. They are most commonly used for the more tender and marbled cuts of beef, like striploin, tenderloin, sirloin and rib. Moist heat methods involve the addition of moisture, usually water, to the process which has a tenderizing effect and moistens the beef. Moist heat is usually applied to cuts from the round. A combination of dry and moist methods can be used also, especially on the medium-tender cuts of the chuck, flank, plate, brisket and shank.
The chart below illustrates the tenderness level and ideal cooking method for the various beef primal cuts.
Using high heat to sear the outsides of a cut and to maintain moisture on the inside — most often associated with steaks and smaller cuts (kebobs, etc.). The natural benefits are maintaining juiciness and preparing the product to the guests' desired doneness level.
- Remove steak from refrigeration and lightly season just prior to placing on grill.
- Brush steak with a small amount of oil or butter to prevent sticking. The oil will also translate the heat of the grill quickly to the meat.
- Place steak initially on the grill at a 45-degree angle on the hottest part of the grill to achieve a good sear.
- Once steak reaches two-thirds doneness (signified by juices rising to the surface), turn steak and place at a 45-degree angle on the opposite side. If well done steaks are part of multiple steaks, move them to a cooler section of the grill so completion time is the same.
- Once steak has achieved grill marks at the 45-degree angle, move to 90 degrees to create cross-hatching effect.
- Turn steak, test doneness if rare to medium rare. The steak should be ready (remove and plate). For medium and above, turn steak and grill till desired doneness is reached. Choose the best side for presentation.
- Place steak on plate. Steaks benefit from a minute or two of rest.
Done in an oven environment, heat surrounds the cut and slowly increases the internal temperature until the desired doneness is reached. Larger cuts are generally candidates for roasting and achieve high cooked yield and even doneness throughout.
- Season roast on all sides.
- Place roast on rack or mireproix. Place fat side up.
- Place roast in oven and set temperature. Using low temperature techniques will increase yield and juiciness.
- Once the roast is nearly ready, test interior of roast. Avoid any bones or fat pockets. When roast reaches 10°C below desired doneness, remove and let roast rest.
- Roast should rest a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes. This will allow meat tissue to relax and re-absorb juices and the temperature will continue to rise.
- Always slice across the grain.
This method utilizes a small amount of hot oil in a pan or wok to quickly cook the beef and maintain moisture and tenderness. The advantage with sautéing is that flavour is easily enhanced when cooked with other ingredients.
- Heat pan well; add garlic, and other seasonings, if desired; add beef and sear on all sides quickly. Note – make sure the pan is not overloaded or else the beef will boil rather than sauté.
- Once beef is seared, remove from pan to prevent overcooking. Set aside and place additional oil in pan (if required) and reheat.
- Heat oil; add garlic and other seasoning, if required. Add vegetables. Sauté quickly until they start to get tender.
- Once vegetables are almost cooked, add beef and toss.
- Add sauce to dish; coat ingredients and remove from heat quickly before you overcook.
- Add sauté on to starch, garnish and serve.
Small pieces of beef are browned and immersed in a liquid (stock, wine, etc.) often with vegetables added. The covered pot is simmered slowly until the beef is tender. Strong flavours are developed with stewed beef dishes.
- Lightly dust diced beef in seasoned flour. Shake off excess flour. Remove any pieces with excessive fat or gristle.
- Add beef to pot and brown in enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Onion and garlic can be added at this time, if desired. Do not overload pot or it will prevent proper browning. Brown cubes well to build on flavour and colour of the finished stew. Add additional flour at this point and brown to create a roux.
- Once beef is well browned, add selected root vegetables such as carrots, onions and celery, turnips etc. and continue to sauté. Do not add potatoes or softer vegetables at this point to avoid overcooking.
- Once vegetables have been sautéed, add tomato paste. The addition of tomato paste will add both colour and flavour to the finished stew.
- Add stock (and wine if desired) to stew; stir and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Add enough liquid to cover. Turn the temperature down to low, cover and simmer (the stew can also be finished in a slow oven). It is critical that the stew not boil rapidly. Bubbles should just break the surface when cooking.
- The length of time for stewing will depend on the amount of connective tissue in the cut being used. Check after 2 hours of cooking. This will provide a reference to the time remaining.
- Add delicate vegetable garnish such as peas etc. just before finishing the stew. This prevents overcooking and helps maintain the colour of the garnish.
- Check and adjust seasoning of your stew and remove spice bag if used. Plate and garnish with fresh savoury herbs and hearty style breads as desired.
Similar to stewing, the beef cuts are browned, vegetables added, and a liquid is added to cover one-third of the meat. A lid is placed on the pot and the dish is cooked slowly in an oven or on stove top. The combination of steam and pressure created in the pot breaks down the connective tissues in the beef.
- Season the cuts by dredging in flour and removing any excess.
- Brown meat in a small amount of oil. Garlic and onions can be added at this time, if desired. The caramelization will improve both the flavour and the colour of the finished dish.
- Once meat is well browned, add root vegetables and sweeten them off.
- Once the vegetables have been sweated, deglaze pan and add stock and wine to cover one-third of the meat cut.
- Add tomato ingredients and spice bag and cover. Place in a slow oven and cook slowly until tender. The cooking process should create bubbles that only break the surface of the liquid.
- Once meat is tender, remove deglaze sauce and finish sauce. Serve with the braised vegetables and sauce component.
Usually used for larger, less tender cuts, this method involves browning the beef, adding stock/wine to cover 1/3 of the meat, and covering. The pot roast is placed in a low-temperature oven.
- Roll roast in seasoned flour. Remove excess flour.
- Brown the roast in a small amount of oil. Brown well to build both colour and flavour in finished product.
- Add root vegetables and seasoning such as garlic.
- Once the roast is browned and vegetables have been sweated, deglaze with stock and wine. Add enough liquid to cover one-third of the meat.
- Cover pot roast and place in oven at 325°F. Roast slowly until meat is tender.
- Once pot roast is cooked, remove from oven and let rest. Finish sauce by deglazing and thicken, adjusting seasoning as necessary.
- Always slice across the grain. Sauce and use vegetable ingredients in sauce on finished plate.
Correct steak doneness is one of the most important components to the dining experience. The menu should list how steaks are done so the guests can easily match what they expect to what they receive. There are many perceptions of what "medium" is, for example. Addressing steak doneness right on the menu is recommended. This way, the operator and the guests both clearly understand the expectations.
Degrees of Steak Doneness
Seared on the outside, red throughout
Seared and still red, 75% through the centre
Seared with the centre still red
Charbroiled with a pink centre
Charbroiled with a slight hint of pink
Charbroiled with the meat completely cooked through
Tips for Managing Steak Doneness
- Make sure your equipment is working well, charbroiled jets should be clean and grill bars brushed and oiled to prevent sticking and flavour transfer.
- Make sure you have the broiler sections divided, a hot section for cooking rare and medium rare, a cooler section for finishing medium and medium well steaks as well as a lower heat section for finishing well done and briefly holding steaks for multiple orders.
- Steaks continue to cook after they leave the grill, take this into account when timing steaks for service.
- Bone-in steak cooks quicker than boneless, this needs to be taken into account when handling these steaks.
As tenderness is a key factor in the palatability of beef, there are several ways to further enhance beef tenderness:
This process mechanically breaks down connective tissue that causes tough beef. Some common examples are:
- Needling is a process in which the beef cut is passed through a jaccarder or needler. Small needles pass through the beef breaking the connective tissue.
- Delicating is a process mainly used for items such as Swiss steaks or cutlets whereby the steak passes through two sets of small blades which breaks connective tissue.
- Pounding will generally happen in a kitchen environment where the operator will use a meat hammer to flatten and break the connective tissue.
This is a process in which the beef is covered in a marinade containing natural tenderizers that break down the connective tissue. Marinades can come in many forms – from simple wet marinades to elaborate cooked marinades. Examples of natural products that break down connective tissue are:
- Papain – a natural extract found in papaya.
- Acid based ingredients – items such as wine, vinegars, lime or other citrus juice.
- Alkaline ingredients – items like soy sauce and other active ingredients.
These types of active ingredients combined with oils, herbs and seasoning can be used effectively to tenderize beef cuts.
Tips on Marinades
Cuts that are well suited for marination include those with a coarse grain such as flank, skirt steak or bottom sirloin butt. Clean silverskin and score meat to allow the marinade to penetrate and make certain the marinated cut is towel dried before cooking - this will allow adequate searing. If you use a marinade in a sauce or on a cooked product, ensure you boil the marinade first.
It goes without saying that to cook beef consistently, you need equipment that is functioning well and can meet the rigours of the kitchen.
The key to charbroilers is a consistent high heat and quick recovery time. The objective of grilling is to sear the meat, so if the temperature is not sufficient, the meat will boil and become tough. Most standard charbroilers operate between 220°C/430°F and 280°C/550°F. A grill thermometer is a handy tool to periodically check grill temperature. The broiler should have all jets working and be free of excess char. To prevent "off-flavours", use a wire brush to clean grill bars. There have been many technological advances in manufacturing broilers such as infrared heating and drawer style broilers that heat from both top and bottom. Whatever the style, make sure the broiler has the heat and capacity to handle the busiest shifts effectively.
There are many types of oven equipment on the market today but roasting equipment can be broken into two basic styles.
Conventional/Convection Ovens are most often found in commercial kitchens. The main difference between them is that convection ovens have a fan in the back to help circulate air around the oven, thus enhancing cooking and browning. Conventional ovens deliver heat from the bottom which fills the oven cavity. When roasting beef in these ovens, the temperature greatly impacts the cooked yield of the product. For large roasts, a temperature of between 120°C/275°F and 160°C/325°F will help to achieve the best results. If using a convection oven with the fan on, reduce the temperatures listed by 25°F. Keep an oven thermometer close by. "Low and Slow" is the key to maximizing beef quality and cooked yield in these ovens.
Combination Ovens combine both steam and dry heat at various times during the cooking process to help cook quicker and produce a high yield. Cook and hold units cook beef roasts over a longer period of time at a lower temperature and are equipped with an internal probe that senses desired temperature and automatically turns the temperature down to a holding mode.