Don’t overcook! That’s usually the big headline when it comes to cooking flavorful meat. Because 100% grass-fed beef is lower in fat content than conventional beef, you should take special care not to overcook it. Whether you’re choosing grass-fed beef for your own health, the health of the environment, or the happiness of the free-ranging cattle (or all three), you may find that you have to adjust some of your favorite recipes to get the best results.
What makes grass-fed so special?
Before we talk about cooking with it, here’s a quick primer on why grass-fed beef is different. Cattle that are truly grass-fed spend their entire lives in pastures eating grass, rather than being “fattened up” on grain in order to produce the more conventional American style of beef and marbled steak. That’s good news for the cows, because grass is their natural diet and best for their health.
When you buy 100% grass-fed beef (rather than grass-fed beef that is grain finished), you get many nutritional and health benefits. Its lower saturated fat content is good for heart health. Grass-fed meats can have up to one third less fat as a similar cut from a grain-fed animal.
Additionally, grass-fed beef contains Omega-3 fatty acids. People with ample amounts of omega-3s in their diets are less likely to have high blood pressure and 50 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack. Omega-3s are essential for proper brain functioning and may reduce the risk of cancer.
Grass-fed meats are also one of the richest sources of conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs). CLAs may be one of our most potent defenses against cancer. A Finnish researcher showed women with the highest level of CLA in their diets had a 60% lower risk of breast cancer than those with lower levels. Compared to grain-fed cattle, meat from grass-fed cattle contains three to five times more CLA products.
How to get the best results in your kitchen
- 1. Experiment with lower temperatures. Try cooking your steaks at a lower temperature, to prevent moisture loss and toughness. A grass-fed steak tastes better when it’s on the rarer side, since it will retain better flavor and more of its nutritional content if it’s not too well done.
- Try shorter cooking times. Generally grass-fed beef cooks faster. Assume a 20-30% reduction in cooking times, and use a meet thermometer to prevent overcooking, which leads to point number three…
- Use a meat thermometer. If you’re shooting for medium rare, you will want a temperature of 125 degrees. But remember: your meat’s temperature will rise at least 5-10 degrees after you remove it from the heat source. So, if you’re pan-frying a grass-fed sirloin steak, for example, you may want to take it off the stove at 115.
- Slow cook. You can get great results from grass-fed beef by using a slow cooker, since you aren’t as likely to overcook.
- Marinate overnight. Give the meat plenty of time to soak in the flavor.