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Cooking naturally raised, grass fed and grass finished beef requires a different mindset from cooking supermarket beef, which is taken from animals that were unnaturally fattened with grains and other substances.
Our beef has a deeper beef flavor that reflects the grasses and forages our animals have been eating. That green matter gives their meat a higher level of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, but less fat overall. You need to take that reduced fat into account when cooking.
In general, you want to quickly sear the outside to seal in the juices, and then slowly cook the remainder of the time to reach the lowest temperature that suites your taste. Overcooking is most common mistake made in preparing grass fed beef.
NEVER defrost using a microwave. That will change the texture and taste of the meat, as well as reduce the tenderness. It's best to move the frozen meat to your refrigerator 24 hours before you will need it, allowing even more time for roasts and thicker cuts. Bring your meat to room temperature before cooking -- don't cook it cold, straight from a refrigerator.
Knowing there will be occasions when you can't wait, the next best thawing approach is to put the sealed, cryovac meat package into a large bowl of cool water, and change the water at short intervals, since it may ice up. Or put the bowl in the sink and leave the water on very low to keep the water temperature in the bowl cool, but not cold. Make sure to use cold water and the product will thaw very quickly. I use a pencil width stream of water to keep the water cool instead of cold.
The idea is to get the meat thoroughly thawed, without letting it warm up. If you use hot water, you'll have mushy meat on the outside, with frozen meat in the center. You shouldn't cook it until it's fully thawed, or it's likely to have areas that are tough and dry. Again, bring your grass fed meat to room temperature before cooking. You won't regret it.
The golden rules for cooking grass fed, grass finished beef are --- don't overcook it and don't ever use a microwave!
Since grass finished meat has less fat than feedlot beef, it's more solid and will cook faster. You will likely need to cut back the cooking time or reduce the cooking temperature from what you may have done in the past with supermarket meats.
Avoid using salty or soy based liquid marinades since salt tends to draw the juices out of meat. It's better to use spice rubs or marinades that are oil and herb based. If you want to add salt, do it at the last minute, or in the pan while cooking.
You may also try to adapt your taste preference a bit, in terms of doneness. This is a different product. Cooking to a lower internal temperature results in juicier meat, and it's healthier for you. Charred meat is never recommended, and meats from grass fed animals are much less likely to have hazardous bacteria that you need to incinerate! Don't overcook it.
So, if you're a "medium" person, try it a bit rarer than you would normally. But if you insist on having your meat well done, then add some marinade to keep the surface moist and cook as slowly as possible. If you're cooking on the grill, use indirect heat to finish the cooking process, rather than cooking over the flame. That's a good approach in general, but especially if you're looking to cook it medium to well done.
No matter how you cook, it's best to use a meat thermometer so you can consistently cook it the way you like it. Then let the beef sit covered in a warm place for 5 minutes after removing it from the heat to let the juices redistribute.
To cook perfect ground beef. I use these two tricks with success everytime to help protect the leaner grass fed ground beef from being dry or tough. I place the chopped ground beef in the pan and add 1/4 cup of water then cover. As the water steams it helps cook the meat and keep the meat from drying as it is cooking. As the ground beef gets closer to your desired doneness you can remove the cover and stir until there is no liquid in the pan. There should be no fat to pour out when finished cooking. At this stage it is best to add the seasoning.
To cook the perfect steak make sure to use these techniques as your first and last step. First, bring the steak up to room temperature by placing the still packaged steak on the counter for one half hour. Cook steak as mentioned above. Remove from heat and wrap the steak in aluminum foil. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes in this wrapped state. This allows the steak to finish cooking as well as keep the steak in a moist environment. The steak will rest in its own juices creating the perfect delicious steak. Allowing the steak to rest is very important.
Overall, once the meat is sealed, slow, low temperature cooking is a great approach for cooking all naturally raised meats. And that brings us to...
Roasts and Tougher Cuts
Some of the tastiest and most tender beef cuts are the ones that start out the toughest, but are also the least expensive! You normally won't even find them in the grocery store because they're often made into ground beef. What a waste! Brisket, pot roast, chuck roast, bottom round roast, and others are economical and delicious when properly cooked.
The key to all of them is the same - braising. Brown them, and then cook them in a covered pan with a small amount of liquid for a number of hours. You can use a dutch oven, a clay cooker, a crockpot, or any covered, oven safe roasting pan.
The tougher meats have a distinctive pattern of fat and connective tissue that runs though them. When cooked in dry heat (roasted), the fat and sinew do not break down thoroughly, even after many hours in the oven. They become hard and dry.
Cooking them in moist heat (braising) promotes a more complete breakdown of the fat and connective tissue, giving you delicious, tender meat you can just about cut with a fork. As a bonus, the liquid in the pan will take on a full and rich beef flavor that will make the entire meal special. And the smells will make it hard to wait...!
Testing Steaks for "Doneness" - Grilling
Use the image below as a cheat sheet for knowing when to take your steak off the grill!
When cooking grassfed and pastured beef (and bison as well), it is done at 120 to 140 degrees. (The USDA recommends 145 to 170 degrees for regular beef, but this will overcook grassfed meats.) Ground beef is done at 160 degrees, either way.