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Area farms carve grass-fed, pasture-raised meat niche |

Area farms carve grass-fed, pasture-raised meat niche

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From start to finish

There are four basic principles for cooking grass-fed or pasture-raised meats, according to Hayes:

1) Put away your timer and get a good meat thermometer

The variability found in grass-fed/pasture-raised meats results in varying cooking times. The only way to know that the meat is done to your liking is to use a high-quality meat thermometer. Hayes is fond of digital thermometers with a slender probe attached by a wire, which connects to a digital readout that sits outside the oven. You can read the temperature while leaving the oven door shut (keeping the oven temperature constant).

2) Turn down the heat

In general, grass-fed/pasture-raised meat is lower in insulating fat. If the heat is too high when the meat is cooked, the moisture and the fat will exit quickly, which will toughen the meat. Until you’re thoroughly familiar with cooking grass-fed/pasture-raised meats, it’s best to set the flame a little lower when you’re grilling or frying, and to set the oven temperature lower than is customary.

The USDA recommends internal temperatures for beef, veal, lamb, and goat to be 145-170 degrees. Hayes recommends the following internal temperatures: beef (114-140 degrees); veal (125-155 degrees); and lamb/goat 120-145 degrees). USDA recommended internal temperatures for pork–145 degrees; Hayes recommends between 145 and 160 degrees. USDA recommended internal temperatures for chicken, turkey, goose and duck is 165 degrees; Hayes recommends the same.

3) Learn when to use dry-heat cooking methods and when to use moist-heat methods. The first is the dry-heat method, which includes pan-frying, broiling, roasting, barbecuing, grilling, stir-frying, and sautéing. Dry-heat cooking methods are appropriate for tender cuts of meat — loin cuts, for example — those that come from the animal muscles that do the least work.

Moist-heat methods are used for tougher cuts of meat and include braising, barbecuing, stewing cooking and boiling. Tougher cuts typically come from the animal parts that do a lot of work, such as the shank and the shoulders. When muscles do a lot of work, they develop collagen, which is what makes the meat tough. Moist-heat methods break down the collagen, thereby tenderizing the meat.

4) Rethink the need for seasonings and sauces. The most common mistake made by chefs and home cooks is not trusting that grass-fed/pastured-raised meats have sufficient flavor to stand on their own. Grass-fed/pasture-raised animals produce meats that have a distinctive flavor.

These meats should be seasoned delicately so as not to mask or compromise their true taste. When you first begin cooking grass-fed/pasture-raised meats, try using simple herb rubs or just salt and pepper so that you can experience the flavor of the meat itself. Once you become accustomed to the range of flavors of the meats, you can venture into recipes involving seasonings and sauces.

Contact information

Sap Bush Hollow Farm

West Fulton, Schoharie County

Phone: 518-234-2105


Both grass-fed and pasture-raised meats are available at the farm, the Round Barn Farmers Market and Barbers Farm Stand.

Laughing Earth Farm

3842 Route 2

Cropseyville, Rensselaer County

Phone: 518-821-8449


Pasture-raised meats can be purchased at the Troy Farmers Market and from the farm.

Honest Weight Food Co-op

100 Watervliet Ave


Phone: 518-482-2667

The meat department visits every farm to determine if it meets the store’s criteria before carrying its products. Both grass-fed and pasture-raised meats are available.

Top 6 Grassfed Steak Misteaks by Shannon Hayes

1. Wet steak. Thawed steak is going to be moist. In order to sear it properly, it must be dry before you put it on the grill or in the frying pan. If the steak is not blotted dry with a towel before you apply salt and pepper, it will not sear, it will steam.

2. Wrong pan size. If you are cooking your steaks indoors, be sure to choose a skillet that allows ample room to sear them. When the steaks are too crowded, even if they have been blotted dry, the excess moisture will cause them to steam rather than brown, leaving them with an unpleasant gray pallor. Make sure your steaks have at least 1 inch of space around them in the skillet to prevent this from happening.

3. Wrong direct-heat temperature. Often in our hunger for a great steak, we fail to wait for our grills and skillets to heat up properly. If the grill or skillet is not hot enough, the meat will start to roast, but it will not achieve that glorious sear that adds flavor. If grilling, hold your hand about 4 inches above the grate. When you can hold it there for no more than 4 seconds, the grill is hot enough for you to sear your meat. When cooking indoors, place the skillet over a hot flame. When you see steam rising off the skillet, you are ready to grease it with a little fat and begin searing.

4. Failure to allow for indirect cooking time. High heat is critical only when we begin cooking steaks to achieve the sear. A steak should be exposed to high direct heat for no more than 2 minutes per side. After that, in order to guarantee tender and juicy meat, it should be removed from the flames and allowed to finish in indirect or low heat. If you are cooking the steak on the grill, simply move it off the flames and put it on the side of the grill that is not lit, set the cover in place, and allow it to cook for about 5-7 minutes per pound. If you are cooking it indoors, once the steak has seared, transfer the skillet to a 300 degree oven for about 5-7 minutes per pound (or to a 200 degree oven for about 10 minutes per pound).

5. Wrong doneness temperature. USDA temperature guidelines suggest that beef should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 145 degrees. When you are using reliably-sourced grassfed meat, you don’t run the same risks of consuming food borne pathogens. Thus, cook the steak to an internal temperature of 120 degrees for rare,, 140 degrees for well-done.

6. Marinating the wrong meat.  At my market booth, folks have a tendency to purchase the rib eyes, top loins, porterhouse, t-bones and sirloin steaks when they are planning a steak dinner. Those are perfect if you are planning to season them only with a little salt and pepper. However, if you are planning to marinate your meat, these are the wrong steaks to bring home. These tender cuts of meat have the most delicate flavors, and their beefiness is easily upstaged by most marinades. Furthermore, if marinated too long, the acid in marinades pre-cooks the meat, turning it gray and leaving an otherwise tender steak mushy. If you have a marinade you plan to use, select the lower-priced cuts, such as the sirloin tip or London broil. Those cuts have enough extra flavor and connective tissue to stand up to the marinade. Their more pronounced beefy flavor won’t be over-powered by the stronger seasonings, and the acid in the marinade will help break down some of the connective tissue.

Category: Skillets  Tags: ,  Comments off
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