Cooking Meats

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Tenderness and Appropriate Cooking Methods

The heat of cooking affects tenderness in two ways:

1. It tenderizes connective tissue, if moisture is present and cooking is slow.
2. It toughens protein. Even meats low in connective tissue can be tough if cooked at excessively high heats for too long.

The principle of low-heat cooking

1. High heat toughens and shrinks protein and results in excessive moisture loss. Therefore, low heat cooking should be the general practice for most meat cooking methods.
2. Broiling seems to be a contradiction to this rule. The reason that carefully broiled meat stays tender is that it is done quickly. It takes time for the heat to be conducted to the interior of the meat, so the inside never gets very hot. Meat broiled well done, however, is likely to be dry.
3. Roasts cooked at low temperature have better yields than those roasted at high heat. That is, they shrink less and lose less moisture.
4. Moist heat penetrates more quickly than dry heat. Meat should be simmered, never boiled.
Breaking down connective tissue

Remember that connective tissue is highest in muscles that are more frequently exercised and in more mature animals.

1. Rib and Loin Cuts :
always the tenderest cuts, used mostly for roasts, steaks, and chops. Because these meats
are often eaten rare or medium done, the rib and loin are used almost exclusively for roasting, broiling, and grilling.
2. Leg or Round : the cuts of the round are less tender and are used mostly for braising.
High-grade Prime or Choice rounds can also be roasted. The roasts are so large that, roasted at low temperatures for
a long time, the beef's own moisture helps dissolve collagen. Inside round (top round) is favored for roasts because of
its size and relative tenderness.
Beef round is very lean. It is best roasted rare. Lack of fat makes well-done round taste dry.
Legs make excellent roasts, since large muscles with few seams and uniform grain allow easy slicing and attractive
3. Chuck or Shoulder : beef chuck is a tougher cut that is usually braised
4. Shanks, Breast, Brisket, Flank : these are the least tender cuts, even on young animals, and are almost always
cooked by moist heat. Shanks are very desirable for braising and simmering, since their high collagen content is
converted into much gelatin that gives body to braising liquids and good eating quality to the meat. Beef flank steaks can be broiled (as London broil) if they are cooked rare and cut across the grain into thin slices. This cuts the connective tissue into chewable pieces.
5. Ground Meat, Cubed Steaks, Stew Meat : these can come from any primal cut. They are usually made from trimmings, although whole chucks are sometimes ground into chopped meat. Ground meat and cubed steaks can be cooked by dry or moist heat, since they have been mechanically tenderized. Stew meat is, of course, cooked by moist heat.

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