Cooking Tips: Making the Most of Meat
How to cut meat
Cut steaks or strips of meat across the grain so that you avoid pieces with long fibres. You’ll preserve the shape, and the meat will be more tender when cooked.
Before you fry or saute meat, pat it dry with absorbent kitchen paper. Moisture could cause spitting and prevent browning.
Meat curls up during cooking?
Steaks, chops and bacon rashers will lie flat if you slash the fatty edges with a sharp knife before cooking.
Tying up a joint
Use strong, thin cotton string to tie up meat for the oven. Many synthetic strings will melt.
Very lean fillets of beef or veal benefit from larding with pork fat to make the meat less dry. Buy larding fat from a butcher, trim it into strips about 5mm (1/4in) thick and thread it through the meat at 50mm (2in) intervals using a larding needle.
Metal skewers are best for grilling, as wooden ones tend to char, but both sorts are suitable for using in the oven. If you want to use wooden skewers on a barbecue, soak them in water for a few minutes first to prevent charring.
Guard of honour or crown roast of lamb
The exposed bone ends won’t burn if you cover each one with foil before cooking. When the roast is done, remove the pieces of foil and replace them with cutlet frills to make the chops easier to pick up, or with cherries or baby onions to decorate the joint for a special occasion.
There’s nothing like a marinade to tenderise meat and add flavour. Here are two basic mixtures which will provide enough marinade for four to six servings of meat or fish.
• Marinade for red meat: mix together in a bowl 570ml (1 pint) red wine, 50ml (2fl oz) olive or sunflower oil, 50ml (2fl oz) red wine vinegar, 1 peeled and thinly sliced onion and 12 whole black peppercorns. Pour it over the meat and leave for at least two hours, or preferably overnight, turning once or twice.
• Marinade for poultry and fish: combine 150-285ml (¼ – ½ pint) olive oil with the juice of half a lemon, two bay leaves crumbled into pieces and 5ml (1 teaspoon) of dried thyme, oregano or
mixed herbs. Pour over the meat or fish and leave for two hours or longer, turning occasionally.
Try putting both marinade and meat into a clean plastic food bag inside a bowl, rather than just loose in the bowl. That way, you should be able to turn over the pieces without slopping the liquid.
A shoulder of lamb is easily carved if you loosen the blade bone before roasting. Cut around the blade as closely as possible on both sides without removing it. The meat will shrink away from the bone during cooking, leaving the carver with a much simpler task.
If you haven’t got a meat hammer, place the escalopes between sheets of plastic wrap or non-stick kitchen paper and pound them with a wooden rolling pin or the bottom of a small, heavy frying pan or saucepan.
Skimming off fat
Don’t waste time trying to siphon off liquid fat from a stock, soup or stew. Cool the food, then refrigerate it until the fat sets solid, when you can lift it off.
Fresh herbs for flavour
Flavour a joint by rubbing it with crushed fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil or garlic before cooking. You can also make slits in the flesh and poke in small cloves of garlic or sprigs of herbs.
Mince without mess
When making mince at home, attach a plastic food bag to the mincer outlet with a rubber band. You’ll catch the meat neatly as it comes out and prevent spills.
Making mince go farther
Add a handful of oatmeal or porridge oats to a Bolognese sauce or shepherd’s pie to make more of the meat. It’s economical, rich in fibre and thickens the juices a little.