my lust for bargains and local food made me forget about my actual eating habits.
December 31, 2011 4:05 PM   Subscribe

I lucked into a half of a side of some beautiful pasture raised, grass fed, organic beef from a local farmer for cheap! The good news is that we ended up getting this killer beef for less than $2 a pound and that it all fits in our chest freezer. The bad news is ... well... I've realized we don't really actually eat all that much beef. What are some interesting things to do with ground beef and potroast?

In my defense, I asked probably a half dozen times how much beef we were looking at (although more out of concern for my freezer space). They told me the hanging weight, but could never really tell me how much of that was bones and guts. The consensus was that a quarter would easily fit in my small chest freezer, so that's what I got. After processing, however, it turns out there was about 30% more beef than even they had anticipated. We are talking about a boatload of beef here. And yes, also I am a child whose mental picture of beef consisted of piles of steaks. Whoops.

When I do buy meat it's generally pork or lamb, and it's usually only once a week. I make an occasional bolognese or meatballs, but don't really know what to do with the (60 pounds!) of ground beef in my freezer. I grew up in the midwest and have had enough hot dish to last the rest of my life. What else is there outside of burgers, taco meat, meatballs, chili, meat sauce?

I also have 5 or 6 of these things called a "7-bone roast". They weigh about 6 pounds apiece. We made a pot roast with one and it was great... but that's a whoooole lotta roast we're staring down over the next several months. What else can I do with it?

And as an aside - how long will this stuff last in my chest freezer?

Additional details: Cooking for 2 adults, one picky 10 year old and a baby; portions are pretty small. I'd consider myself an adventurous scratch cook. I don't love Thai flavors, peppers, or super spicy stuff. We love Japanese and Indian food, but... yeah. I got a half of a lamb last spring and it was fantastic: gyros, pastichio, lamb burgers... I was super sad when the ground lamb was all gone. Help me feel the same way about this beef!
posted by lilnublet to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Two things.

First, beef will actually keep in the freezer for quite a while--if you package it right. The people I know that buy half/whole/quarter beef generally plan to eat it for up to a year. So that might expand your time horizon somewhat. Packaging it right probably involves getting containers designed for long-term freezer use, e.g. more robust plastic containers or Ziploc bags. Just chucking it in with plastic wrap is a recipe for freezer burn. You can slow down freezer burn by sticking in an open container of water in there. Or just a bag of ice, really. Keeps the humidity up, which slows down the sublimation which is the cause of freezer burn. But even then, all that's happened is that the food has dried out somewhat. It's still edible, though you may want to cut out the affected bits if they taste funny, which can happen.

Second... heck, there's plenty to do with beef! For one thing, almost anything you can do with lamb you can do with beef. Indian food doesn't use much beef cause of the whole Hindu thing, but that doesn't mean you can't. But East Asian cuisine is lousy with beef, and there are an almost unlimited number of things you can do with stir fry. Maybe just beef and veggies in peanut oil. Or in a sweet pepper sauce. Or with soy, ginger and honey. And don't forget soups and stews. Beef-based, tomato based, even cream based, if you're up for it. There's also nothing stopping you from cooking a roast and then slicing it thin for sandwiches or whatever. That's all you really get at the deli, after all. You can also make jerky, if that's your thing. That stuff'll keep for months if you do it right.
posted by valkyryn at 4:19 PM on December 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I love this Cantonese Beef Stew recipe's flavors, although the directions are somewhat lacking. Make it like you would a normal beef stew - brown the beef in the oil before you add water, and add the bean curd and carrots 20-30 minutes before serving if you don't want them to be mushy. It scales well and freezes okay.

Beef soboro is tasty, uses ground beef, and is Japanese.

Traditionally, mapo dofu uses ground pork, but it's good with ground beef too.
posted by asphericalcow at 4:22 PM on December 31, 2011

Best answer: Maybe some moussaka, lasagna, dumplings/potstickers/empanadas/pasties, stuffed zucchini or cabbage, cottage pie, or Sloppy Joes?

Also, could you trade some with friends who don't know what to do with the 60 pounds of homemade jam or pickles or (or whatever) they somehow ended up with recently?
posted by argonauta at 4:27 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Rejoice in the fact that you don't have to buy beef for a year or so! (it will last)

Oh- and after it's been in the freezer for 24 hours, haul it out and put it back in. This will stop it all freezing together (which is horrible!)

Make hamburgers with the mince! There is so much you can do with it, but you don't have to eat it right away.
posted by titanium_geek at 4:32 PM on December 31, 2011

If you're feeling adventuresome, invest in Escoffier. So many unusual methods of presentation and long-forgotten side dishes...not to mention the all the classic French sauces in every possible variety.

I don't eat beef, but his salmon recipes are completely out of this world...I can honestly say I've never had better, no matter how many stars the restaurant.
posted by aquafortis at 4:46 PM on December 31, 2011

Yes, you said something out of burgers but....

Homemade Big Macs!! It'll taste a lot better than McDonald's Big Macs just because you have that awesome meat.

Make each patty so that it weighs 6-8 ounces.

You can get sesame seed buns or you can make your own. Just make sure you slice off the bottom half of both sides so that the bread/lettuce/meat/sauce ratio is right. If you make your own, after you slice off the bottoms off, coat the tops with just a bit of egg white, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake until the seeds are firmly in place. You can also butter the buns a little bit so they're tastier.

Mix together mustard, mayonnaise, relish, and grated onion (it'll look like onion goop). You can add a little bit of onion juice. Just mix all of these together until it tastes like Big Mac sauce!

Slap everything together with American cheese and lettuce.
posted by astapasta24 at 4:52 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could trade some of it with friends, either uncooked or as part of a dish. They make you some gyros, you make them some chili.

A vacuum sealer would come in handy to help reduce the chance of freezer burn on the items that won't get used until last.

I like egg casseroles that I can freeze in individual portions for quick reheating in the morning. I've been thinking that frittatas would be good with ground beef once in a while. I haven't yet found a recipe to try, but I've been looking for one that I could make in large muffin pans.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:08 PM on December 31, 2011

Best answer: This might be of interest to you. But honestly, figure one of those pot roasts a month and you'll be sadly all out in six months.

One thing to do with leftovers (especially if you've roasted potatoes and carrots along with the meat and perhaps have some gravy left over) is to make a beef pie. In fact, I just made one a couple days ago. Dice up all the leftover carrots and potatoes, maybe add some sauteed mushrooms or the peeled sliced stems of broccoli which you cooked the florets of for another meal, dice up a cup or two of beef, put all this in an un-baked pie crust, pour over some gravy, seal on the top crust and bake at about 425 for 45 minutes or an hour. Another thing to do is beef with dumplings, particularly if you make your rolled dumplings from scratch with a bit of black pepper in the dough.

Obviously, another dish to make with the ground beef is meat loaf. To 2# ground beef (80/20 is best if you have the option) add 1 1/4 cup old fashioned oats, 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup steak sauce, 2 tablespoons worcestershire, 3 large eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon ginger. Smoosh it all together with your hands until thoroughly blended, shape into a loaf in a 9"x13" pan and bake at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes to an hour an a half. Slice; eat with mashed potatoes and green beans for sides. Refrigerate leftovers; slice thin for sandwiches the next day.
posted by miss patrish at 5:31 PM on December 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

We are on our second year of buying a quarter cow. Ours was a bit more variety (various cuts of steak as well as ground beef and roasts). We *almost* ate the whole first quarter in a year (maybe ten pounds left over that we either gifted for Father's Day-- a BIG hit, or ate in month 13, which was fine). We are cooking for two small kids and two adults, and we had hardly eaten beef much at all for a couple of years before buying the quarter cow.
We ate:
- lots of burgers (very popular with the kids)
- pasta with meat sauce
- chili
- a veggie-heavy meatloaf (absolute kid favorite), where I just emptied out all the wilted veg in the fridge into the food processor (spinach, carrots, bell pepper, whatever), added some ketchup, breadcrumbs, and an egg and baked it at 350 until my meat thermometer beeped.
- stew in the crock pot
- roasts
- steaks of various varieties, sometimes properly grilled, sometimes sliced thin and stirfried

But I'd say, don't be afraid to give beef as a gift. It sounds sort of crazy, but everyone we gave it to was totally thrilled to get grassfed beef. Trading would probably also work well, if you've got close friends who'd be interested. (Maybe hit them up at Farmers Market or gardening time of year, and trade for bushels of tomatoes and peaches and so on.)

If you try to eat it yourself, it's a pretty big commitment-- we almost never buy any meat other than a few chickens these days. I can't remember the last time I bought pork or lamb or whatnot. (On the other hand, we didn't buy it much before, either.)
posted by instamatic at 5:54 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, if yours is anything like mine, it comes wrapped appropriately for the deep freeze in plastic and butcher paper, so ask your farmer/butcher, but you probably don't need to repackage.
posted by instamatic at 5:56 PM on December 31, 2011

Best answer: If you like Indian, the word to look for in recipe's is "keema" or "kheema", which means "ground beef" in Hindi. A google search turns up many regional variations.
I'd also suggest the various variations on ground beef kebabs.
posted by Runes at 6:00 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Flemish beef stew with brown beer.
posted by iviken at 6:04 PM on December 31, 2011

Total PITA to make, but a party food fave: Papas Rellenas Colombianas; mashed-potato balls filled with ground beef, dunked in beaten eggs & deep-fried. Admittedly, this is kind of like Midwest-hotdish-meets-TGI-Fridays-xxxtreem-turbo-appetizer-hellscape, I guess.
posted by Rat Spatula at 8:34 PM on December 31, 2011

Unless your butcher did something weird, in addition to the roasts, steaks, and ground beef you are going to have a bunch of cuts that need to be cooked low and slow. Think ribs and shanks, for example, or oxtail. Your basic choices are braising/stewing (on the stovetop or in the oven) or barbequeing; either way, you are applying low heat for a long time, and the results will be incredibly delicious. For me, in addition to knowing where the meat comes from and that the animal had a good life, this is the main attraction of buying bulk meat. There is so much more to meat than chicken breasts and generic ribeye steaks; expanding my cooking repertoire to include more parts of the animal is incredibly rewarding.
posted by Forktine at 9:20 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Pasta e fagiole (pasta and bean soup) is a big hit in my house; brown ground beef crumbles work well in this dish. I saute with garlic and a very few red pepper flakes, plus pancetta if I've got it. Use some onion if you have it on hand as well. Drain; remove from pot. Toss some thinly sliced carrots and celery into the skillet with a little olive oil; cook over medium low until softened. Add a little more garlic and return the beef to the pot. Add oregano and basil to taste, followed by a can or two of rinsed canellini beans. Stir in some chopped tomatoes or your basic red sauce, (I keep a "mother" sauce in my freezer in one cup and one tablespoon portions for just such a case) and a couple of cups of chicken or beef stock. Simmer while you set the table. Meanwhile, cook separately about half a cup of ditalini pasta or similar small pasta. Stir in to main dish.

You said you make meatballs; do you use them outside of red sauces? I make a lot of quarter-sized ones and precook to have on hand for Italian Wedding Soup. It's what I crave when I'm sick, and is a very different taste from the way we usually use meatballs. I can't promise that the little one will like wedding soup; the escarole traditionally used is a little bitter. I've managed to addict all my adult neighbors and about half the kids to this soup by sharing the huge batch I make at Thanksgiving.
posted by theplotchickens at 9:37 PM on December 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

When summer comes, invite everyone you know and love over for a gigantic BBQ. You supply the meat, they bring the sides. I did this last summer with ribs and it was a giant hit. Meat is more expensive but way less work than sides, so it suited me just fine.

In addition to chili and meatballs, I used ground beef in shepherd's pie and hamburger soup. There are a zillion recipes for the soup, mine includes barley and tomatoes and it's a giant sized batch. If you're interested, I can dig up the recipe.
posted by looli at 10:10 PM on December 31, 2011

Best answer: For the ground beef, I love this Moroccan-style stuffed acorn squash recipe.
posted by creepygirl at 10:34 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

How has anybody not yet mentioned lasagne?
posted by flabdablet at 2:26 AM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Flabdablet: because the Italian family I married into would ban me from the kitchen if beef and lasagna appeared at the same time on my table, unless of course the beef were cooked in the sauce and then every teeny smidge of solid beef carefully removed, then served separately in a nice covered dish, across the table from the lasagna. Said lasagna, despite being cooked with the meat-infused-but-not-visibly-tomato-sauce, they would probably consider vegetarian.
posted by theplotchickens at 6:16 AM on January 1, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the suggestions! Excellent ideas in this thread - especially miss patrish's chuck/steak diagram. That's exactly the kind of re-inventing I was looking for. Does anyone want to weigh in about sausage making?

The meat was all packaged at the processor - the lamb came the same way and I never had any problems with it burning or sticking. We haven't tried trading but have straight up given away what our friends would take. I actually looked online to see if there was a bartering site where I could swap beef for some whole chickens; maybe there is an interested Portlander mefite?

Forktine: There are definitely more cuts than just the ground beef and roasts; those are just the ones idk what to do with and seem to be the most plentiful. I loved the lamb we got for exactly the same reason as you - trying to figure out what to do with all the lesser known cuts was very fun for me.
posted by lilnublet at 8:47 AM on January 1, 2012

I'm a butcher's daughter, and passionate beef cook!

I frequently cook roasts for my small family, so I have massive leftovers. I use the leftover roast meat in shredded beef enchiladas and burritos or in piled-high roast beef sandwiches (you can re-freeze the roast after cooking if you want but it lasts a long time in the fridge; just slice as needed!).

To shred the roast I usually cook it down (cut into pieces) in some beef stock *slowly* until you break it down to shred. Come up with your own best enchilada recipes, I am always experimenting with different ideas.

Ground beef is best used in a cooked dish (like lasagna, meat loaf or (OMS-- LOVE THESE!) meatballs, but it is especially great as burgers! I also make a mean pizza sauce and use it on homemade pizza crust with a ground beef topping and Italian cheeses anytime I possibly can-- YUM!

I want to thank theplotchickens for a great "Pasta e fagiole" recipe! I'm gonna make that as soon as I'm finished with this New Year's roast beast I'm cooking right now...
posted by PixieS at 10:19 AM on January 1, 2012

Best answer: I mentioned lasagna. But now all I want is pasta e fagiole and Moroccan-style stuffed acorn squash!

I also wanted to suggest Japanese yakitori and, in the sausage arena, how about bresaola or Biltong?
posted by argonauta at 10:38 AM on January 1, 2012

Best answer: With the ground meat -- well, some of it -- you could make a version of Emergency Protein. I have a bowl beside me right now, made with kelp noodles. Delish.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:47 AM on January 1, 2012

Best answer: Here's a link to a sausage-making site. With pictures! This is not my sausage making site, but I have made sausage before (the non-cured kind), and though I don't share this site's disdain for non-pork sausage, I certainly agree with their assessment that you need at least 20% fat, and really 25% or more is better. Otherwise, the sausage will be nigh-inedible it will be so dry. Do you have a sausage stuffer? Since your beef is already ground, that's the only odd equipment you will need. You can usually get casing from a (real) butcher shop. Actually, I once (unofficially) borrowed a sausage stuffer from a (real) butcher shop, so you might check into that when you're there procuring casing; the butcher could probably give you a lead on one if s/he can't lend/rent one to you.

Sausage making is kind of fun, too, if you don't mind plunging right into your food. If you've never done it before, you'll probably flail a bit at first and blow some up and then underfill, maybe have the casing fall off the spout thingy, and you may curse, but pretty quickly you'll get the hang of it and then, well. There's nothing to make one feel quite so wealthy as a lovely stack of fresh home-built sausages. Fry 'em up right away or stash 'em in the freezer.

You could go with a couple different batches, altering the recipe to be Italian-y or curry or whatever. Fun. I am feeling jealous now.
posted by miss patrish at 2:27 PM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Kibbeh is one of my favorite dishes.
posted by XMLicious at 7:06 PM on January 1, 2012

Best answer: Depending on how adventurous you are, empanadas, samosas, homemade hot pockets (!) - i.e. many kinds of fried or baked savory pastry - are yummy filled with spiced up ground beef.
posted by darsh at 10:39 AM on January 3, 2012

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