How Now Yummy Cow?
January 6, 2013 8:25 PM   Subscribe

So, I'm planning to start eating meat again after 25 years as a vegetarian. I visited the farm, bought the meat and brought it home. Now what?

I've recently made the decision to start eating meat again, mainly for health reasons as I'm a carb addicted vegetarian. I found a wonderful farm that raises grass fed/ grass finished Wagyu beef, made a visit to verify that their ethics align with mine, then brought home a bunch of beef. I have NO IDEA what to do with it. It's all sitting in my freezer staring at me. But perhaps I shouldn't anthropomorphize the beef at this point. Anyway....

Since I have zero experience with meat, I'm looking for a primer on how to deal with the following cuts-

Top Sirloin
Rib Eye
Chuck Roast
Sirloin Tip Roast
London Broil
Short Ribs

What would you do with these cuts? Bonus question- what do I do with the 5 whole frozen chickens that are in there hanging out with the beef?

posted by PorcineWithMe to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I'll start off by pointing out that rib eye and tenderloin can be served as a delicious roast or cut into steaks. Do you know which you have?
posted by fiercekitten at 8:28 PM on January 6, 2013

Chuck roast.... I love simple... I would thaw it... heat up a cast iron pot, put a couple of tablespoons of veg. oil in it, sear both sides of the roast until a dark brown... then add a cup or two or water, some garlic (minced/sliced), some herbs of Provence, some fresh ground pepper, two onions, and throw it in the oven (covered) at 350 for about 3 hours. I would add some potatoes and carrots when there is an hour left.

pull it out of the oven, make some gravy....

You now have my mother's pot roast, you will love it... invite me to dinner when you cook it....
posted by HuronBob at 8:30 PM on January 6, 2013

Response by poster: Both of those cuts are as steaks, each at about a half pound if that makes a difference.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:31 PM on January 6, 2013

Response by poster: Is there a website that gives a basic understanding of how these cuts are generally prepared? (But as long as I have you all here.....)

HuronBob- I have 2 chuck roasts that are each about 2 pounds - does your timing still apply? To what temp should I cook it?
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:35 PM on January 6, 2013

I'd roast the whole chickens.

The short ribs - brown in a Dutch oven with onions. Salt and pepper. Maybe some italian seasoning. Add carrots and a can of crushed tomatoes and a cup or so of red wine. Bring to simmer and then put in the oven for 3-4 hours. The meat will be falling off the bone.

Serve with something green and simple - a salad or sautéed chard - and a carb - potatoes, noodles, polenta or bread.
posted by bunderful at 8:36 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tenderloin steaks are my favorite thing in the world. Grill 'em with Montreal Spice sprinkled on top and eat 'em medium rare if at all possible.
posted by mazola at 8:39 PM on January 6, 2013

There are tons of recipes in places like, epicurious, Mark Bittman's blog, and other sites. Start by googling "[cut of meat] recipe easy" and see what you get. Look for sites that allow comments or ratings to get a feel for how good the recipe is.
posted by bunderful at 8:39 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

PorcineWithMe... 350 degrees, and, yes, three hours... gives you a very well done but tender meal... check to make sure that it doesn't dry out about midway, add water if needed... you might need to add a cup or so of water at the end when making the gravy...

(gravy... you should have a cup or so of water left in the pot after cooking the roast... add a cup or so more of water if necessary... put three or four tablespoons of flour in a bowl, add some liquid from the pot, mix well until smooth, add slowly to the pot on a burner at a good simmer... stir until it thickens to the degree you prefer.... add salt/pepper to taste...)... now I'm hungry!
posted by HuronBob at 8:44 PM on January 6, 2013

Best answer: Try putting the different cuts of meat into the search on, my very favorite place to go for inspiration for all kinds of recipes.

For example I plugged in "beef tenderloin" and found all of these delicious recipes. Now excuse me while I salivate on my computer for a while....
posted by ruhroh at 8:47 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Chuck roasts usually come bigger than 2lbs so the time might not be quite right but it can take long cooking at low temp, unlike other meats.

This recipe for sirloin steak is super easy and quite good.
posted by fiercekitten at 8:48 PM on January 6, 2013

Tenderloin.... this recipe is my favorite...easy and very, very good...

Leftovers can be warmed up in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, or sliced and pan seared (great for steak and eggs in the morning!)...
posted by HuronBob at 8:49 PM on January 6, 2013

This is something that you will have to experiment with. The rib eye and tenderloin steaks are going to need to be cooked to your preferred level of doneness. For example, I prefer rib eyes medium rare and tenderloin rare. Unfortunately, none of us can tell you how you like your steak, although I of course think my stated preferences are the ideal ones. Rib eye is my favorite cut of beef.

The roasts and the london broil are going to be cooked for longer periods of time. This question is really one where Google is your friend, as bunderful noted.

(btw, I used to live in one of Japan's top kuroge wagyu towns and saw single cows sold for over $100k. I think the whole auction house would faint if they heard of a grass-fed kuroge. Not feeding them grain and beer and not massaging the cows is taking away what makes it wagyu.)
posted by Tanizaki at 8:52 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Everyone else has started giving good recipe recommendations, but I just want to point out something that I, as a once-vegetarian, did not realize when I bought my first cut of grass-fed beef: cooking times are MUCH shorter because grass-fed cows are leaner. I recommend investing in a Thermapen or other high-quality digital probe thermometer and using that to gauge doneness. Stop cooking it when it's 10 degrees COOLER than your desired doneness. It will continue cooking while you let it rest for ~5 minutes off the heat.

Here's a breakdown of temperature that corresponds to each level of doneness. Again, don't cook grass fed to this temperature; stop it about 10 degrees below.
posted by joan_holloway at 8:54 PM on January 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Bear in mind that all meat is nicer to eat if it is "hung" - that is, allowed to mature for a while, some days or longer depending on temperature and your preference, at a low but not freezing temperature. Nicer = tastes better and is more tender.
posted by anadem at 9:05 PM on January 6, 2013

Best answer: Regarding the chuck roast:
This is a very lean, tough cut, but one that can be awesome if cooked right- I suggest a low/slow cooking method. If you've got a slow cooker, you can braise it on low for 9 hours or so, or 5-7 on high if you don't have the time. When braising (in a liquid, the collagen in the meat dissolves into gelatin, giving you amazing tender, moist beef that you can shred with a fork.

I recently made one of my favorite self-cooked meals of all time using that cut and this method, which was a smokey shredded beef taco filling/eat-it-from-the-bowl-with-your-bare-hands kind of deal. I got the recipe from the book Slow Cooker Revolution, which is pretty amazing so far. In fact, I'd recommend any of the books I've read from America's Test Kitchen- since it's obviously been a while since you've cooked meat, you might find something like this book interesting and useful.
posted by EKStickland at 10:02 PM on January 6, 2013

You defrost a chicken in the fridge and then roast it like this. Simple. Delicious. Idiot-proof.

Get yourself a decent digital meat thermometer.
posted by gnutron at 10:07 PM on January 6, 2013

I had delicious braised short ribs last night! It was a takeoff of a recipe in the book Bones. That book is almost certainly overkill for you at this stage, so I will try to reproduce it in a useful way ... the recipe was very similar to bunderful's, above.

I started by cutting each rib bone apart. Just cut down between each bone approximately evenly.

Pat dry each chunk of meat. Meat will brown (the equivalent of caramelizing) better when it's dry. So always pat -- or better, air dry -- your meat.

Salt and pepper the meat. Since you don't want to touch your salt/pepper shakers or salt cellar with meat hands, I like to grind pepper and pinch salt into a separate bowl that will be sacrificed, then pinch and add s&p to the meat from that. I can then flip the meat to s&p the other side with no qualms about getting meat goo on clean implements or in clean salt. Anything left in the bowl afterwards gets chucked. Salt is cheap!

On the stove, heat up some oil in the dutch oven or other thick-bottomed pot. I.e. not a single-ply aluminum pot.

Put a few chunks of meat in the hot oil, meat side down (not rib-bone-side down). You'll see stuff about "don't crowd the pan" -- this is because each chunk of meat, as it browns, needs to have room for the steam coming off of it to get out of the pan without running into the other chunks in the pan. If chunks are too close, they'll just steam at each other, and no browning will happen. You want browning. It is good.

So, put a few chunks in meat side down. Let them get nice and browned. If there are other meaty sides on the chunks, feel free to turn them like dice until all their sides are browned. Take them out and put the other raw chunks in. Repeat until all have been browned. Keep your ribs off to the side on a plate or whatever.

Note that you are not aiming to cook them through at this point; you are going to simmer them later for a long while, and that will get them cooked through. Your goal right now is to get the browning (again, equivalent to caramelization) to create flavor and be awesome.

With my short ribs, at this point, I removed some melted fat from the pan, because they had given off a lot of fat. I just used a spoon to remove some until it looked like what I wanted to cook onions in.

Put your onion in like you would normally cook onion. Then garlic. When they are all nice and cooked and starting to brown, deglaze the pan. I don't know if you know about this -- I didn't when I was a vegetarian, but I was also NOT an expert cook -- this is adding some liquid, which loosens the tasty bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan as the result of your browning meat and onions etc. Those bits are called fond. To deglaze, dump in some wine, tomato juice, stock, water, whatever you want to use, and scrape it all up off the bottom with a flat spoon.

So you've got ribs sitting and waiting, and onion and garlic and water/stock/wine in the pan. Add a ~14 oz can of tomatoes (I used 8 oz homemade tomato paste and some water and some more wine), and some carrots cut into 1" lengths. Also add a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, a sprig of parsley, etc. -- whatever you've got. Bring to a boil, and add your ribs back in. Make sure they are mostly covered with liquid. Add more liquid to do so, if needed.

Twenty minutes ago you preheated your oven to 300º. Now you take your dutch oven and get some damp parchment paper (I don't know why, the recipe said to do it so I did, I am exploring trusting other people) and put that over the top, then put the lid over that. Put in oven for 1.5 hrs. Remove parchment, and cook for another 1.5 hrs or until the meat is extremely tender and awesome.
posted by librarina at 10:26 PM on January 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

As other's have noted its pretty easy to get recipes.

For me it breaks down to two types of cooking low and slow for tougher cuts, braised, slow-cooker, or slow smoked barbecue (true low and slow barbecue isn't easy in a standard barbecue grill). I'm a sucker for good short ribs. Short ribs on top of some good risotto/polenta/mashed potatoes is phenomenal. One of my go to entertaining recipes is this short rib recipe over horseradish mashed potatoes and garnsished with some pickled onions.

For steaks etc its pan seared. Spend the 10-20 bucks on a cast iron pan. I honestly believe its the best way to make a steak and that includes over grilling. Don't be ashamed to use a thermometer to get meat to the right level of doneness. Unless you're cooking 20+ steaks a day its the easiest way to get things right. On the pan seared side start with getting a good steak with just oil/butter salt and pepper before trying anything else. (don't skimp on the salt on a steak there's a lot of flavor there)
posted by bitdamaged at 10:33 PM on January 6, 2013

Just wanted to suggest that you start this new diet slowly. Eat small amounts of the beef with veggies/rice. Eating an entire steak may really constipate your...omnivore decision.
posted by artdrectr at 10:36 PM on January 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

Bonus question- what do I do with the 5 whole frozen chickens that are in there hanging out with the beef?

Since the chickens are already frozen whole, once you thaw one, you have to cook it, since meat just does not refreeze at all. You could portion it into standard pieces, but diving right in to butchery may not be the best first step back into the meat world. There are many easy ways to roast a chicken whole; gnutron's above seems fine; I like Marcella Hazan's. Then, once you've had a great dinner, and then a good meal or two of leftover chicken adapted into whatever, you take the last scraps of meat off the bone, and use the bones to make a chicken stock and put the meat in it (along with veggies, natch) and have a great chicken soup.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:49 PM on January 6, 2013

As mentioned above, don't dive in too fast. I've heard vegetarians complain of upset stomachs from too much meat too soon.

That said, Chuck Roast would be an awesome substitute for lamb in this osso bucco recipe - lay that baby on a bed of carrots under some delicious tomatoes and cover in white whine (throw some extra herbs like sage or thyme in there).
posted by jander03 at 11:26 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, as artdrectr and jander03 say, start slow. It's more than the constipation; the general consensus among folks I know (including me) who went from a no-meat to a red-meat-containing diet is that there's considerable pain if you go too fast. I suspect the exocrine pancreas downregulates the expression of enzymes you need to digest red meat in its absence, and needs a little while to bring them back online, but I have no evidence for that.

I think stir-fry is a good place to start, because you can gradually switch from your carby diet to a meaty one, and it's forgiving about temperatures. Any of the smaller tender bits will do. From the Beef People, here's a handy site that will tell you what's what. They say, "Almost any tender beef cut, such as sirloin, top sirloin, tri-tip, ribeye, top loin or tenderloin may be trimmed and cut into the appropriate size strips for use in beef stir-fry recipes. Even some less tender cuts, such as flank, top round and round tip steaks, are suitable for stir-frying."
posted by gingerest at 11:39 PM on January 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, as a long time vegetarian whose been violently ill every time someone sneaks me meat, I'd really suggest you take your time with it and work the cuts into food you already eat. Stir fries are great, as are bolognaise and using the meat in things like stews, tacos and burritos and whatnot with lots of fresh veg. Realistically speaking eating great wads of red meat isn't great for you anyway - it should be spaced out with veg, or at least accompanied, so consider this practice. Just easy until your digestion catches up with you.
posted by Jilder at 12:49 AM on January 7, 2013

Came in to suggest the same thing. I fell off the ten-year-veggie wagon into a plate of nice beef teppanyaki and my digestion could not cope. Maybe work your way slowly through the chickens, building up from soup to roasts, and only then start on the beef - both to go easy on your system and to avoid wasting/not appreciating the good dead cows.
posted by runincircles at 1:56 AM on January 7, 2013

Those chickens are you best bet for your first meal. I'd start out by roasting one of them, putting all the meat into the fridge, and cooking something like a potato leek soup from the broth.

When you are ready for the beef I'd start out with that london broil, its a decent flexible cut that is easy to portion control.
Dunk it in a marinade that appeals to you and let it sit either for four hours or over night.

Start out by finding the grain of it (the direction the muscle fibers go, London broil is easy as they only go in one direction and are obvious) and take long ~1 centimeter thick slices off of the meat making sure to cut against the grain. You only need to take off as much as you want to eat.

Once you have these slices heat up a skillet to a temperature where when you sprinkle flecks of water onto it the water dances on the pan with a buffer of steam under it. There is a magic temperature where the water will hold together in larger bubbles where below or above that they'll scatter that is ideal.

As soon as you have this just right, dump your meat slices in, though not so many that you overburden the pan and they pile on top of each other. They will cook very fast, you only really want to make sure you just barely get a nice crust on the outside, which will very much cook the inside quite thoroughly.

When this is ready dump out the meat onto a plate and let it sit there while you stare at it longingly for at least 15 minutes. This is resting process is both actually essential for good beef, helps with safety significantly, and the time spent wistfully gazing at it will also improve everything.

posted by Blasdelb at 2:05 AM on January 7, 2013

Best answer: Is there a website that gives a basic understanding of how these cuts are generally prepared?

There probably is; there is definitely a book, though - Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything starts each chapter off with a tutorial about whatever it's about, so the meat chapter begins with a page about how "x cut of meat is best prepared thusly because [foo], while y cut of meat is best prepared thusly because [baz]" before he gets into the recipes.

As for the frozen chickens - yes to roasting them. There are a squillion recipes for roasting chicken out there; pick whichever one sounds easiest. You will end up with lots of leftover meat; this is good, because then you can turn that leftover meat into chicken salad or use it for chicken quesadillas or in chicken soup. In fact, if you roast the chicken one night, after you've carved it and eaten what you want, take a minute to strip all the meat off the carcass and pack the meat and the carcass into the fridge separately. (If you got a bag of giblets with the chicken, save that too.) Then the next day, dump the chicken carcass, the giblets (if you got them), and a quartered onion and a carrot you've chopped into a couple pieces into a pot. Add a couple cloves of garlic that you've whacked with something to smush them a bit, and maybe a few peppercorns and some salt. Add enough water to just cover everything, put that all on the stove and bring to a boil and then simmer for a couple hours. Then strain out the bones and onion and carrot and junk and stuff. Then use a little of that broth to make a chicken soup out of some of the leftover roast chicken and a few other vegetables and some noodles you've got on hand, and you've taken care of dinner a second night.

(I have been known to roast a whole chicken simply because I wanted the soup.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:50 AM on January 7, 2013

Footnote to making chicken soup: yes, you can make it out of leftover cooked chicken, but it's much tastier to make it from chicken parts that have not already been cooked. Four to six drumsticks will make an excellent large pot of chicken soup (fave version has onions, garlic, carrots, zucchini and spinach in it). Also note that bird bones don't have marrow so you don't get much benefit from recooking a bird carcass.
posted by zadcat at 7:02 AM on January 7, 2013

Best answer: Check out The River Cottage Meat Book. It has a lot of good information about different cuts and kinds of meat and what to do with them.
posted by 168 at 7:53 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Regarding those chickens . . . I cannot recommend highly enough the roasted Zuni Chicken approach/recipe.

You do NOT have to bother with the multi-step bread salad (though at some point you should as it's delicious), but the approach to roasting chicken--dry brine, dry bird, cast iron skillet, high heat, roasting by time--is simple and foolproof. I've made this chicken dozens of times and the results always win. And it's forgiving--sometimes I have time to dry the bird overnight, sometimes not, sometimes it's the small 3 pounder called for in the recipe, sometimes it's larger (and I use the higher end of the time ranges given).
posted by donovan at 9:23 AM on January 7, 2013

Mild dissent to zadcat's answer and clarification of mine:

Also note that bird bones don't have marrow so you don't get much benefit from recooking a bird carcass.

This is true; the stock will be richer and more flavorful if you start with a raw chicken. But it's not like you will get a flavorless nothing if you re-use the carcass either; I've gotten into the habit of re-using a carcass for economy's sake, and have had no complaints. In fact, last night I spontaneously made a batch of stock after braising a chicken and a lot of veg in a crock pot* ; I noticed I had a lot of the chicken's juices and some broth from the veg left over, so I stripped all the meat off, threw the bones back in, added the neck I'd taken out earlier, and fired up the crock pot again for some chicken broth.

But if that's too thin for you, then that's fair. If you want to try the re-using bones method, you can beef it up (or, "chicken it up") by getting a few extra chicken feet or chicken wings and throwing them in as well. (Chicken feet can be gotten easily from some supermarkets, or hit up that same butcher again and see if they have any feet to spare.) Although, you do have five whole chickens, so you could use one to make a rich stock (have someone cut it up for you for ease of preparation/stuffing it into the pot). Hell, this is the perfect chance for you to try both ways and see which you like better.

Footnote to making chicken soup: yes, you can make it out of leftover cooked chicken, but it's much tastier to make it from chicken parts that have not already been cooked.

I realized that I should have clarified that my soup method chiefly involves re-heating things that have been cooked separately already -

1. You've got the cooked chicken and cooked stock.
2. Cook up some pasta or rice, and steam-cook vegetables of your choice.
3. Dump the stock in a pot, dump in the other ingredients, and heat it up until everything is hot. Ta-da.

* Oh, man, this braised chicken was really easy - I sliced up 4 potatoes and an onion, and then chopped up 2 carrots and cubed a little butternut squash, and dumped all that into a crock pot. Then I took half a lemon, squeezed that all over a chicken, then stuffed the squeezed-out lemon half, a sprig of rosemary, and 3 cloves of garlic inside the chicken, and put the chicken in the pot on top of the vegetables. Then fired it up for 5 hours on low, then an extra hour on high, and that was that. There was a good amount of brothy juice left over from the chicken and the veg together, and that's what I added the chicken bones and neck and some more water to to go with a stock.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:30 AM on January 7, 2013

Hi, my husband was a vegetarian for 33 years (from birth). Last year after quite a bit of journaling and elimination, he isolated the cause of his IBS and mild developing Crohn's symptoms to wheat gluten. Additionally his labs after a Crohn's scare / episode showed with moderately high inflammatory markers, plus worsening anemia (his hematocrit had been steadily dropping for five years from a high of 48 to below 40 last November) likely due to a combo of gut permeability + the relatively low / biounavailable protein content in his diet.

So he decided (spontaneously, after doing his own research, much like you did) to forego vegetarianism - ultimately over the course of 3-4 months ending up about 90% Primal/Paleo.

This took time. It's not just the biological / physiological shifts he had to deal with. In his case, he had a lot of textural stuff to deal with. Having been veggie myself off and on throughout the years, my suggestion was to him, and is to you, this:

The meat will not go bad in the freezer in the course of the couple to 3 months I'd suggest you take to transition yourself. Start off easy. In our case, I started doing things like make his favorite homemade carrot-fennel soup with chicken stock rather than veggie stock. Next he tried fish, which he likes quite a bit (you might not be so lucky). The texture thing was difficult for him at first, and fish was just easier that way, especially light, flaky, bland fish like tilapia or haddock. Roast chicken is fine, but make sure you cut it into small pieces. My husband is still turned off by the whole barbarian process of eating a wing or drumstick, and prefers cut strips of breast or similar instead.

And it maybe a trope, but it's true what they say about bacon. It really is a "gateway" drug/meat. His current favorite lunch is a big Cobb salad with thin chicken strips and lots of crunchy bacon.

Beef is still very hard for him texture-wise. Something to do with how chewy it is. The best success I've had with him eating beef is to do ground bison red chili stew, or this classic onion braised brisket recipe (it takes 2 days but is very worth it). Another one he likes is beef burgundy, which I thicken with arrowroot rather than flour.

There are lots of good recommendations in the recipe links posted above, but I'd still be wary of going all-in for medium rare steaks right away if you're not accustomed to the texture. Work with the chuck roasts and tougher cuts first; they'll be more amenable to stews or long slow braising which will soften them into a much more tender and palatable semi-mush.
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:03 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

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