dcsimg

Beginner's Guide To Cooking Meat

Learning how to cook meat isn't hard, but it also isn't a one-size-fits-all process. Different cuts of meat require different cooking methods. But before you can start cooking, you need to go shopping.

Start by looking for the highest quality meat you can afford. For beef, that means selecting USDA Prime meat if possible. If you'd rather not splurge on prime cuts, USDA Choice and USDA Select are the next two grades in terms of quality. The higher the grade, the more marbling the meat has, something that can increase its flavor. Some cooks prefer to buy their meat locally or use grass-fed beef. Both can be good options but be aware grass-fed meat is typically leaner than that which comes from grain-fed animals.

Cuts of Meat

Cuts of Meat

Regardless of how an animal was raised or what it was fed, its meat will fall into two categories: lean cuts and tougher cuts. Here's what you should know about each.

  • Lean cuts: These are steaks, tenderloins and other tender cuts of meat. They don't require much preparation, and since they don't have much fat, they should be quickly cooked to keep them juicy and flavorful. Grilling and sautéing are good choices for lean cuts.
  • Tougher cuts: Tougher cuts of meat can be just as delicious as lean cuts, but you have to prepare them right. These cuts comes from the muscular areas of an animal, such as the shoulder or rump. You'll want to slow cook, stew or braise these meats to break down the muscle and bring out the flavor.

Marinades

Marinades

Using a marinade is one way to help break down the collagen found in tougher cuts and tenderize the meat. They can also be used to add flavor to lean cuts.

Marinades are liquids that typically include acidic ingredients such as lemon juice, vinegar or soy sauce. You can purchase them premade in the store or use a recipe to make your own at home.

To marinate, place the meat in a non-metallic dish, pour the liquid over the meat, cover and place the dish in the refrigerator unless you plan to begin cooking immediately. Tougher cuts may benefit from sitting in a marinade for hours prior to cooking or even overnight. However, lean cuts should only be marinated for an hour or two at most. Any longer could turn your lean cut into a tough cut.

Brines

Brines

Like a marinade, a brine can be used to add flavor. What's more, it allows tough cuts of meat to remain moist even while being slow cooked.

In its most basic form, brine is a combination of salt and water although sometimes sugar and other flavorings are added. Heavily-salted brine can be used as a cure for meats that are going to be cooked very slowly, smoked or air dried. Brining with a lower salt content is done to impart flavor and increase moisture and always results in a juicier piece of meat. For a quicker effect, meats are sometimes injected with flavored liquids using a special meat syringe. While this does not give the same overall moisture increasing effect as brine, it imparts flavor throughout the meat.

What Cooking Method is Best?

The answer to this question depends largely on the cut. Leaner cuts of meat are best cooked using a dry heat method while larger, tougher cuts of meat are best when cooked using a wet heat method. Grilling, broiling, sautéing, stir frying, and roasting are all dry heat cooking techniques while braising, stewing and poaching are wet heat methods.

Here's a closer look at each one.

Grilling and Broiling

  • Exposes meat directly to the heat source.
  • Meat takes on a smoky flavor as parts of the meat chars.
  • With grilling, the heat source is below the meat while in broiling the heat comes from above.

Sautéing and Stir Frying

  • Done in pans on the stovetop, using a small amount of fat.
  • Meat is cooked quickly at a high heat to create a sear and lock-in moisture.
  • Stir-fry meat is cut into small pieces, cooked, combined with other ingredients and often finished with a sauce.

Roasting

  • Involves cooking meat with dry heat in an enclosed space, usually an oven.
  • Tender cuts of meat, such as beef filet or lamb racks, are roasted at a very high temperature (425 degrees and above) for a short period of time.
  • Tougher, thicker cuts of meat are roasted at a much lower temperature (250 to 300 degrees) for a longer period of time, often for many hours.

Braising and Stewing

  • Braising cooks meat in liquid in a sealed container such as a Dutch oven.
  • Braises and stews cook for a long period of time on low heat.
  • It's essential to maintain an even cooking temperature and not overcook. Otherwise, meat could become dry and tough.

Poaching

  • Meat is submerged in a liquid that is kept at a consistent temperature.
  • Poaching is usually done with smaller cuts of meat.
  • This method uses a higher temperature and a shorter cooking time than braising and stewing.

Browse Culinary Arts Schools & Colleges

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
            • Has an average class sizes of 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
            • Offers numerous scholarship opportunities that can help students save up to $750 per term on their tuition.
            • Tends to educate degree-seeking online and campus-based students who are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            3 Program(s) Found
            • Culinary Arts program includes the 3-week Farm To Table® Experience, where students gain a direct, in-depth look at where food comes from.
            • Numerous scholarship opportunities and financial aid are available to students who qualify.
            • Accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET), and the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
            • 2 campuses located in Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            4 Program(s) Found
            Virginia College , Jacksonville
            • Instructors are typically real-world professionals with many years of experience in their career fields.
            • Ranked #3 in Best for Vets: Career & Technical Colleges 2014 by Military Times.
            • Presents the full tuition cost up front. In most cases, even textbooks are included in the total price.
            • Provides career services associates to help students review their resume, provide career counseling, help with job searches, and more.
            • Has 27 campus locations across the southern United States, plus offers online degree programs.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Ranked the 13th  Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 11:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
            Show more [+]
            1 Program(s) Found
            • A contemporary, career-focused institution of higher education dedicated to excellence since 1902.
            • Has academic advising that provides students someone to answer questions and provide guidance.
            • Offers scholarships for qualifying military members, adult learners, as well as program-specific scholarships.
            • Provides tutoring services to help students master any assignments that give them trouble.
            • Gives students the option to study online, at one of the 12 campuses in Indiana or Ohio, or a combination of both.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits