The beauty of beef is the many ways it can be prepared: on the stove, in the oven or on the grill, just to name a few.
No matter your method of choice, a meat probe or instant-read thermometer is your friend and a key tool in accurate cooking. Insert the thermometer through the side of the meat with the tip in the center, not touching bone or fat.
Remove meat from its heat when the thermometer registers five degrees F lower than desired doneness for thinner cuts, or 10 degrees lower for roasts. Be sure to allow any cut to rest before cutting.
When it comes to safe cooking temperatures for beef, there are standard recommended guidelines per the U.S. Department of Agriculture: Roasts should be cooked to 145 degrees F plus three minutes to rest. Ground beef should be cooked to a minimum 160 degrees F, but resting time is not necessary according to the USDA.
No need to spend an arm and a leg on a cut of beef; marinades, cooking times and tenderizing can all help get the most bang for your buck.
Though the department does not address “doneness,” the 145-degree roasting result should provide what is considered medium doneness, and the ground beef will be well done at 160 degrees with little to no pink hue in the meat.
Want to get more out of your beef? Here are the 9 essential techniques to master.
Sautéing is to cook large or small pieces of food in a wide, shallow pan in a small amount of hot fat over medium-high heat without frequent stirring. The word sauté comes from the French verb “sauter,” which means "to jump". The browning from sautéing adds color and richness and is best accomplished using a large skillet or sauté pan. Ground beef for crumbles or burgers and shaved or thinly sliced strips or cubes of beef benefit from sautéing.
Searing is to caramelize the surface of food with a sudden, intense heat. This technique quickly browns the natural sugars in beef forming a rich, brown crust that seals in juices. This method is typically used before braising beef or after beef is cooked with the sous vide method. A hot, well-seasoned cast-iron skillet produces the best results.
Broiling is a method of dry heat cooking using direct, radiant heat from above with the oven’s broiler. The best results come from broiling a flat piece of meat with an even thickness to create a rich, brown crust. Broiling works best when meat is cooked two to four inches from the heat source. Flat iron steak, ranch steak, or center-cut chuck shoulder steak, and top sirloin steak work well for broiling.
Grilling is a method of dry heat cooking using direct, radiant heat from below such as on a barbecue. This is the most popular method for preparing steak. It is best to grill on one side and flip once. Rib-eye, filet mignon, T-bone, New York strip and other various steaks are ideal on the grill.
Roasting is a simple method of cooking meat as it can be left at a lower temperature for a prolonged period in an oven or over indirect fire. Place larger cuts of meat in a shallow pan with the fat-side up. Inserting a meat or probe thermometer will help monitor the meat temperature as it cooks without having to open the oven door or grill. One should resist testing the temperature too often; poking holes into the meat releases juices. The eye of round roast or prime rib roast are great options for this method.
Braising is to cook food using dry and wet heats starting with the meat seared or sautéed at a high temperature and finished in a covered pot with some liquid at a lower temperature. The benefit of braising is to render a tougher cut of meat fork-tender. Braising can be done on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker, oven or slow cooker. Popular braised dishes include beef stew, short ribs and brisket.
Smoking is to brown, cook, flavor or preserve food by exposing it to smoke created from burning or smoldering material, usually wood. Different hardwoods infuse different flavors, from the deep, smoky characteristics of mesquite to the mild sweetness of applewood; hickory imparts a heavy bacon flavor. Brisket, roasts and ribs are best for this method.
Sous vide relates to the process of sealing food in an airtight container — usually a vacuum-sealed bag — to cook in a low temperature-controlled water bath. Sous vide cooking minimizes overcooking and results in tender, juicy meat. In French, the term pronounced “soo-VEED,” translates to "under vacuum.” It is best to use food-grade plastic bags designed specifically for sous vide cooking, but food grade resealable zip-tight plastic bags are also adequate. Use a vacuum seal unit with the designated bags to remove any excess air. After cooking, the meat is best seared for additional color and flavor before plating.
Stir-frying is to cook quickly over high heat in a lightly oiled pan such as a wok with frequent stirring. This Chinese cooking method is best accomplished with bite-sized pieces of meat with uniform thickness and size. Traditionally meats are marinated in seasoning such as soy sauce and tenderized for a smooth mouth feel with the addition of cornstarch. Additional flavoring may be added to the cooking oil with aromatics such as garlic, ginger or shallots.