Grass-fed Meat: 3 Factors that can Positively Influence Your Eating Satisfaction
No one buys ingredients to prepare a meal hoping it will be mediocre.
That would be dumb, and a waste of money.
It’s obvious that we expect to have an enjoyable meal experience when we cook for ourselves and our family. Whether it’s chocolate or chops, macadamias or mince, we all plan, shop and cook with the best result in mind.
For those who choose to eat meat, the topic of how you best enjoy it is highly subjective and personal. What appeals to one person, won’t rate a mention with the next.
Try asking “what’s more important – a tender steak or a tasty one?” * and it’s sure to spark a lively conversation round the BBQ!
So the 64 dollar question is – as a home cook, what can you do to maximise your enjoyment of your grass-fed meat?
It turns out that this very issue (though not necessarily confined to grass-fed meat) has been the focus of decades of research by many in the industry chain, so it’s a pretty valid question to have!
To understand the answer, first we must understand the criteria we’re judging the end result by.
Three Important Traits
Meat eating satisfaction is universally determined by three simple, but crucial traits: juiciness, flavour and tenderness.
It’s likely that you’ve heard of and used these terms, but what do they really mean?
And how do they relate to the meat you’re about to cook? After all, they sound simple enough.
Finally, how can you use these attributes to increase your chances of enjoying your meat?
We’ve put together some thoughts that will answer your questions. Review these traits before your next dinner guests arrive, and they’re sure to be impressed 🙂
Description: Level of meat juices remaining in the meat after cooking
Why it’s important: Increases flavour, helps soften meat making it easier to chew, intramuscular fat melts and bastes the flesh during cooking
Influenced by: Cut of meat, length of cooking time, marbling and external fat (they help hold in water)
End result controlled by: Home cook
Undesirable result: Dry, stringy or tough meat
Tips to Maximise:
♥ Choose a marbled cut of meat (the fat will insulate the meat and help prevent over-cooking)
♥ Purchase aged meat or ‘Cool Age’ whole cuts at home (to increase water retention and therefore juiciness)
♥ Remove meat from fridge at least 30 – 45 minutes prior to cooking (and ensure meat is fully defrosted before cooking)
♥ Don’t trim fat before cooking (fat promotes juiciness)
♥ Brush meat with melted ghee or oil before cooking
♥ Lower cooking heat
♥ Don’t turn your steaks too soon – wait til they release easily
♥ Resist the urge to poke and piece your meat while cooking (otherwise you’ll let valuable juices out)
♥ Opt for a shorter cooking time (medium rare)
♥ Remove meat when it’s 5 – 20°C lower than the target temperature
♥ Rest steaks for 5 – 10 minutes and roasts 15 – 25 minutes before serving
Description: The taste and aroma of cooked meat
Why it’s important: Increases eating satisfaction and enjoyment
Influenced by: Animal species and diet, cut of meat, intramuscular fat or marbling
End result controlled by: Farmer and butcher
Undesirable result: Grassy/earthy taste
Tips to Maximise:
♥ Select a bone-in cut
♥ Season lightly with sea salt and pepper and enjoy the unique flavour
♥ Marinate uncooked meat for several hours before cooking
♥ Add a squeeze of lemon (or more salt)
♥ Serve with a rich sauce or a flavoursome side dish
Description: The gauge of how easy meat is to chew or cut
Why it’s important: Historically recognised as the most important palatability trait
Influenced by: Cut of meat, length of cooking time
End result controlled by: Farmer, butcher and home cook
Undesirable result: Tough, chewy meat
Tips to Maximise:
♥ Marinate uncooked meat in buttermilk, yoghurt or acidic liquid for several hours before cooking
♥ Remove meat from fridge at least 30 – 60 minutes prior to cooking
♥ Lower cooking heat
♥ Reduce cooking time
♥ Match cut to cooking method
♥ Purchase aged meat or ‘Cool Age’ whole cuts at home
Rescue Tips for Tough Meat:
♥ Marinate cooked meat (using an acid, a fat and seasonings), and warm gently to serve
♥ Slice meat thinly and across the grain
It’s essential to recognise that no one single attribute is ‘all-important’ – all 3 are necessary to assure consistent eating quality. Just as all steps in the production process will impact on the eventual eating experience, so too does the way you store, prepare, cook and serve your meat 1.
Setting the Global Standard
In 1998, Australia developed a set of standards for beef and sheep meat to promote better eating quality and consistency. The Meat Standards Australia (MSA) system was based on almost 700,000 consumer taste tests by consumers from nine countries. This grading system is now the world’s leading eating quality programme for beef and lamb.
The taste tests revealed how people rate their eating satisfaction based on these four variables: tenderness, juiciness, flavour and overall liking.
The MSA team researched the key attributes known to impact eating quality of beef and lamb.
What are your thoughts on this? Does it line up with what’s important to your eating satisfaction?
It’s a personal thing
Keep in mind that each person will have an individual preference for what they most enjoy when eating meat. For some, flavour is paramount; others will rave about meat that is meat is fork-tender.
Interestingly, while a cut of meat may score well on one or two traits, it may be ultimately judged as ‘not satisfactory’ if it fails on the third. 2
That brings us to the heart of this article ….
The single most important question determining your eating satisfaction
Now that we’ve looked at the three traits, ask yourself this important question:
What is my taste preference for meat? (and we’re not talking about meat ‘doneness’ – think flavour, tenderness and juiciness).
Is lean and tender more important to you than a robust flavour and marbling? Or would you go for flavour and happily use your teeth a little more? Perhaps juice running down your chin indicates your perfect steak!
Knowing your preference (and that of your family) for these characteristics gives you a real advantage in preparing meat that you enjoy. Identifying the single most important attribute to you allows you to do everything possible to select, cook and serve meat that harnesses this trait.
Realistic Expectations for Eating Satisfaction
It may seem obvious, but if tenderness is important to you, don’t choose chuck steak, cook it on the BBQ and expect it to turn out like eye fillet.
The particular meat cut you’ve selected will be a good indication of what traits you can expect. (We’ll discuss this in an upcoming edition of Meaty Morsels).
Suffice to say – don’t expect your cut of meat to give you an outcome it was not designed to give.
The Role of Personal Preference and Bias
Your personal opinion and health choices will greatly prejudice your view of whether the meal was enjoyable or not, regardless of the actual results.
In a 2004 study, it was shown that the level of satisfaction with the actual eating experience depends on how accurate the initial prediction of eating quality was, as well as the actual physical characteristics of the beef. 3, 4
If you believe external fat on your meat is bad for your health, your enjoyment and subsequent satisfaction rating of a T Bone steak with a thick layer of fat will be vastly different than someone who is pursuing a high calorie, high protein diet.
TAKE HOME TIP
There are 3 primary factors that have been shown to increase your satisfaction while eating meat. These are juiciness, flavour and tenderness.
While these 3 attributes need to be managed together for best results, each person will have their own opinion about what’s the most important to focus on.
Knowing what you personally think is the single most important factor allows you to select and serve your meat with particular attention with that attribute. (Remember that each person may rank these traits in a different order).
In order to increase your chances of enjoying your next meat meal, keep these tips in mind:
- Determine which of the 3 characteristics are most important to you (juiciness, flavour or tenderness)
- If you’re really not sure what you most prefer, think of a steak you’ve eaten that you did not enjoy. Chances are what made that steak unsatisfactory to you will reveal what you’d prefer instead.
- As a home cook, you determine the juiciness of your meat, and to a less extent, the tenderness. Concentrate on maintaining the juiciness in your meat, and you’ll be a long way ahead of your meat-eating peers! (See above for our ‘Tips to Maximise’ each trait)
- Don’t be afraid to ask us or Mr Google questions! It’s better to ask a silly question than be risk ruining a good cut of meat or be disappointed in the end result.
We hope you’ve been inspired to think more about what traits elevate your meat to ‘superb’ and that you’re confident in being able to achieve this every time you prepare a meal.
* And if you were wondering, the correct answer to the question “what’s more important – a tender steak or a tasty one?” is “it’s completely your call!” 🙂
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