The most widespread uses of these beef cuts are as follows
Beef versus Pork
In the menu of every descent restaurant there are certainly beef dishes. Beef, especially tenderloin and strip loin cuts, is highly valued and esteemed in gourmet circles in Estonia as well as worldwide. However, using beef in cooking is not very popular in Estonia (contrary to many other countries). The majority of Estonians prefer pork. Nevertheless, the use of beef for food is on the increase.
When compared with pork and veal, beef is of a considerably more intensive colour. The older the animal, the brighter the colour of its meat - veal is pinkish but the meat from an older bovine is dark red. The same principle applies in case of fat: fat from calves is white or of a slight yellow tinge, but fat from an older animal is dark yellow. The meat from older bovines is also tougher and duller than that from younger animals. Thus meat from young bovine animals is the best for cooking.The fat content of beef is lower than of pork and that is why it is not as succulent as the latter. Yet low fat content also constitutes an advantage for it enables the meat to be dried. Using beef fat in food preparation is not customary in Estonian cuisine (on the contrary to pork fat). Beef fat is softer and of a more irregular structure than pork fat. As to the appearance, pork fat looks nicer and more acceptable (pork fat is of clear white colour, but beef fat is yellowish). That is also why it is low-fat beef that is valued in Estonia. In countries where beef animals are bred on a large scale the consumption of beef is more widespread and using beef with higher fat content for food is quite popular. In Estonia the principal emphasis of the breeding of bovines has traditionally been on dairy cattle, i.e. milk production. Nevertheless, the farming of beef animals is rapidly growing and in Estonia there will be rapid development in this field.
Because beef is tougher than pork, it requires prior maturing. As a result, connective tissue breaks down and meat becomes tenderer. The lean part of matured beef is of very high quality and of dark red colour; its fat is cream-coloured. Bright red colour frequently indicates that meat is too fresh or has not matured long enough. In order to mature, packaged meat is kept at room temperature (0…+2′C) for several days. The maturing period of fresh beef might range from 1 to 4 days (depending on the quality and the further use of it). Yet the above process remains in the scope of the meat industry. Maturing meat at home in the refrigerator might turn out to be quite a dangerous activity for meat is easily perishable and it is not possible to guarantee ideal maturing conditions. In order to avoid risks consumers should follow the expiry date and storage temperature set by the producer. Pork and veal are not matured. Regrettably maturing is not very widespread in Estonia, even in case of beef yet it is a widely applied technique worldwide. However, similarly to breeding beef animals, beef maturing is gathering ever more momentum in Estonia.Beef of especially high quality is speckled with tiny fat whites visible in lean meat - it is the so-called marbled beef. The latter is beef from especially well-fed cattle, being extraordinarily succulent and delicious. The muscle meat of marbled beef is of deep red colour and its connective tissue appears in small speckles.
It is a characteristic of meat, especially beef, to change colour as a result of wrong storage conditions - at first meat is of bright red colour, but soon its surface takes on a dull greyish tinge. The colour changes as a result of the fluctuating oxygen percentage in the environment. Meat turns greyish when the oxygen percentage is low. Thus it is oxygen that guarantees the pleasantly red colour of meat. However, the problem does not emerge in case of meat stored in MAPs (MAP - Modified Atmosphere Packaging) for in these packages the percentage of oxygen has been increased up to 80% while in the air it is only 21%. That is why meat retains its nice appearance for a longer time in such packages. If meat still turns greyish in these packages before the expiry date, a wrong gas mix has been used in which the oxygen content is too low. Yet this does not shorten the shelf life of meat itself (provided that the package has not been damaged).
Various seasonings and fresh herbs can also be used for flavouring beef. It can be seasoned with dry seasoning mixes as well as marinades. Red wine makes a perfect marinade ingredient for beef. The flavour of wine could be accompanied by various seasoning, such as a moderate amount of garlic and fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, etc.). Additional flavour nuances can be created by adding fruit, wild berries (e.g. juniper berries), mustard seeds and other untraditional components. Stewing is an ideal way of preparing beef for thus the low-fat meat remains juicy. In order to make beef more succulent, it can be studded with lardy pork, for example bacon rashers. To sum up, the number one rule is not to overperform - it is equally important to retain the natural aroma and flavour of meat.
The following three levels of doneness are distinguished for beef.- Well-done - the surface of a meat steak is crusty and meat thoroughly cooked without any sign of pink in the centre, the internal temperature of meat is at least +72′C.
- Medium - refers to beef the surface of which is crusty, but meat is mostly pink from the centre (the colour ranges from reddish to pink), its internal temperature is around +60…+65′C.- Rare - beef cooked rare is only slightly roasted, it is red in the centre and gradually becomes pinkish away from the centre, its internal temperature is +50…+55′C.
The most popular level of cooking is medium for then beef is still pleasantly succulent and tender yet the surface is nicely crusty. According to the opinion of gourmet aficionados beef cooked well-done is overly dry and has lost its best sensory qualities. A beef carcass weighs around 200 kg and is three times as large as that of a pork carcass. Thus all its muscle groups are also up to three times as large.
Beef carcass is similarly to other carcasses divided into three sections: front, middle and back section. The half-carcass to be cut is without head, feet and skin - these are separated to be processed with other slaughter products. The carcass is to a great extent covered with fat which makes distinguishing cuts a bit complicated. The front section is in turn divided into chuck-blade, shoulder and brisket cuts and the middle part into loin and flank cuts (including thin flank). The back includes round and hind shank cuts.
The most widespread uses of these beef cuts are as follows- Entrecôte or rib steak is boneless meat streaky with fat. It resembles pork shoulder cutlets. It is suitable for grilling, frying, stewing and boiling.
- Bone-in shoulder cuts are good for making soup. Boneless shoulder cuts are perfect for making goulash and stroganoff. The muscles of shoulder cuts are irregular, quite veined and with a considerable fat-content.- Loin cuts (tenderloin, strip loin and rump) are best suited for making goulash and stroganoff. These cuts can be very well used in wok foods and hotchpotches and when sliced, they can be fried, grilled or baked. The most valuable part of the loin cut is tenderloin; the rump part is also quite widely used (especially for making roast beef which is generally seasoned with mustard, pepper and salt, as well as with garlic, chopped herbs, etc.). The tissues of the loin part consist of regular muscles. The loin section cuts have a nice cut surface and low fat content.
- Strip loin fillet is perfect for frying as cutlets or the so-called rum steak, including minute cutlets. Very popular are strip loin or tenderloin cutlets seasoned with pepper. Strip loin cuts can be grilled or braised, large chunks barbecued, smoked or baked or used as strips in wok foods and hotchpotches. Stuffed fillet rolls and pockets are very delicious (beef matches well with a bit lardier pork, e.g. bacon rashers). Strip loin membrane has to be removed - it cannot be used in cooking. The characteristics of strip loin are lean meat, nice cut surface and smooth appearance.- Beef tenderloin is extremely tender, valuable - 100% lean. It can be used for making true delicacies - cutlets seasoned with pepper, ch???¢teaubriand, fillet medallions and boeuf ? la tatar. Tenderloin cuts are ideal for baking, grilling, frying and barbecuing. Beef dishes have a special place in the menus of first-rate restaurants.
- Flank cuts require thorough boiling or stewing for that type of meat is quite tough - thus it is used for making hotchpotches and goulash or when stewed for longer it can be used to make meat rolls or tasty baked meat dishes. It is also suitable for smoking.- Ribs are ideal for making delicious soups and bouillons. Streaky meat from ribs and thin flank meat is used for preparing various types of meat rolls.
- Shanks are excellent soup bouillon ingredients. When making soup of shanks it must be borne in mind that the meat is very tough and veined and thus has to be boiled for quite a long time. Yet bouillon made of shanks is especially delicious for marrow adds a delicate touch to the flavour bouquet. Beef shank cuts are also called Osso Bucco yet the traditional Italian food of the same name is made of calf shanks.
Beef versus Pork
- The structure of beef and pork muscle groups is basically the same. The difference lies in size - a pork carcass is one-third the size of a beef carcass and therefore beef muscles are 2-3 times as large as those of pork.- The fat content of pork is higher yet it contains less connective tissue and for that reason prior maturing is not used for pork (except maturing in a marinade). Beef is tougher than pork and therefore it is advisable to use it only when matured beforehand - maturing ensures that connective tissue breaks down and makes the meat tenderer. For maturing, packaged meat is kept at room temperature (0…..+2′C) for several days.
- When compared with pork, beef is of a considerably more intensive colour.- Beef is not as juicy as pork for it contains less fat. Yet low fat content also constitutes an advantage for it enables meat to be dried.
- Oftentimes it is rind which in many cases is not removed, adding to the value of various pork dishes. Beef skin is not suitable for eating.- It is pork fat which actually is adipose tissue of solid consistence on pork carcass which makes the meat succulent and delicious. Beef does not contain thick layers of lard-like pork. It is not customary in Estonian cuisine to use beef fat for its sensory qualities are quite unfamiliar to us. As to the appearance, pork fat looks nicer and more acceptable (pork fat is of clear white colour, but beef fat is yellowish - the older the animal, the yellowier its fat). Pork lard is of a tougher consistency, but that of beef softer and shapeless.
- Thence the following difference. While pork shoulder cutlets are the most popular cuts - pleasurably juicy and streaky meat - the analogous beef cuts called entreco’tes are not especially valued among Estonians. Although with the help of suitable seasoning it is possible to prepare a delicious meal from the entrec’te from a well-fed beef animal.- Pork ribs are perfect for grilling. Beef ribs are not suitable for that end. They are rather used for making soup.
- The most highly appreciated beef cut is tenderloin which is truly delicate and valued (many times more than pork tenderloin). Delicate dishes prepared of beef tenderloin are included in the menu of every decent restaurant.NB! In Estonian popular language use beef is sometimes also called animal meat yet the proper name for it is still beef as pigs, sheep and game are also animals!
Enn Tobreluts (product manager of meat, AS Rakvere Lihakombinaat) - author of the books Meat Book and Grilling and Barbecuing published in the series 100 Recipes.