In Estonia the most well-known grilled food is shish kebobs which have spread from Asia and Central Asia around the world. Originally shish kebobs were made only of mutton, but now pork is mostly used. Also turkey, chicken, veal and mutton shish kebobs are on sale.
The best choice for making shish kebobs is meat with average fat content for completely lean meat is too dry for grilling. However, shish kebob meat should not contain too much fat. As a rule, boneless meat is used for making shish kebobs. If pork is used, it should be without rind. Shish kebobs are best when cooked on skewers and the ideal size of meat pieces is around 3.5×3.5 cm. Shish kebobs are mostly marinated in traditional vinegar marinades. However, shish kebobs in various other marinades - also very delicious - are ever more widely available. Shish kebobs in a kefir marinade are very popular and tasty. Kefir adds a delicate taint to meat, at the same time making it tenderer.
Pork neck cuts as well as boneless shoulder cuts are an excellent choice for making shish kebobs. Loin cuts produce a somewhat leaner shish kebob and tenderloin is a real delicacy. Adding bacon without rind to shish kebob meat enables its price to be reduced yet makes its fat content higher. Highly delicious shish kebobs can be made of boneless veal and mutton. Other boneless meats suitable for making shish kebobs are pork ribs, mutton shoulder cuts and the saddle of mutton - these cuts are cooked on the grilling rack.
Grilling has not been meant for only cooking shish kebobs for quite some time. A large number of various marinades and sauces present versatile preparation possibilities and fantastic flavour experiences, turning meat into a truly enjoyable food. Marinades are suitable for meats with only slight fat content as well as completely lean meats. Very lean meat gains succulence and flavour nuances from marinade. The most popular grilling meat among Estonians is pork neck cuts - truly delicious and juicy, evenly streaky meat. Pork strip loin and tenderloin are also excellent for grilling. The same can be said about veal and beef strip loin and veal tenderloin cuts. Pork ham cuts are quite rarely used for grilling. In order to prepare something really attractive, go for pork or veal hind shanks on skewers (the end of the foot should be removed or sawn off). When grilling tougher meat, including beef, it should be matured, pounded and, if possible, also tenderised.
Baked meat is particularly delicious and is a must at each decent dinner party. Estonians have long traditions of making Christmas and baked meat of which baked pork with rind is especially loved. Meat cuts with bone are also suitable for cooking in the oven. Most meat cuts prepared that way are of a weight of 1-3 kg yet among Yuletide classics feature cuts the weight of which is even 6-9 kg.
Various seasoning mixes, herbs and spices are used for adding flavour to such meat dishes. Spreading the juices of cooked meat or special sauce on meat while cooking makes it even more scrumptious. Soaking meat in brine or spraying brine into meat (with a special brine sprayer or syringe) before cooking adds flavour and succulence. Meat should be trussed before cooking in order to make it juicier and give it the desired shape. Tying meat up with string or wrapping it in netting produces a better appearance and gives it a more compact shape. If you lack special-purpose trussing string, use strong thread. Make cuts (e.g. a grid) on the surface of pork when cooking it with rind - afterwards it is a lot easier to cut rind with a knife and it also gives meat a more attractive appearance.
Baked meat dishes are usually made of pork ham cuts. Also veal, mutton and beef joint cuts from the loin section are good (the best is tenderloin). Pork neck cuts, strip loin with rind and lard (boneless loin cuts), shoulder cuts and boneless or bone-in bacon also make excellent baked dishes. In addition, joint loin chops or 5-cm-thick shoulder cuts are used.
Meat cubes and strips
In domestic cooking meat cubes and strips are frequently used. Meat cubes are suitable for making shish kebobs, also hotchpotches, casseroles and meat sauces (goulash). At the butcher’s meat cubes cut of lean meat are called goulash meat. The best goulash is made of entirely lean pork or low-fat beef, but veal and mutton are also used. The size of goulash meat cubes is around 2×2 cm, in case of lardier pork they are even smaller.
Meat from the loin section is best for goulash, but boneless shoulder cuts are also suitable. Somewhat smaller cubes of shoulder cuts are used for making sauces, hotchpotches and other foods. If you wish to use a bit lardier and cheaper meat, go for unbrined bacon cubes.
Meat strips are used in wok foods, hotchpotches, casseroles, skillet suppers and various sauces. Stroganoff is meat strips of lean pork (also veal and mutton) and beef stroganoff strips of lean beef. First, 1 cm thick meat slices can be slightly pounded and then cut into 1×5 cm strips. The best meat for making stroganoff or beef stroganoff is loin cuts.
However, such strips can be cut of all boneless meat yet the prime factor should be the quality of meat. From time to time more valuable cuts are used, for example, strip loin and tenderloin (strips left over from cutlets which can be used in sauces and hotchpotches).
Tender meat is most suitable for frying for it cooks faster. That is also the reason why meat with low connective tissue and fat content is used for making schnitzels, scallops, beefsteaks, etc., and other types of meat slices.
Fried and grilled beefsteaks made of beef loin cuts (especially tenderloin) are quite well-known. A classical beefsteak of boneless beef weighs around 200 g and is 1 cm thick. A cutlet is a thin slice of pounded beef with supplements and seasonings.
is a 200-gram fried and seasoned slice of beef strip loin. Rump steaks can also be covered with sauce or breaded.
Sometimes a large slice of roasted beef is called roast beef. But true roast beef is a baked chunk of beef rump which can later be served cold as thin slices of meat. It means that roast beef is boneless low-fat meat that is roasted on the frying pan and overcooked in the oven.
Pork, veal and beef strip loin which has low connective tissue content is commonly used to make breaded and fried slices of meat. In addition, these slices can be prepared of strip loin and tenderloin cuts, bone-in pork strip loin or neck cuts, but these are still second-rate cuts. Breaded pork or veal strip loin cutlets are called breaded schnitzel. Schnitzel is a 1-1.5-centimetre thick slice cut against the grain of the meat and pounded thin (ca 0.5 cm). The edges of the cutlet can be folded up, thus giving the schnitzel an oval shape. Classical breading is made by mixing flower, beaten eggs, breadcrumbs, salt and other seasonings.
Breaded schnitzel can also be prepared as scallop - fried slightly in butter, fat or cooking oil (gives meat golden appearance) and overcooked in the oven, covered with a slice of cheese or something else. The result is nice cheese-capped and breaded slices of meat, so-called scallops. The characteristic of a scallop is that a slice of meat is covered by a cap of grated cheese, mayo, chopped onion, etc. Scallops can also be prepared in batter.
Pork neck cuts and strip loin and beef strip loin as well as veal strip loin or tenderloin are also suitable for making scallops.
Fondue meat is dipped into a pot of melted cheese, etc., or cooked in bouillon or cooking oil. All types of meat are suitable for fondue, especially pork, veal and beef loin cuts, strip loin and tenderloin, veal flank cuts, etc.
Ragout makes an excellent lunch - it is a well-seasoned stew made from pork, veal or mutton and vegetables. As a rule, ragout is made from bone-in meat which is chopped and fried with vegetables and then stewed in sauce until done.
At the butcher’s pork, veal or mutton soup bones are sold under the name of ragout (or ribs with little meat).
Minced meat figures in the diet of Estonians more frequently than any other meat product and a number of various foods are made from it. In other words, mince is so popular for the selection of recipes is very wide and most of them are quite easy.
The most widespread is home-style mince which is made by mixing pork and beef mince. Foods prepared from pork mince and home-style mince are juicier than those made of beef which is considerably drier due to its lower fat content. However, thanks to its lower fat content and nice deep red colour beef mince has an extremely mouth-whetting appearance.
Various cut meat products are made from mince - seasoned patties and meat loaves with supplements, meatballs, mini meatballs, grilling skewers, kebab, stuffed cabbage and sweet pepper, stuffed mincemeat rolls, etc. Furthermore, mince can be used to make casseroles, skillet suppers, wok foods, hotchpotches, mince sauces, mincemeat pasties, pizzas, etc. Mince and foods made of it are usually fried, baked or grilled.
When using mince, bear in mind the storage time indicated on its package which, as a rule, is quite short. The reason for this is quite simple - the storage time of meat is in proportion to the degree to which meat has been cut and processed. Mince packaged by the meat industry generally has a longer storage time due to the higher quality of packaging and hermetic packages.
is meat ground in a meat grinder or mincer.
is a round cut meat product a couple of centimetres thick made from mince containing supplements and seasonings.
is a large thin oval or round slice of beef containing supplements and seasonings.
is a flat round cut meat product made of mince, supplements and seasonings and cooked in fat or not in fat.
are ball-shaped raw or already thermally treated cut meat products made from mince.
Seasoned mini meatballs are used in soups.
is made of mince and baked in the oven in a pan. Meat loaves can be also stuffed.
Kebab is a meat dish from Turkish and Transcaucasian cuisine which consists of marinated mutton, onion and other ingredients. Mutton or beef mince can be used to prepare mince kebab (shaped on skewers or as patties).
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.