Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Mar

Top 10 Meat Questions Meet Answers

Although the Primal diet pretty heavily features vegetables, we also love us some meat. Read on to learn top tips for selecting, storing, cooking and serving meat:

1. Store Bought:

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One thing’s for sure – when it comes to shopping for meats, there certainly are a lot of choices. So what should you be looking for? First up, opt for organic meats. Doing so will help ensure that the meat you are consuming has not been tainted with hormones, antibiotics or other chemicals. Also, where possible, select grass-fed beef which packs greater omega-3 content. And not only grass-fed, but grass-finished as well. Without the grass-finished label you can’t be sure that the cattle wasn’t partially raised on grain.

When shopping for chicken, look for free-range, organic poultry and opt for fresh, unprocessed, low-mercury fish (preferably Alaskan) that again offers a hefty dose of omega-3s. Looking to score some extra credit? Where possible, shop for meat from local farmers – it’s a great way to reduce your carbon footprint while also supporting your local farming community!

2. Freezer Fun:

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You’ve selected the best cut of meat, but your dinner plans change and all of a sudden that delicious cut of meat is banished to the back of the freezer. To keep it as fresh as the day it was bought – and avoid the dreaded freezer burn – remove the meat from all of its original store packaging, dry with cheesecloth or a thick paper towel to remove excess moisture, then tightly wrap in cling film, being sure all sides are secure and covered. Repeat the cling film wrap, this time wrapping from the open side first and then store in a plastic zipper bag (with all air removed). While this might seem a little extreme, we promise you that following this process will ensure that you will never again throw out a cut of meat!

3. A Cut Above:

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So you bought a hunk of meat, you stored it appropriately, but you need to cut it down before cooking. Before you even pick up the knife, look at the direction of the muscle strands – known in the culinary world as the meat grain. If the meat is cut in the same direction as the grain, it will become tough during the cooking process (regardless of how good of a cut of meat it was to begin with), but if you slice in a diagonal to the meat grain, the meat will remain tender.

4. Give it a Rest:

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We’ve been through enough health scares to know that you shouldn’t let meat sit out. But here we’re going to ask that you relax… just a little! You see, when you take meat straight from the fridge and put it straight into a hot oven or pan, you throw it into a state of shock of sorts. Instead, let the meat sit out – covered of course – for about a half hour. The 30 minute window will allow the meat time to come up in temperature a bit, but is too short a time to promote significant bacteria growth (a process that usually takes a few hours).

5. Smells Fishy:

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This one seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at just how many people refuse to buy fish because they are worried about the lingering smell in the house. True, some cooked fish can smell a bit fishy, but truly fresh uncooked fish should not smell bad when purchased. When buying fish make sure it has a fresh, mildly briny odor similar to seawater. If you’ve got smelly raw fish on your hands it is probably best to avoid it altogether.

6. Safety First:

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Speaking of health scares – let’s address the steps you can take to ensure safety throughout the meat handling process. At the store, save the meat aisle for last. Look for packages that are in good condition (no punctures or suspicious looking leaks), that have no extraneous liquid, and that feel cold to the touch. With all that being said, still make use of those little plastic bags to prevent any spillage on other groceries. Once home, refrigerate or freeze as soon after purchasing as possible and store in the coldest part of the fridge or freezer (generally located at the back). Got leftovers? Chilling them quickly will prevent bacteria growth, so to speed up the process, consider dividing large quantities into smaller portions and avoid packing food too tightly into the fridge and freezer as this could inhibit air flow and prevent adequate cooling. Finally, when handling meat at any stage, be sure to wash hands, surfaces, utensils and anything else the meat comes in contact with with hot soapy water.

7. The Perfect Steak:

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Yes, there are a billion different recipes, each promising to get you the perfect steak, but this one really might just be the best:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with a rack set in the middle.
2. Heat a heavy, cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot
3. Coat the bottom of the pan with 2 teaspoons of grapeseed oil
4. Liberally salt the steaks with kosher salt (roughly 3/4 teaspoon for each steak).
5. Place steaks in pan and sear for 2 minutes on each side, flipping only once with tongs.
6. Transfer the steaks, still in the pan, to the oven and roast for roughly 8 to 9 minutes for 1 ½-inch steaks for medium rare
7. Let the steaks rest, under a tent of aluminum foil, for 5 minutes before serving.

8. Is It Ready Yet?

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Still slicing into that steak to check if it’s ready? Try these simple tricks next time you’re cooking (or having company over that won’t appreciate your little test marks!). Touch your earlobe (wash your hands) then touch the steak. If the steak feels rubbery like your earlobe, the meat will be pink and rare on the inside. A medium steak, meanwhile, will feel like the skin between your thumb and first finger (I’ll wait while you test it out) and a well done steak will feel like the tip of your nose. Again, when doing all these tests, please make sure to wash your hands in between touching your various body parts and the steak!

9. Carcinogen Countdown:

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The reality is, when the amino acids and protein in meat are cooked, especially under high temperatures such as in barbecuing, they are converted into compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) which some studies suggest can increase cancer risk. However, there are things you can do to reduce the carcinogen content of cooked meats. Where possible, try cooking with garlic, rosemary, or sage, which are all antioxidant-rich seasonings that are thought to block the formation of HCAs and PAHs. Additionally, if it pleases your palate, simply don’t overcook the meat. Serving it up rare or medium rare will help to avoid the unhealthy caramelized crust that forms on a steak cooked at high temps.

10. What a Jerk:

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Admittedly, when people think of jerky (as they so often do!), they mostly think of beef. However, it should be noted that just about any firm meat can be made into jerky, including turkey, bison, venison, salmon and even ahi tuna.

Here’s an easy, equipment free method for making great tasting jerky:

Ingredients:
About 3 lbs. of meat (which will dehydrate down to about 16 oz meat)
2/3 cup Worcestershire Sauce
2/3 cup soy sauce
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

Optional Add ins:
1 tsp liquid smoke
2-3 tsp Tabasco Sauce
2-3 tsp crushed rep peppers (if you like spice!)

Method:
Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a gallon size or larger plastic zipper bag. Add meat that has been pre-sliced into 1/8 inch slabs (if using fish, its sometimes easier to freeze it first) and refrigerate, turning every hour or so. Marinating times vary, with times ranging from overnight for heartier meats but only about 3 or 4 hours for turkey or fish. When ready to begin drying, place a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to aid in cleanup. Drain meat in a colander and pat dry with paper towels. Set oven at lowest temperature setting and carefully place meat slices directly onto oven racks. Leave the oven door open a crack to allow moisture to escape. While drying times will vary depending on the oven and the meat your using, a perfect jerky will have a firm and dry texture – if its too spongy, it needs more time, but if it breaks in two easily, you’ve probably over-dried it.

Hit us up with your favorite meat hack in the comment board!

jamesjyu, splorp, IwateBuddy, simplerich, Jean-Francois Chenier, barcoder96, nedward.org, bazusa, alau2, Taekwonweirdo Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

Mystery Meat: Imitation Crab

Pass the Protein, Please!

Why Lean Meat?

Why Don’t We Eat Horse? It’s Nutritious.

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I am curious what you recommend for people who either don’t have access to or can’t regularly afford organic, free-range meats?

    Where I used to live – a town of 15,000 people which was the county seat – there was no organic meat available within at least 40 miles. None. When we wanted some, we would drive to the Whole Foods and get a few pounds and freeze it for when we wanted it, so we didn’t have to drive.

    Here, now, in a town of over 100,000 people, our grocery store only recently started carrying organic meat.

    So, for many, many people, availability is a big issue.

    Cost is of course a factor too. It’s a lot of the reason we are mostly vegetarian – we could have organic meat on a regular basis, or we can have fresh fruits and veggies for us and, more importantly, our young sons, to snack on. I believe the fresh produce is more important, and our budget just won’t allow for both, so we stick to mostly vegetarian – and less expensive – sources of protein. We are doing pretty well financially, too – try telling someone who’s NOT to eat organic meat and see what kind of answer you get.

    I appreciate the viewpoints here, and will admit that I’m reconsidering some of my views on carbs (although I’m not giving up bread, ever, as it’s one of the greatest joys in life – but I only get fresh breads, mostly homemade, and don’t eat much of that). However, a lot of the advice seems to be only about what is the *ideal* and not what is actually practical for many people in their daily lives.

    I’d like to hear tips for how to actually apply some of this in these situations, and what you recommend then. Is it better to eat less meat and make sure what you have is organic, or keep eating the same amount of the conventional stuff (which is worse for our bodies and the environment)?

    Just my thoughts …

    Judy wrote on March 18th, 2008
  2. Thank you, Judy, for your comment! Check back this next Monday for the next “Dear Mark” post. I have a feeling your questions will be featured… ;)

    Aaron wrote on March 18th, 2008
  3. I love your illustration for “Is it ready yet?” Baroo!

    Migraineur wrote on March 18th, 2008
  4. Grapeseed oil?! It’s 70% Omega 6! That’s a lot of unstable polyunsaturates to be putting in a hot pan!

    Craig wrote on March 19th, 2008
  5. hi .in response to Judy i understand the dilemma of finding grass fed ,grass finished meats and the high cost. i used to live in a small town that made it hard if not impossible to find localy . i am also on an extremly tight budget most would think i was crazy on my budget to buy grass fed meats but it i do as much as possible for the health of it!for though of you who can’t find it local, slankers grass fed meats(and probably other farms) will ship it and if you can find people to join in with you you can cut the cost and buy in “bulk”! another way to offset the cost is to have a garden ,even a small one,grow what you use most of and stagger your growing ie;don’t grow all your broccoli at one time plant a bunch one week and then again the next as long as your growing season will afford you then your harvest is staggered freeze what you can that is over your normal use.remember too that spending money to eat healthy now save you money at the doctors in the future!hope this helps someone have a great day

    lisa wrote on March 20th, 2008
  6. oops on the spelling !

    lisa wrote on March 20th, 2008
  7. Oh, Lisa, I live in Deep South Texas where there is plenty of sun and warmth for growing – I should definitely have a small garden. I’m terrible with growing green things, though, and my two young sons aren’t much help yet.

    Maybe I should check into prices to having things shipped, but I’ve got to think that it would be even more costly than buying it at the store. I see your point for people who don’t have it available to them, though. As far as getting others to pitch in – we’ve not met anyone here who has even remotely similar views on eating as we do, except for a family of vegetarians (who obviously wouldn’t be interested in sharing in the price of meat). I’ve seriously had people brag about how they serve their kids food with preservatives and artificial colors, as if trying to eat well is immoral or something. At a birthday party recently I wouldn’t let my sons have hot dogs (gross – and they’ve never eaten them before), and the looks I got!

    I’m sure they are here, but we haven’t met them yet.

    I will be curious to hear what Mark has to say.

    Judy wrote on March 21st, 2008
  8. Judy , i too am interested in what Mark has to say ,he always has good info!by the way we too just moved …to north Texas !Slankers is located in Texas and the shipping isn’t to bad .all in all the price of the meat like say hamburger is about 2$ more per pound delivered then “good”grain fed hamburger at the store, if there is such a thing .that is just a rough estimate ,don’t quote me. check out the web site
    i too hope to learn more on this subject

    lisa wrote on March 26th, 2008
  9. I love your fish photo lol

    the happy girlfriend wrote on July 24th, 2012

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