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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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?
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:
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:
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:
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!)
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!