Grilled, braised, crisped and roasted — there are just so many delicious ways you can prepare meat!
Meat at times can be a little tricky to master, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a few tips from third generation butcher Ash McBean from Gary’s Meats Prahran Market, who’s spent years working in her family’s company.
The secret to a tasty meat dish is the quality of the product, and Ash advises seeking out a good butcher that works with free-range produce.
“You may find you’ll pay a little more for your meat, however it will be far higher quality,” she says.
Meanwhile, Sydney-based chef Michael Willcocks said there’s two main cooking techniques you should consider before walking into your butcher: hot and fast — think quick meals over direct heat — or low and slow — think braised and slow-cooked dishes.
“Your butcher can help and give you guidance on the best cuts for each cooking technique,” he says.
With so many different cuts available, figuring out the best way to cook a piece of meat can be a little tricky. In fact, the cut of meat you choose will have a different flavour and texture depending on what part of the animal it is from. So with the help of Michael we’ve rounded up some of the best beef, pork and lamb cuts for you to cook with.
Beef brisket is a flavoursome and relatively inexpensive cut of meat. Taken from the area around the breastbone, the brisket is often cured or smoked, but it’s also one of the best cuts for braising and slow cooking. Not to mention, this cut of beef is perfect for any pulled beef recipes.
Although it’s often packaged as cheap stew beef, chuck produces tough but very flavoursome cuts of meat. Chuck comes from the neck and shoulder area of the cow. Because of the amount of connective tissue in this cut, it is ideal for braised dishes like beef stew or pot roast, both of which soften tough cuts.
It’s safe to say roasted pork belly is a crowd favourite. Despite its name, pork belly is not the stomach, rather it is the flesh that runs from the underside of the pig and surrounds the stomach. Pork belly is very high in fat, which makes it a tasty and versatile cut — it can be braised or crisped up in a hot pan. For crunchy crackling on top, Michael recommends cooking the pork at a really high heat for the first 30 minutes, before reducing the temperature slightly.
Pork chops are an inexpensive and versatile cut of meat derived from the loin section of the pork, which is the strip of meat that runs from the pig’s hip to shoulder. According to Michael, pork chops are best pan seared or cooked on a barbecue.
Taken from the bottom half of the animal, lamb shoulder is the most economical cut. Lamb shoulder contains a lot of tissue and fat, so it works great in a stew or roast. To maximise the flavour, Michael recommends adding a hint of rosemary and garlic.
There’s truly nothing more comforting than a roast for dinner. Lamb leg is a pretty large, not to mention expensive, cut of meat, however it’s great for entertaining and full of flavour.
If you’re cooking on a budget there is a variety of affordable cuts that taste just as delicious. Ash from Gary’s Meats recommends giving flat iron steak, skirt steak or pork belly a go. While they require a little extra care to tenderise them, the end result is amazing.
“These cuts are tender, full of flavour and very much affordable,” she says.
Meanwhile, chef Michael says low and slow cuts, such as beef brisket, pork belly and beef chuck, tend to be the most affordable.
If you don’t plan to eat the meat within a couple of days of purchase, freeze it. Try wrapping the meat in baking paper and then resealable freezer bags to avoid air contamination, Ash explains.
According to FoodSafety raw steaks are safe to freeze for as long as 12 months, but for optimum condition, don’t leave them in the freezer longer than four months – the same goes for roasts. Chops can be frozen for four to six months, bacon for a month and raw sausages for one to two months.
When it comes to cooking meat, Michael says practice makes perfect. He recommends buying the best produce you can, adding: “As long as you cook it to your favourite doneness it will be one of the best [dishes] you’ll eat.”
To maximise flavour, Michael also suggests seasoning your meat before and after cooking.