Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Cooking With Grass-Fed Beef

By Liz Pearson, August 28, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Liz Pearson

Liz Pearson worked as the kitchen director for Saveur magazine before moving back to her native Texas. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, she consults regularly with Whole Foods Market as a writer, recipe developer and food stylist.

You may have heard rumors that grass-fed beef is not as tender as grain-fed, but here's the real story. Since it's lower in fat, grass-fed beef runs the risk of drying out or becoming overcooked much quicker than grain-fed beef. So the name of the game is to keep the meat moist, an easy task when you consider the following tips:

  • Sub in flavor. Replace the missing fat in grass-fed beef with something juicy and flavorful. When you use ground beef - say, for making hamburgers or meatloaf - combine it with an ingredient that will keep things moist. Chopped onions, shredded vegetables like carrots or zucchini, sundried tomatoes, olives, mustards or grated cheese all work wonders. When it comes to steaks, consider marinating them for 4 to 6 hours before cooking to add a boost of flavor and moisture, too.
  • Take things down a notch. Grass-fed beef cooks quicker than its grain-fed cousin, so lower the heat on the stove or grill (or about 50 F in the oven, if you're roasting) to better control the doneness. Otherwise, it can go from perfectly cooked to overdone in a matter of seconds.
  • Preheat, preheat, preheat. Be sure your cooking surface - whether it's a pan or grill - is preheated well before you start cooking. That way, you'll accomplish a tasty, even sear without overcooking the meat.
  • A little oil goes a long way. Because there isn't much fat in grass-fed beef, be sure to grease your pan or grill with a bit of oil or cooking spray before cooking to ensure that nothing sticks.
  • No poking! Save your knife and fork for eating, not cooking. For the juiciest results, resist the urge to poke or turn meat with a knife or fork. Each time you do, more of its moisture will end up in the pan, not on your plate.
  • Think 70%. On average, grass-fed beef needs about 30% less time to cook than grain-fed beef, so go ahead and check for doneness a little earlier than usual.
  • Forget well done. Grass-fed beef can get dry, tough and toothsome when overcooked, so it's best to stick with medium-rare or medium steaks. Our advice? Remove beef from the heat around 140 F - or a little more or less, depending on your taste - and tent it loosely with foil to let it rest. While it sits, the temperature will rise another 5 to 10 degrees. (The pros call that "carryover cooking.") To check the temperature, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the steak, away from any bones.

Just like its grain-fed counterparts, grass-fed beef is available in all manner of cuts, each with its own distinct texture and flavor. If you've always been a rib eye person, chances are that you'll fall head-over-heels for a grass-fed rib eye since its flavor is deep and intense. If you always go for a hamburger because you love the pure meatiness of it, a grass-fed hamburger is right up your alley. The best way to experiment with grass-fed beef cuts is to use them in any of your favorite, reliable recipes at home - but branch out, too! A new ingredient deserves a new take on things. Start with some of our favorites:

Ground Beef

Flank and Skirt Steak

Sirloin Steak

Rib Eye Steak

Got a favorite cooking tip or recipe for grass-fed beef. We'd love to hear about it!

Category: Food & Recipes, Meat




Rena Geckle says ...
I appreciate this commentary greatly. My family raise beef in Indiana. Grass fed has great flavor and your guidance regarding cooking times is warranted. Thanks for this post! r geckle
08/29/2010 10:31:49 AM CDT
Lynne says ...
Hey Wholefoods! I stopped by my Westminster store last Friday for the organic, grass-fed ground beef sale and bought four pounds. I made hamburgers and grilled them and the taste was magnificent! I wanted to try the meat just as it was and all I added was some sea salt and fresh cracked pepper and made them into patties. Grilling time was quicker and that was a bonus, because we had been working around the house all day and were pretty hungry. I have been buying my meat and seafood from Wholefoods for a while now and always used the organic, grass-fed ground beef in recipes but never as burgers. Not for any particular reason except I always had other recipes to try. I was really in the mood for a good burger and this was my inspiration. Really delicious flavor in the meat-I am really impressed! Once we had some family come into town from Michigan-we live in CO. I knew one of the Uncles loved steak, so I went to Wholefoods and got some grass-fed steaks and grilled them. Well, that Uncle thought those steaks were some of the best he's ever had. I really gotta thank you Wholefoods, because you really stay ahead of the game and people like me can trust whatever meat we buy from you-it's always over-the-top delicious and tender. Thank you so much-seriously-you guys work so hard to keep your products up to a certain standard, and little old me can walk right in and make my purchases with confidence. Thanks for helping me put that extra love into my dishes. WF fan for life.
09/06/2010 8:30:15 AM CDT
Hank Guadalupe says ...
We grow weary of people claiming that grass-fed beef is always chewy and tastes gamey or livery. Some probably does, but ours certainly doesn't. A chewy texture can come from grass-fed beef that is raised in places where there isn't much grass for much of the year (most of the US, for example) or from cattle that is provided inconsistent feed. Usually these problems go together since ranchers who don't have access to green pastures year-round will truck in commercially-grown grass to feed their animals. As for tasting livery or gamey, that happens for the same reason: cattle that don't have consistent access to high-protein, sweet grass. If cattle are thrown sour grass, they will have sour-tasting meat. If they are stressed and afraid prior to processing, that can also impact the flavor of their meat in a negative way. For more check out: http://www.estanciabeef.com/news/does-grass-fed-beef-taste-gamey
09/07/2011 6:12:47 PM CDT
Elana says ...
Regarding: "Grass-fed beef can get dry, tough and toothsome when overcooked" -- 'toothsome' means pleasant, tasty. I think it is used here incorrectly.
09/06/2012 12:33:11 PM CDT
Robert Ingmanson says ...
Does your Milford, CT store have the grass fed beef in hamburger patties?
09/12/2013 11:40:42 AM CDT
Angelina says ...
I've never eaten grass-fed beef before, but I recently purchased two chuuck roasts and plan on cooking them in a crockpot. Normally, grain-fed can cook for 9 hours on low temp, with about 1/2 cup of stock, and no added fat. What do I need to know about cooking grass fed in a crockpot? Appreciate your suggestions.
09/12/2013 12:45:21 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@ROBERT - It's very possible that the store will have some of this beef made in to patties as well. Check with them directly to find out!
09/12/2013 4:24:51 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@ANGELINA - The main difference is that grass-fed beef is much leaner, but as long as there is some sort of sauce or liquid it shouldn't make much of a difference in cooking time/method.
09/12/2013 4:40:06 PM CDT
Marinagela says ...
Thanks for the very useful tips!
09/12/2013 8:07:20 PM CDT
Marilyn Siverson says ...
For more info on grass-fed beef, we just posted a great Q&A section on our blog: http://www.pastureprimewagyu.com/pasture-prime-wagyu-grass-fed-beef-butcher-shop-q-a/
09/20/2013 5:19:20 PM CDT
Denise in Austin says ...
I had never heard of the whole grass fed versus grain fed beef story before but I was recently in Paris for a couple of weeks and every restaurant, bistro and cafe where I ordered steak frites, I was very disappointed. It was terribly tough and chewy. I just figured that must be the way they like their steak there. It wasn't until I started looking on the Internet after I got home and learned that they eat grass fed bed there. I wouldn't bother ordering a steak in France again, now that I understand the situation better. I didn't care for it at all.
10/11/2013 1:08:11 AM CDT
Joan says ...
Two things with the grass fed ground beef from my local WF store here in Michigan. I bought a pound of it the other day and when I got it home and broke it open to make patties, I found that the butcher had concealed a lot of older, brown ground beef inside and had carefully put fresh, pink beef on the outside so that it wouldn't be apparent. I had to throw away about 1/4 of it after paying top dollar for it. Also, I was suspicious that it wasn't grass fed because of the significant amount of fat that came off of it when it was fried--and the fat congealed and got solid at room temperature which isn't supposed to happen if the beef is grass fed. Then, yesterday, I bought $20 worth of it (pre-packaged which the other was not) and when I fried it, again, too much fat came off of it for grass fed beef. And again, when I poured it off it congealed at room temperature. I suspect that there's a dishonest butcher at that store.
11/07/2013 7:57:14 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JOAN - When fresh beef is initially cut the color is dark purplish red. As the surface of the meat comes into contact with oxygen in the air it binds with the myoglobin protein in the muscle, quickly creating oxymyoglobin, which is bright cherry red. Oxymyoglobin on the surface is what gives meat the bright cherry color associated with freshness. It’s completely normal for the bright red color to appear on the outside while the inner part of the meat maintains a darker brown or purplish color due to lack of oxygen on the inside portion of the meat. Regarding the fat content, less saturated fat melts more quickly than saturated. If you try a lower cooking temperature, you will probably notice a lower amount of fat cooking off.
11/14/2013 11:44:16 AM CST
Rachel says ...
Most of these tips are right on. However, I disagree with the statement that all grass fed beef is leaner and cannot handle well-done cooking methods. Animals that have been taken straight off the range with no high protein finishing (quality pasture, hay, haylage, with legumes or other grasses with high protein and TDN (total digestible nutrients) can be tough. But...a properly raised beef breed steer, or even a dairy breed finished correctly, can be tender and juicy even when well done. If a customer likes well-done meats, we recommend purchasing the higher end cuts like NY, top sirloin, so that the meat does not get dry.
08/26/2014 7:15:59 PM CDT
Vickie Grimes says ...
I'm headed to Whole Foods to buy a 6.5 lb. grass fed beef chuck roast. I want to serve it around 12:30 Sunday, and I'd love to have the very best cooking method. I have an AGA cooker so I have 5 ovens: roasting, baking, slow cooking, simmering and warming. I've looked on line….most recipes are for steaks : ( Any help will be appreciated!!!! vickie
10/24/2014 9:59:53 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@VICKIE - We have 3 options for chuck roast recipes on our site so you can pick your favorite to make! http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/search/chuck%20roast
10/24/2014 5:16:09 PM CDT
Laurel says ...
11/18/2014 6:16:14 PM CST
Bill says ...
So I love grass fed beef steaks and burgers, but have had no success with other cuts that lend themselves to braising - i.e. boneless short ribs, chuck roast, etc. Always come out dry and tough. Given what this article says, I guess I should just avoid those cuts? I can't think of a shorter cooking method that would tenderize such a cut - a 30% shorter cooking time left my short ribs tough and chewy, adding the extra 30% made them tender but very dry.
09/30/2015 4:56:01 PM CDT
Denise says ...
How can I buy Grass-fed, Organic Beef bones (ant part)?
10/29/2015 5:24:49 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@DENISE - Options will vary between stores so just check with your local store to see if they have these items in stock.
12/02/2015 4:30:34 PM CST