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:
Flank and Skirt Steak
- Quick and Easy Grass-Fed Beef & Veggies Rice Bowl
- Seared Beef Salad with Fresh Basil Pesto and Arugula
- Steak and Guacamole Quesadillas
- Steak with Piquant Italian Salsa Verde
- Green Tea-Marinated Sirloin Tips
- Marinated Sirloin and Veggie Skewers with Couscous
Rib Eye Steak
Got a favorite cooking tip or recipe for grass-fed beef. We'd love to hear about it!