Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Adventures with Grass-Fed Beef Part I

Happy cows come from California (and Hawaii for those in this pic)!

As I make my way through the last of my second half a cow of grass-fed beef *sniff* *sniff*, I have found the need to catalog what I can do with the different cuts.  So this series will serve as a resource for us to find great ways to cook grass-fed beef.

Through trial and error, I've wandered the relatively uncharted territories of cooking different cuts of grass-fed beef (a very different meat than conventional beef).  One difference between grass-fed and conventional grain-fed beef (ubiquitous in the US) is that grass-fed is healthier.  It's packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, CLA, vitamins, and minerals instead of chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, omega-6 fatty acids, and remnants of their dietary grain (they are what they eat).  Grass-fed is also leaner, which fatphobes jump on as reason enough to partake, but to the less naive, fat is not really the issue since fat is good for us, especially saturated fat.  However, bad fat like that which is high in omega-6 isn't good for us, another tic against grain-fed beef.  The fat of grain-fed cattle is also toxic since fat is the storage site of many of those chemicals pumped into grain-fed cattle to get them to survive their deadly diet and abhorrent feedlot conditions.  For more about why we should eat meat and why it should be grass-fed, pastured, or wild-caught read my Starter Series: 1. Eat meat and if you are still confused about fat, read my Starter Series: 3. Eat fat.  UPDATE 4/15/2010: Fitness Spotlight just posted a great reference for why grass-fed trumps grain-fed: Advantages of Grass Fed Beef and Dairy.

Think it is okay to keep eating grain-fed beef because grass-fed is SO expensive?  Not sure it really matters all that much anyway?  Read this: "'Growing Concern' over marketing tainted beef" recently from USA Today.  Choice bits:
Beef containing harmful pesticides, veterinary antibiotics and heavy metals is being sold to the public because federal agencies have failed to set limits for the contaminants or adequately test for them, a federal audit finds.
Sound yummy?
Some contamination is inadvertent, such as pesticide residues in cows that drink water fouled by crop runoff. Other contaminants, such as antibiotics, often are linked to the use of those chemicals in farming. For example, the audit says, veal calves often have higher levels of antibiotic residue because ranchers feed them milk from cows treated with the drugs. Overuse of the antibiotics help create antibiotic-resistant strains of diseases.
This story is not alone.  Look into it and you'll be nauseated.  Read The Omnivore's Dilemma and you'll be in tears.  Now are you convinced grass-fed beef is worth every penny?  If not for the sake of the animals, then for the sake of your health.  I think it pays to know your meat and follow your common sense: eat food that nourishes, not harms.

It also saves to buy in bulk and invest in a large freezer.  For roughly the price per pound of grass-fed ground beef (just over $6), I get roasts, ribeyes, NYs, ribs, filets, flat irons, and all the less expensive cuts (stew meat, ground beef, skirt steak, tenderized round, etc.) and 160lbs of it if I buy half a cow.  I buy from a local source: Morris Grassfed located in North-Central California.   The cattle graze on coastal grasslands like those in the picture above.  They are slaughtered humanely--check out the FAQ (definitely one of my considerations).  They are never fed grain or given hormones or sub-therapeudic antibiotics.  Morris Grassfed also has a cute video series about how their food production is helping to recreate grasslands as a holistic management system.  Here is the first part:

You can find your own sources for grass-fed beef at Eat Wild, a great resource for finding local, sustainable, pastured meat.

So here are past recipes with my grass-fed beef:

The Easiest Meat Preparation Known To Man: Seared Steak
--usable with nearly any steak cut from jewel of the cow ribeye to filet to skirt steak and even that dreaded tenderized round (still haven't figured out the optimal preparation for that yet)

Not Your Mama's Pot Roast
--great with chuck roasts and briskets

Basic Meat Sauce
--one of the myriad of uses for grass-fed ground beef

(updated 1/11/11) And newer recipes:

Noodle Nosh
--an easy, Asian-inspired kelp noodle stir fry

Slow Cooker Coconut Curry Pot Roast
--saves you time with an easy prep and unattended cooking time and creates a DELICIOUS meal to feed  the whole family with leftovers

Today's recipe is for that lunch meat staple: roast beef.  It is useful to have enough meat in the house to get you through the week without running into emergency situations where limited options might jeopardize your paleo-style eating.  Of course, I have a grocery store meal ideas post and a dining out post, but the more meat we can stock the fridge with, the better our chances of success.

I came upon this recipe through trial and error with the lean sirloin roast.  When I tried using it for my pot roast, it came out so dry I couldn't eat it.  Even soaking it and serving it in broth couldn't save it.  Dry as dust.  Okay, the lack of intramuscular fat did me in.  Nothing to melt into the meat to give it a buttery deliciousness.  Second try: dry roasting using this recipe from  Success!  While I overcooked the meat, it was still tender and juicy and the seasonings gave great flavor.  I put a little too much cayenne in the mix and set my mouth on fire eating it, but it was good.  So trying again, I mixed up the seasonings to something I like even better than the first attempt and pulled the meat out while on the rare side.  Damn near perfection, and reached it once I served it with raw, grass-fed butter on top :)

So in addition to the Roasted Turkey Breast recipe of yesteryear giving you lunchmeat for a week, try this easy-prep, couple-of-hour-no-fussing roasting of grass-fed sirloin roast.

Roast Beast: Dry-roasted Grass-fed Sirloin
Easy, homemade deli-style roast beef that is just as good for dinner as leftovers and lunch meat for the week.  
Cooking Time: 1-2hrs depending on size of roast and desired doneness

1 sirloin tip roast, tied with twine, 2-4lbs (more of less, just adjust cooking time as needed)
1T kosher salt (or 1/2T would be fine if your roast is on the smaller side)
1T garlic powder
1T dried oregano
1T dried thyme
1/4t cayenne pepper
1t or about 25 grinds of black pepper
3T extra virgin olive oil (or enough to make a thick paste)
optional: dried basil and onion powder or anything else you like--feel free to experiment!

Allow your roast to come to room temperature (I'll leave it out while I prepare breakfast and it's ready to go after).  While waiting, prepare a sheet pan with foil or parchment on its surface (easy cleanup!).  Place roast in the middle of the sheet pan.  Mix the spices with the olive oil in a small bowl.  Rub them on the roast (all over and under the twine) and let sit as long as the oven takes to preheat to 350 degrees (make sure you have a rack set in the middle of the oven).

After preheating, whack 'er in and let 'er roast for about 45min-1hr before checking with the meat thermometer.  You are looking for 120-125 degrees for rare, but I would take it out at 115 to 120 to allow for carry-over of 5-10 degrees during resting.  The first time I made the roast, I let it go until 145 degrees, and that was overdone and dry.  You be the judge and remember, you can always whack slices in the microwave or heat in a skillet (say, with some butter?) if you feel it is underdone.  Better to err on the side of underdone rather than overdone, since only a thick sauce can really hide overdone meat.  The taste of meat is exceptional and something most of us have lost; so be wild and try it rarer than you normally would to get the most flavor and juiciness.

Okay, after you find the temperature you want, take it out and let the roast sit for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Serving Suggestions:
Dare I say it...with a pat of raw, grass-fed butter melted on top?  OMG, heaven!

You can also slice this up and wrap around avocado or mango or fill with guacamole for a delicious anti-sandwich.  Works well sliced into a salad too.  Experiment and let me know what you like best!
Roasting on Foodista


  1. Nice well-rounded post on grass fed beef. Makes me want to thaw some meat I have in the freezer right now and throw it on the grill. Oops it's 11:00 PM - better wait till tomorrow.

    Nice post Kristy!

  2. I really enjoyed the video!

    I purchased 100% grass fed ground beef from my local farmers market yesterday for the first time in my life!

    I will be enjoying it on the grill soon :) The bun will be replaced with lettuce ;)

  3. Thanks for the very informative post! A great place to buy your Grass fed Beef
    Is from La Cense Beef. I work with La Cense which is an approved USDA grass fed program.

  4. I know this post was forever ago. But I used your recipe with a little organic red wine, vinegar and mustard also for 50 minutes, than let rest for 1/2 an hour. It was AMAZING! Usually I find grassfed beef quite tough, but I guess I have been overcooking it. Thank you, Thank you!!