Whether you’re cooking a gourmet burger or a bacon-wrapped filet mignon, it’s vital to ensure that you are cooking your beef properly. In fact, there are five very good reasons to double-check your food prep and cooking procedures to ensure you’re giving your customers – and yourself – the very best.
#1 – Safety
Although many people prefer their steak rare, the USDA recommends cooking it to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees, which is medium-rare. Even so, if you’ve ordered high-quality beef and you’ve handled and cooked it properly, rare steak is also acceptable. However, in the case of ground meat, it’s best to cook it through. The grinding process can introduce bacteria into the meat that can cause illness. For safety reasons, make sure your burgers and other ground meat products reach a temperature of at least 160 degrees.
#2 – Flavor
Through a process called the Maillard reaction, the amino acids and sugars in the beef combine when exposed to high heat. The result is a depth of flavor that can only be obtained through using high heat. Optimally, you’ll quickly cook the cut of beef over very high heat until it has developed a deep brown color and a relatively thick crust on all sides. For the absolute best and most flavorful outer crust, dry the beef thoroughly before cooking it, and make sure your pan is very hot before adding the meat.
#3 – Moisture Content
Whereas high heat is used to develop flavor in cuts of beef, low heat is better for preserving moisture – and a combination of the two is brilliant. Whether you’re cooking a steak or a large roast, make sure you turn down the heat after searing it on all sides. The low heat preserves the moisture, and the outer crust keeps those delicious juices inside the meat, where they’ll add to the flavor.
#4 – Toughness and Texture
Different cuts of beef require different cooking methods to make them as tender and tasty as possible. Tough cuts, like rump roast or shoulder, should be stewed, smoked, barbecued, or otherwise slow-cooked. This breaks down the connective tissue and makes these cuts tender. Conversely, very lean cuts of beef should be cooked quickly over dry heat. The longer you cook it, the drier it will become. In fact, cooking a lean piece of meat even a few minutes too long can make the best tenderloin tough.
#5 – The Right Doneness
When beef is cooked properly, it will have some carryover cooking that occurs as you let it rest. You should consider this carryover during the cooking process. For the most part, the internal temperature of a piece of beef will rise by five to 10 degrees once you’ve taken it from the pan. You should let your beef rest for at least three minutes, though many chefs say 10 minutes or more allows for better redistribution of the natural juices.
There are many different reasons to ensure that you’re cooking your beef properly. Beef that has been perfectly cooked – regardless of the cut – should be tender, juicy, and filled with flavor. Match cuts with the proper cooking methods, and make the most of high and low heat in order to please your guests.