Choosing the right cut of beef for the right cook type is easier than it seems. We often break it down into low & slow cooking and hot & fast cooking. A simple way to remember is to look at where the cut comes from on the animal. Did the muscle do a lot of hard work? Then it’s likely to need a long time on a gentle heat to bring out it’s best flavour.
Low & Slow
If you think about it, cuts like the shin, tail and cheek do a lot of hard work, day in, day out and they have a lot of connective tissue that needs to be broken down – this can only be done at a low heat over a long period of time. When we say low & slow, think braises and casseroles, classic, rustic cook types like osso bucco; because the other thing that these hard working muscles have achieved is bags of flavour. Like all meats, fat equals flavour and these low & slow cook cuts are no exception. Which low & slow method you choose is up to you. Go for a BBQ rub and smoke them, wet-cook them in Asian spices or Italian ragu, but whatever you do, treat them gently and with care, they’ve got a lot to give, they just need some coaxing.
Hot & Fast(ish)
As a rule, the leaner cuts like sirloin and fillet don’t have much connective tissue or fat, so they are best cooked over a higher heat and for a shorter period. There’s no need for the long slow breaking down of the connective tissue as it’s not there to the same (if any) degree. Think grilling and pan fry for a succulent and moist, medium-rare result. The anomaly here is the intramuscular marbling that comes from a well bred, slow fed animal, particularly the grain fed cuts. Unlike connective tissue in the harder working muscles, it doesn’t take much to break down this succulent, flavour filled marble fat. So if the cut is full of marbling, but still comes from the less hard working muscles on the beast, you can still attribute the hot & fast method to the cooking type. Some of the unusual cuts that you don’t immediately think of are things like hanger steak. An internal muscle from the diaphragm area, this cut is perfect for high heat, quick cooking, but carries the extra flavour of some of the harder working muscles, so make sure you look beyond the regular fillets and sirloins for something a bit unique for your menu (home or restaurant). Don’t forget to rest these quicker cook cuts because once cooked, they need some time to sit back, uncut and retain their juices so that when you do cut them, the flavour and tenderness is retained in the muscle and in each bite, rather than on the plate.