Help me learn to cook meat

CurlyminxCurlyminx Posts: 5,581Registered Users
I have absolutely no idea how to cook any type of meat. :cyclopsani:

Well... I can cook ground beef. :oops:

I have cooked chicken, but it never really tastes all that great and I'm never sure when its done. The one time I think it tasted good I'm pretty sure it wasn't cooked all the way so I ended up tossing most of the chicken. :cwm10:

So I wanted to know if some of you great chefs can help give me some pointers on cooking meats. From chicken to steak. From grilling... well maybe not grilling since I don't have a grill... so, from oven to stovetop.

What should I be checking for to make sure things are cooked? I have a thermometer that I just bought, but I still don't feel very confident. And then there is the issue of flavor. :pukel:

Please help! I appreciate great recipes too! :D
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  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    http://www.naturallycurly.com/curltalk/showthread.php?t=102872
    http://www.naturallycurly.com/curltalk/showthread.php?t=102597

    As for flavor, it really is all about salt. I am a big believer that the main problem people have is they are not aggressive enough with salt.


    Start by getting yourself some kosher salt. This is what we use. The reason is that you can feel it in your fingers in a way that you can't table salt and see it fall on the meat. When you get a steak, you really want to cover it with salt to have a great, flavorful steak.
    http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/02/how-to-salt-and-season-food-properly.html

    (I have to laugh about the using up a box of salt thing though--- with all the blanching I do [water must taste like the ocean], I go through boxes of salt at an alarming rate! :laughing9:)
    Bring your meat, be it chicken, beef, pork, whatever to room temperature before cooking. Especially important when roasting.
    For a perfect roast chicken, take a not too large chicken, salt it very well, overnight if you can, but it's not absolutely necessary. If you do it overnight, don't cover the chicken when you put it in the refrigerator. When ready to cook, let it sit maybe 30 minutes on the counter to take the chill off, while you preheat the oven. Pat it completely dry with paper towels, and put it in a 500 degree oven in a pan that doesn't have very high sides (chicken won't brown and crisp as well) and that is not too big. For example, I tend to roast a chicken in my 10-inch cast iron. Cast iron is perfect for roasting meat. You don't even need to add any extra fat to your chicken, it already has enough. Check after some time to see if your chicken is browning too much too fast and lower the temperature a bit. This is usually not necessary.
    You can use the thermometer, but the chicken will be done when the smell of amazing roast chicken becomes unbearable and you want to just tear into it. It will be golden, crispy, tender, and juicy.

    Here are a few methods that basically echo what I say, with a few differences here and there:
    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/My-Favorite-Simple-Roast-Chicken-231348
    http://www.localforage.com/local_forage/2007/02/recipe_zuni_roa.html
    http://thepauperedchef.com/2006/06/kafkas_simple_r.html

    As you can see, Kafka and Keller disagree on trussing. :lol:

    For pan roasted chicken breasts, try to get some with bone and skin. Get them in a really hot pan skin side down and have a 500 degree oven ready. Leave the breasts skin side down and put the pan in the oven. When the breasts are ready, you'll flip them to find perfectly crispy golden skin.
    A nice flavoring is to marinate them in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, parsley, thyme, and plenty of lemon zest.
    I don't put any oil in the pan in this case since they marinate in it anyway.

    Here's a good chicken recipe:
    http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2009/08/jacques-pepin-crusty-chicken-with-mushrooms-white-wine-sauce-recipe.html

    If all this is still daunting, start with braising and stewing. Meat is always cooked through and it's cooked in a flavorful sauce, so it's just about impossible to not have it taste good.
    Here's a good way to get started on a stew (this is an absolute favorite):
    http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/chile_verde/

    Braised chicken:
    http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/03/french-in-a-flash-dijon-chicken-recipe.html
    http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/04/bay-scented-chicken-with-figs-recipe.html




    Beef:
    http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/01/french-in-a-flash-boeuf-aux-carottes-beef-short-ribs-braised-with-carrots-recipe.html

    You can make this with water or a mix of water and good chicken stock (which you can make with with leftover bones from roast chicken).

    I really, really recommend having a look at serious eats and simply recipes for learning basics. Serious eats especially. They even have a how-to on various techniques.
    They have a Dinner Tonight column that features things like just a simple steak or pork chop. And French in a Flash is awesome as well.

    Steak:
    http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/04/steak-tagliata-with-arugula-recipe.html
    http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/04/dinner-tonight-skirt-steak-with-homemade-steak-sauce-recipe.html

    Pork chop:
    http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/03/roasted-carrots-and-beets-with-pork-chops-recipe.html

    Again, bust out the cast-iron for a great steak, or pork chop. :)
    por-que-no-te-callas.jpg
  • scrillsscrills Posts: 6,700Registered Users
    I'll be back in Cali in a couple of weeks. Maybe we can cook together :-)
  • spiderlashes5000spiderlashes5000 Posts: 17,898Registered Users Curl Virtuoso
    Saria beat me to it but I was gonna say "don't be afraid to salt your steaks." And pay attention to the cut. I like porterhouse and ribeye the best, but they are each good for different techniques. I sometimes do a brown sugar/Worcestershire sauce/soy sauce/garlic marinade on ribeye and it's great.

  • oddityofwingsoddityofwings Posts: 1,261Registered Users
    I actually wouldn't depend on salt for flavor - I'd do one of two things.

    1. Learn your herbs and spices. You can get a great range of flavours if you know what to use. For chicken I'd use some sage, perhaps, and black pepper. For pork I'd actually just use some black pepper. I prefer the flavor of plain beef, but pepper, rosemary, and thyme work well for beef.
    2. Invest in whatever oil you cook in. I use extra virgin olive oil 99% of the time (I use sunflower when doing curries), and I don't buy the cheap stuff. I use only 1T for pretty much everything, so I don't go through it quickly. The flavour of high-quality oil can really help bring out flavours in meat, and olive oil is a good all-rounder for just basic meat. (ex: tonight I did a skirt steak on my Georgie with just a little olive oil on the grill before heating to stop it from sticking. It was a good piece of meat to start with, but the oil helped crisp and brown the outside of the steak and made it utterly gorgeous).

    I think learning how to spice meat and using a good oil are fairly important once you learn what 'done' is. And for that, I still use a meat thermometer. Just make sure you stick it into the centre of the thickest part of the meat and you should be fine. I do also check the juice and meat colour as well (clear juices, no pink except in less than well-done beef), just to be on the safe side, but so long as it's hot enough, it should be fine.

    I am also a proponent of cooking meat to the point of browning (or, as my SO calls it, 'cooking the crap out of it'). This will mean having to keep an eye on things so they don't burn, but I find that meat has a much better flavor when it's been browned (I'm sure there's a chemical reason for this but I don't know it). I don't like burnt stuff at all, but I do like nicely browned meat, particularly steak and chicken. I find it's best at a dark amber colour most of the time.

    I had to teach myself to cook meat on the fly a few years ago (4 years of catered university living did not inspire me to learn how to cook), and I basically bought a load of chicken breasts and cooked one for lunch and dinner every day for a month. I had a lot of burned chicken, but I learned how to do it that way - and I can cook chicken breasts in my sleep nowadays. :-)
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  • CurlyminxCurlyminx Posts: 5,581Registered Users
    You guys are awesome!

    Of course I will be spending a ton of time trying to learn all of this stuff and get it all down, but I think that will all the info you curlies are able to give, I might actually be ok at cooking!

    And Scrills! Let me know! Since I know you have knowledge in this area!

    Man... what a great start to my weekend!

    Thanks, and keep any suggestions coming! I'm telling you guys, I have no idea how to cook meat! And it scares me to buy any because I'm always sure I'm going to waste it.

    No more wasted cuts of meat for me!!! :D
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  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    Using good-quality olive oil to cook is wasting money. High heat destroys olive oil. Nevermind that the flavor isn't right for a lot of things. Sear in sunflower, peanut, safflower, or canola (I don't use canola because it's a very refined oil). Heh, lard is good too. Maybe clarified butter (no whole butter).
    Use a decent olive oil for sauteeing and the like. Save the good stuff for drizzling and dressing.
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  • CGNYCCGNYC Posts: 4,938Registered Users Curl Connoisseur
    I'm glad you asked this question. I am terrible about cooking meat. I hate it. I would happily just never eat it but my husband is not on board with that. I'm convinced I'm going to mess it up and kill us all.
  • oddityofwingsoddityofwings Posts: 1,261Registered Users
    Saria wrote: »
    Using good-quality olive oil to cook is wasting money. High heat destroys olive oil. Nevermind that the flavor isn't right for a lot of things. Sear in sunflower, peanut, safflower, or canola (I don't use canola because it's a very refined oil). Heh, lard is good too. Maybe clarified butter (no whole butter).
    Use a decent olive oil for sauteeing and the like. Save the good stuff for drizzling and dressing.

    From what I understand, that's only if you hit the smoke-point when cooking. EVOO has a much lower smoke point than normal olive oil and some other oils, but it's still pretty high for normal everyday cooking. At least, this is what I was always told - do let me know if I'm wrong (my bottle is nearly empty so I don't want to be spending more money than I need to!).
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  • multicultcurlymulticultcurly Posts: 5,136Registered Users Curl Connoisseur
    For seasoning chicken, I've found that you have to use much more than you would for beef. I tend to season almost any type of meat with black pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. I also use cumin and chilli powder for chicken. Lemon juice, lime juice, dried parsley or dried oregano are all great for chicken -- not all together, but combined with basic seasoning, which for most people are salt and black pepper. For me, black pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. I don't personally care for salt; it gives me a headache.
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  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    I don't buy the cheap stuff for the simple reason that I have no use for it, for anything where I wouldn't use my olive oil, I use my sunflower, roasted peanut, or safflower oils. I have two kinds of olive oil--- one Italian that is very strongly flavored, one Spanish that is lighter. The Spanish is for olive oil sweets. The other for vegetables, pasta, etc. which aren't too high heat. I don't cook meat in olive oil, unless poaching in it.
    If you like the flavor of olive oil and you truly appreciate an expensive bottle of it, put it on after you cook your meat. Or use a cheaper one to cook with.

    The browning is called Maillard reaction.

    Learning to properly salt food is perhaps the most important thing anyone can learn in a kitchen. Herbs and spices aren't nearly as important. A good steak is delicious with nothing but salt and some pepper to season it when it is cooked properly. Keller's roast chicken is just seasoned with salt because that's really all you need to make an amazing bird. Salt also helps make meat juicier and more tender.
    Salt makes things taste more like themselves. Something like a beet tastes sweeter and its flavor more rounded when it's salted properly. Just the other day there was some godawful tzaziki made, a black hole of flavor it was. Once I added a good handful of salt, I realized that it actually did have garlic as it was supposed to, I just couldn't taste it all until it was properly seasoned. Sometimes people think they have enough, but if they pushed it further, they'd see what some things can really taste like.

    And it's salt in processed foods that people need to watch out for, not salt in homemade food. Well-seasoned food doesn't take as much as most people think--- it won't lead to massive daily salt intakes.
    por-que-no-te-callas.jpg
  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    http://steamykitchen.com/163-how-to-turn-cheap-choice-steaks-into-gucci-prime-steaks.html

    http://blog.ruhlman.com/2010/01/salt-is-it-good-or-bad.html

    http://blog.ruhlman.com/2010/02/salt-research-nonconclusive.html

    Boneless skinless chicken breasts are bland, especially from factory farms. Bone-in skin-on chicken breasts are delicious with just salt.
    por-que-no-te-callas.jpg
  • Jess the MessJess the Mess Posts: 5,844Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    Curlyminx what kinds of meat do you buy? What do you like? I may have some easy recipes for you. I'm no gourmet chef but my family likes my cooking :)
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  • spiderlashes5000spiderlashes5000 Posts: 17,898Registered Users Curl Virtuoso
    I agree about the salt 100%. Steak just doesn't taste good when salt isn't used or when it's skimped on. I could never understand why my steaks asted so off...til I discovered salt!

    I usually cook meat w/ butter...I don't know what clarified butter is. Why is that better?

  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    Butter burns. You need a much higher smoke point to sear a steak than what butter can provide. Clarified butter is heated to separate the fat from the milk solids. It has a higher smoke point. If you want buttery flavor in a steak, top it with a tiny bit when it's hot out of the pan or off the grill. Something like a chicken cutlet, which cooks quickly, is fine in butter, although clarified is still better. Pan-frying works okay for butter usually, eggs being the obvious example, or something like risotto cakes. For sauteing though, it's best to just add butter at the end.
    por-que-no-te-callas.jpg
  • criscatcriscat Posts: 355Registered Users
    Saria is right on.

    Salt and a good quality freshly ground pepper is all you need for meats. Unless it is a less noble cut, that you will put in some stew or similar.

    I got this pan last year and absolutely love it. I use it nearly every day. It is non-stick, easy to clean, very heavy and leaves the meats with that delicious grill marks.

    http://www.amazon.com/Anolon-Advanced-12-Inch-Shallow-Round/dp/B0007DFTLA/ref=sr_1_20?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1272702466&sr=1-20

    You take the steak, salt and pepper it, rub all sides with extra virgin olive oil, and lay it in the hot pan. You will need to experiment with it for a while to get the results you wish.

    My stove goes from Lo to Hi (which would be the 10). So for a steak around 1in thick, I set it on 6, 3min each side. Don't move the steak around. Don't put oil in the pan, just on the meat, or else you will just get smoke.

    It is excellent also for fish fillets. Use a slightly lower temp.
  • criscatcriscat Posts: 355Registered Users
    Oh and then there is this amazing, no-brainer, practical recipe:

    http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/High-Temperature-Eye-of-Round-Roast/Detail.aspx
  • webjockeywebjockey Posts: 2,786Registered Users
    I've switched from regular finer grain sea salt to a slightly more expensive bigger grain coarse salt and it's made a world of difference in roasting and grilling.

    Even though it's pricier, I use less salt, and the flavor is amazing! I've always used freshly cracked black pepper when roasting chicken or grilling steaks.

    If I'm doing a stew or braise I'll opt for the regular sea or kosher salt and pre-ground black pepper. I just don't find it makes that big of a difference if there are a lot of flavors going on.
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  • criscatcriscat Posts: 355Registered Users
    Kosher salt, coarse ground pepper, extra-virgin olive oil rubbed, Anolon grill pan mentioned above, 3 min each side after pan is hot, rest for 3min, enjoy!
    nr0odk.jpg
  • CurlyminxCurlyminx Posts: 5,581Registered Users
    YUM! Talk about drooling all over this thread!!

    I love the picture!

    And now I'm sold that I need to just jump in and do it! I have information and I can do it!!

    :toothy8::toothy8:

    Now... back to drooling over steak.
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  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    I will say to not rely on time to cook meat. Relax your right hand. Use your thermometer. You want your beef to be from 125 to 135 when you take it off the heat to rest. It will climb another 10-15 degrees to medium rare/medium.
    Bring your index finger to your thumb. Tough the nice fleshy area of your thumb with your left hand. Nice, soft, squishy--- rare. Bring the middle finger to thumb--- medium rare. Medium, well done with the remaining fingers.
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  • JosephineJosephine Posts: 14,408Registered Users Curl Connoisseur
    criscat wrote: »
    Kosher salt, coarse ground pepper, extra-virgin olive oil rubbed, Anolon grill pan mentioned above, 3 min each side after pan is hot, rest for 3min, enjoy!
    nr0odk.jpg

    Thanks a lot! Now am hungry and craving steak after having a bland veggie lunch(having stomach issues). It's very odd, lately I've been craving steak and have ordered mini steak dishes at restaurants. I used to hate steak!

    Curlyminx, thanks for starting this thread, I also just learned how to 'cook' ground turkey a couple of weeks ago. I still haven't moved on yet.
  • WileE-DeadWileE-Dead Banned Posts: 24,963Banned Users Curl Neophyte
    Josephine...you don't have something to tell us, do you? :laughing8:
    I kid...
    
    Dang, that steak looks yum-may! :toothy8:
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  • SarcasmIsBeautySarcasmIsBeauty Posts: 5,640Registered Users
    Wait wait wait! All I keep seeing is salt (granted Im on my Itouch so I'm not reading evrything) but where the he'll is all the other flavor coming from? I couldn't imagine cooking eating meat that was just seasoned in salt. Someone please tell me I'm missing something!
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  • webjockeywebjockey Posts: 2,786Registered Users
    If I have a good quality meat (ie USDA Prime or at least Choice, organic, locally sourced, dry adged etc.) salt and pepper is really all I need to bring out the flavor. Again the better the salt (large grain sea salt, freshly cracked pepper), the better result I get.

    The less desirable the source of the meat, the more I find the need to compensate for the meat and use herbs/spices/sauces.
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  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    You're Dominican, you've grown up with the idea that meat has to be seasoned with salt, garlic, oregano, and (not in my family) sometimes some packaged sazon. This not true, however. Those things are good, but properly salted meat, cooked well, doesn't need it, especially a good cut of meat or a pasture-raised chicken. Most restaurants when you order a steak, it's just aggressively salted, peppered, and thrown on the grill. Delicious. Roast chicken is the same way. When you get it right, it's hard to not eat the whole thing yourself.
    por-que-no-te-callas.jpg
  • ~Ghost Poster~~Ghost Poster~ Posts: 2,264Registered Users
    Saria beat me to it but I was gonna say "don't be afraid to salt your steaks." And pay attention to the cut. I like porterhouse and ribeye the best, but they are each good for different techniques. I sometimes do a brown sugar/Worcestershire sauce/soy sauce/garlic marinade on ribeye and it's great.

    Cosigning the bolded and adding tenderloin as a favorite cut. If you can find a whole tenderloin on sale somewhere, cut up your own steaks and you get to choose your thickness. Buying the whole tenderloin yields significant savings--still a bit pricey though. But, if you're a steak L.O.V.E.R. like me and you can afford it, it's worth every single penny.

    I didn't read any of the other posts in great detail, so forgive any redundancy. While spider's marinade sounds fabulous, a steak lover like me likes to keep it simple sometimes because I want to taste the meat. I make a version of what I think Saria calls a dry brine--I mix kosher salt, ground savory, garlic powder, and some ready-made store bought beef rub if I have it together, then thickly coat each side of the steak and let this sit for 10-12 mins, then I rinse it off with water and cook as desired. Fabulous and simple. Just enough of the salt penetrates the meat to give it flavor without covering up the meat flavor. You can adjust the leave-on time to adjust the amount of saltiness. I'm fairly fond of salt, so you may want to try 8-10 mins. If I'm feeling like a little sweet, I'll dip it in Yoshida's sauce or some other sauce similar to spider's marinade. But, this way, I can control the sweetness. You could add or substitute onion powder or salt or whichever spices you want to the dry brine rub.

    Bon appetit!
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  • ~Ghost Poster~~Ghost Poster~ Posts: 2,264Registered Users
    Saria wrote: »
    You're Dominican, you've grown up with the idea that meat has to be seasoned with salt, garlic, oregano, and (not in my family) sometimes some packaged sazon. This not true, however. Those things are good, but properly salted meat, cooked well, doesn't need it, especially a good cut of meat or a pasture-raised chicken. Most restaurants when you order a steak, it's just aggressively salted, peppered, and thrown on the grill. Delicious. Roast chicken is the same way. When you get it right, it's hard to not eat the whole thing yourself.

    I have to agree, even though I add in other spices to my dry brine mix. The only truly discernable end-result flavor is salty. And that's fine.
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  • OBBOBB Posts: 4,174Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    good grief Minx i get the feeling your kitchen is barren. next time im in town ill make the steak you bring the yogurt. also if one dont like to use salt one can use fish sauce.
  • CurlyminxCurlyminx Posts: 5,581Registered Users
    It IS barren! It's crazy. :oops:

    I am shamed. I plan on filling it up now that I'm not so terrified of trying.
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  • JosephineJosephine Posts: 14,408Registered Users Curl Connoisseur
    Josephine...you don't have something to tell us, do you? :laughing8:
    I kid...
    
    Dang, that steak looks yum-may! :toothy8:


    LOL, o hell no! I generally don't care for the taste of meat that much so I would like my steak to be more flavored. But lately, like I said, I've been craving steak and just beef so I think I would be perfectly fine with just having it salted, I don't know what's wrong with me, it is very unlike me!

    Question - can I marinate chicken breast and freeze it? Would it get over marinated or change the meat?

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