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Nutrition Section

Making the most of Beef

Would you like to cut your meat bill costs, without cutting the quantity or the nutrition?

Meat is an important part of our diet. Vegans need to suppliment their diet with more nuts and grains to make up for the large proportion of protein and iron we normally get from the meat in our diet. Humans evolved as omnivours, eating both vegetable matter and meat and it's one of the major contributing factors to our success as a species. In the typical Western diet, we tend to eat more meat than required, so we can pad it out a little with no significant decline in health. We also tend to buy cuts from only a small part of the carcass, the tender (and most expensive part) believing the rest to be too tough to make a good meal – not true.

beef carcass showing the different cuts

We tend to buy cuts from only the tender part of the carcass. The rest is just as nutritious and a lot cheaper.

You don't need to buy the expensive cuts of meat to cook amazing meals either. In fact the best results come from knowing which way to treat the cut of meat you bought. You don't have to be a cordon bleu chef, to cook wholesome tasty meals every night. If you you know how to cook it, you can save a lot of money buying cheaper cuts and end up with a fantastic meal, just as appealing as the expensive cuts would have been.

You have the same nutrition in 500grams of prime eye fillet as the same quantity of chuck steak. The difference is, the eye fillet will not be tough, regardless how you treat it but the chuck steak can turn out like car tyre rubber if cooked incorrectly . . . and the eye fillet will cost about 12 times more than the chuck steak!

Reducing the fat content – become heart smart with any cut

While we are talking cuts of meat, mince is usually the cheapest option because it's made from the trimmings and tougher cuts that don't sell as well. But be aware it contains more fat than any other cut of meat, even “premium grade” mince. Hamburger mince has to contain 30% fat by weight or the resulting patties will fall apart because they stick to the pan. If you are using mince, or any cut of meat with a lot of fat, do not thicken the result. Let it cool in the fridge and the fat will rise and harden on the top. Remove it, then reheat and thicken it. This will turn even the fattiest food into heart smart cuisine with low fat content.

A common disaster I see, is pasta dishes like spaghetti bolognaise, where people use the cheapest mince for their sauce. They make the sauce with the mince that is over 30% fat (often using cream in the recipe) and then serve it up, grease and all. If they start with 500gms of budget grade mince at 30% fat, they will have 167 grams of fat before adding butter, oil or margarine to caramalise the onions. Now add cream for the sauce (not necessary by the way) and you have a heart attack on a plate!

plate of spaghetti bolognaise

Cooked wrong, spaghetti bolognaise and similar pasta dishes can be a heart attack waiting to happen .

Many of the cheaper cuts, especially in other meats like lamb, contain more fat. Treat the dish the same as above, for mince; cook it early and let it cool until the fat solidifies on the top and can be easily removed

Most people grab a piece of meat and immediately think of frying or roasting it – the two quickest ways to reduce it's size and retain the highest fat content. Instead, double the meat content by stuffing it (see the stuffing page in the Recipes section), casseroling or stewing it. The nutrition is the same but the cost is halved.

The cuts and how to cook them.

It all comes down to knowing your cuts and how to cook them. Let's start with beef. Most chefs have a few basic recipes that they tart up, rename as something fancy and charge you a fortune to eat. There's no reason why you can't do the same thing at home. If we look at the various cuts on a beef carcass, they fall into three basic categories:

beef carcass showing the different cuts

The different cuts on a beef carcass fall into three categories; most tender (and expensive), tender (usually value added and expensive) and cheaper cuts that are just as delicious if cooked slowly.

Most Tender (and most expensive)

These cuts are the fast cooking steak cuts. They include the popular BBQ steaks and roasts you find in any supermarket. These are the most expensive portions of the carcass. To make matters even worse, they will usually be value added to increase the price. They'll be wrapped on a meat tray as steaks or roasts and tarted up in various ways, like marinated, stuffed rolled or extra trimmed.

collection of images of the steak cuts

The most tender cuts (and the most expensive).

Tender cuts (roasts).

These are a little less expensive cuts but are often tarted up to add to the profit margin. They will look appealing because they can be sold in larger pieces, giving you more meat for your dollar, like rump steak, which is usually four times the size of eye fillet, for half the price. Some cuts will be tenderised to reduce their toughness, like BBQ steak. These cuts will all produce a good meal if prepared properly but could come out tough if not.

collection of images of the roast cuts

The tender cuts sold usually as roasts.

Generally these are usually sold as roasts or cheaper steak (topside, rump) cuts. Sometimes you'll see apparently expensive cuts as roasts too. This is usually because the cut is too tough or small to make steaks out of. By knowing what to look for, you can often get a great bargain with these cuts. For example, I bought a whole rump that was too small for the butcher to cut into steaks. They would have looked more like strips than the typically wide rump steaks. It was $45.00 for the whole rump. Three rump steaks in the same shop were selling for $12.00 (in other words $4.00 each). I cut it into steaks and although they were long rather than deep, I cut a pocket in each one and stuffed it. I got 14 steaks out of that whole rump. At $4.00 each, that's $56.00 worth for $45.00 – a saving of $11.00 (almost a free pack of rump steak). We only used two of the steaks and froze the rest.

Another trick to cut meat bill costs, is to avoid those cuts that are value added. For example, cheap stir fry beef is not actually cheap. You are paying for the cutting of something like topside into strips. Look at the price per Kg of the stir fry beef and match that to the price per Kg of a topside roast and you'll be stunned at the difference in price. They must use a special gold knife to justify the difference in price!

Another money saver, if you are buying a roast, is to buy a roast that is a single piece of meat or a rolled roast (a strip that is rolled up and tied) and stuff it with stuffing (from the stuffing page recipes section). It will reduce the roast's shrinkage and make it go a lot further.

A roast of stuffed topside

A stuffed roast of topside.

For a single piece of meat, using a sharp knife, stab the meat through the thickest part and work the knife to create a wide slit. Open the slit and force in the stuffing until it comes out the other end of the slit. The meat sould be about a third bigger after the stuffing is added. For best results, moisten a piece of crust with a little spray of water and plug both ends of the stuffed pocket, so the stuffing doesn't dry out in the cooking.

For a rolled roast, undo it, unroll it and add a layer of stuffing on top of the slab of meat. Re-roll it and secure it with skewers. For a real gourmet touch, use the stems of a branch of rosemary as skewers, if you have access to a rosmary bush. I keep those wooden chopsticks they give you with Chinese takeaway food, to use as skewers.

A rolled roast of beef

This rolled roast of beef will propably end up half the size after cooking.

A cooked rolled stuffed roast of beef

By stuffing the roast it has finished up only slightly smaller than it's original size.

To minimise shrinkage during roasting and make your roast nice and juicy, wrap it in cooking foil. Remove the foil for the last 15 to 20 minutes of cooking to let it brown.

Coconut Palms

Indonesia's Lethal Food
Did you know that at least 1000 people die in Indonesia every year from falling coconuts? Worldwide, they are more lethal than sharks. A coconut can weigh 5kg and a coconut palm can be up to 30 metres tall.

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gold bar with apple

Cooking the cheaper cuts

These are the tougher, more stringy cuts. As every chef knows, they are also more tasty, when cooked properly. The secret is to cook them slowly one of three ways: in a stew, casserole or minced.

an assortment of cheaper cuts

The cheaper cuts

As a stew or casserole it can be served with vegetables as a side, on a bed or toast or rice or in a pastry case as a pie or pastie. Unlike steaks or a roast, you can get twice the mileage out of a stew or casserole by using it as a pie filling for another meal. This makes these cheaper cuts even more economical.

For people living alone, a roast either has to be so small it will dry out in the oven or large enough to not dry out which will mean a lot left over. A stew or casserole can be even more adaptable. Once it has been made but before it is thickened, you can remove some of the juice for a hearty beef and vegetable soup. Next, thicken it and use as a meal and the remainder will make a great tasty filling for a pie. That's three meals in one!

For a family, serve the stew (or casserole) one day and use the leftovers to fill a pie but don't cook it. Freeze it for another day.

Bar - Gold bar with Granny Smith Apple

Basket of Fresh herbs

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