My first cookbook, Tender Grassfed Meat, often refers to a “fat cap.” After the book was published, and I started to get questions from readers, I realized, with shock and dismay, that many people did not know what a fat cap was. When I was a teenager, every roast and steak had a fat cap, and it was common knowledge that this fat added great flavor and kept the meat tender.
This once common knowledge has now been largely forgotten, because of government and industry propaganda that demonized one of the oldest and most nutrient-dense foods of humankind.
Yes, saturated animal fat from grassfed or pastured animals is one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. (The Skinny on Fats) It certainly does wonderful things for cooking grassfed meat, keeping the meat from burning, keeping the meat moist and tender, adding wonderful flavor that just keeps getting better as the meat cooks.
The demonization of animal fat has been very effective. Most butchers and markets trim most or all of the visible fat from the outside of their meats. Most recipes and cookbook authors tell people to trim off all the visible fat on the meat, in the unlikely event that the butcher missed any. This result of this ludicrous practice has resulted in many people who have never even seen a fat cap.
A fat cap can be described in words, but this is one of those cases where a picture really is worth a thousand words, so the photo at the beginning of this article is of a New York tip roast (also known as rump cover or Picanha), with a proper fat cap. The white substance on top of the meat is a fat cap, and a magnificent one. The fat varies in thickness from one quarter to one half inch, which will make for a wonderful roast. One quarter inch is the minimum for a proper fat cap.
In addition to making the meat tender and tasty, the fat cap makes great eating. Yes, I actually eat some of the fat with the meat, like all traditional peoples used to do. Just about all traditional peoples ate fat with meat, and so do I. Every roast, steak, pot roast, stew, pan roast, and hamburger I make will have some animal fat on it or in it. The meat tastes much better that way. I will always roast some vegetables in the pan with a roast like this, as the melting fat will give them a nice crust and incredible flavor. I do not use roasting racks, since they make it difficult to add vegetables to the pan. Instead, I place the roast on some vegetables that serve as a rack, and can be eaten with pleasure once the meat is done. This technique is used throughout Tender Grassfed Meat.
My biggest problem in buying grassfed and pastured meats is to get the producer to leave a proper fat cap on the meat. I am having more success with this, as the truth about the nutritional value of grassfed fat is slowly being rediscovered.
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