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Tender Grassfed Barbecue: Traditional, Primal and Paleo by Stanley A. Fishman
By Stanley A. Fishman
Link to Tender Grassfed Meat at Amazon
By Stanley A. Fishman

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DISCLOSURE AND DISCLAIMER

I am an attorney and an author, not a doctor. This website is intended to provide information about grassfed meat, what it is, its benefits, and how to cook it. I will also describe my own experiences from time to time. The information on this website is being provided for educational purposes. Any statements about the possible health benefits provided by any foods or diet have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

I do receive some compensation each time a copy of my book is purchased. I receive a very small amount of compensation each time somebody purchases a book from Amazon through the links on this site, as I am a member of the Amazon affiliate program.

—Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat

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My Two Top Rules for Buying Grassfed Beef

By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue

This grassfed beef strip loin steak is well-marbled, as you can see by the small flecks of white fat.

This grassfed beef strip loin steak is well-marbled, as you can see by the small flecks of white fat.

The market for grassfed meat has changed greatly since I wrote my book, Tender Grassfed Meat, in 2009. Back then, just about all the grassfed beef on the market was good, though there was less grassfed beef available.

Now, grassfed meat is much easier to find, even appearing in mainstream supermarket chains. But much of the meat now sold is of questionable quality, and many cuts are sold for the wrong purpose. There is a perception that leaner is better, which I disagree with.

 

So here are the guidelines I follow in buying grassfed meat:

1.      Buy the Fattest Grassfed Meat You Can Find

Grassfed meat is leaner than factory meat. But the fat in grassfed meat is particularly nutritious, containing many vital nutrients such as CLA and the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.

The fat is also crucial for flavor and tenderness.

There is now some grassfed beef available that is just too lean to be tender or tasty, and I never buy it. Some of the healthy peoples studied by Dr. Weston A. Price used to throw the lean meat to their dogs, while eating the fattier parts themselves.

I examine the meat for small flecks of fat called marbling. If the meat does not have some marbling, I do not buy it. You can see an example of a well-marbled grassfed beef steak in the photo above.

This cannot be done if you purchase online, and you cannot always trust the photos shown on websites. Ultimately, the only way to know if an online seller has meat that has enough fat is to talk with them, talk to people who have ordered their products, and/or buy a sample. Currently, the only grassfed beef I buy online is from U.S. Wellness Meats, whose meat is always properly raised, has enough marbling, and is sold at a good price.

 

2.      Use the Right Cuts for Your Cooking Method

This is vital, because many stores sell small pieces of tough cuts as “steaks.” In my opinion, lean cuts like rump, round, flank, skirt, chuck, and sirloin tip are just not tender enough to be made as steaks, even with my methods. Our ancestors did not use them for these purposes. These tough cuts were almost always cooked by braising and stewing.

For steaks, I use traditional cuts like rib, strip loin, sirloin, and tenderloin. I have also used well-marbled cuts of, hangar steak, flat iron steak, and center cut shoulder as steaks, as they can be very tender with my methods.

For oven roasts, the same rules apply. Tender cuts like tenderloin, ribeye, prime rib, strip loin, and sirloin, along with some less tender cuts like center cut shoulder, and sirloin tip can be successfully roasted.

Chuck, rump, cuts from the round, flank, skirt, brisket, etc. should usually be braised or stewed slowly.

However, some of the thinner cuts like skirt and flank can be sliced thinly against the grain, marinated, and successfully stir-fried or made into fajita type dishes.

But trying to use an inherently tough cut for a steak or dry roast will almost always result in tough meat, even if good tenderizing methods are used.

In summary, my two top rules for buying grassfed beef are to buy the fattest I can find, and buy the right cut for my cooking method.

This post is part of Fat Tuesday blog carnival.

 

Our Ancestors Did Not Eat Spoiled Meat—Traditional Meat Preservation

By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue

Sausages and sauerkraut.

Sausages and sauerkraut.

Our modern culture is very arrogant. We are taught that our culture is much more advanced, scientific, and knowledgeable in every area of life than our ancestors. This arrogance often leads to misinformation being taught as truth.

We are told that our ancestors ate spoiled meat, and wanted spices to hide the foul taste. Not true. Our ancestors had many effective ways of preserving meat, which did not use toxic chemicals and preservatives, and which preserved the nutritional value of the food, and sometimes increased it.

 

The Myth

When I was in school, even college, we were taught that our ancestors ate spoiled meat, because they did not have refrigerators or freezers. Furthermore, we were told that our ancestors craved spices to hide the taste of spoiled meat.

This is simply not true. While our ancestors might eat spoiled meat under extreme circumstances (such as being on a ship, far out to sea, when the salted meat started to spoil), this was very unusual. You also cannot hide the taste of truly spoiled meat with spices, though many spices can help preserve meat, and keep insects away.

 

The Truth

Our ancestors had traditional ways of preserving meat, going back to ancient times and beyond. When they killed an animal for food, some or all of it would be eaten fresh, but that which was not eaten was preserved, with methods that could last for months or even years. The most common methods included:

  • Salting
  • Drying
  • Smoking
  • Fermenting

Often, several of these methods were used to preserve a particular piece of meat. Hams, for instance, were often salted, smoked, and dried. Bacon was salted and smoked. Sausages were often smoked, salted, and fermented.

There were many other methods used as well. The ancient Romans and Greeks often preserved meat and fish by submerging them in olive oil. Meat was often preserved by cooking it in a large amount of fat, than covering it with fat and sealing it in a container. Traditional French confit uses this method. In cold climates, ice was cut into blocks and placed in cellars or caves to preserve meat. In some cold areas, meat was wrapped in hides and placed in the very cold soil, which would completely freeze during the winter. The meat was dug up and eaten when the soil had thawed.

Another method was to dry meat in the sun, then pound it into a paste with fat and some kind of fruit. The famous Pemmican of the Native Americans was preserved in this manner.

These methods required skill and knowledge to be done effectively. They did not keep the food preserved indefinitely, but they did preserve the food for a while. And many would consider them to be preferable to modern methods, such as chemical preservatives and irradiation.

Our ancestors did not eat spoiled meat. They knew how to preserve it.

Disclaimer: Information found on the Tender Grassfed Meat site, including this article, is meant for educational and informational purposes only. Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods or anything else have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. None of the content on the Tender Grassfed Meat site should be relied upon for any purpose, and nothing here is a substitute for a medical diagnosis or medical treatment.

This post is part of Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday blog carnivals.

Traditional Food Combinations, and What They Mean

One of the oldest traditional Chinese food combinations: ginger, garlic, and green onion.

One of the oldest traditional Chinese food combinations: ginger, garlic, and green onion.

By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue

Our culture looks at the nutritional value of each type of food separately. For example, we are told the amount of calories, and the nutrients contained in a potato. Or we are told to eat a certain group of foods daily, with little attention paid to what they are actually eaten with, or how they are prepared, as long as certain “bad” foods are avoided.

Yet our ancestors paid enormous attention to combining different foods, herbs, and spices, and to how they were prepared. Thousands of combinations and preparation methods were developed, and food was always eaten and prepared in harmony with these traditions.

Why did they go to so much trouble and effort, and follow these very distinct rules and traditions?

When they wrote about it, or passed down the tradition verbally, our ancestors were clear that these traditions were developed to enhance nutrition and health, with taste being a secondary though important consideration.

In my opinion, this is precious knowledge, often reflecting thousands of years of human experience and testing, and well worth preserving, and using.

 

How Food Combinations Work

When you eat several kinds of foods at one meal, your body does not process each food item separately, but processes the combination of what is eaten. We know that combining different substances often changes their effect, and can create a combined effect.

For example, let us look at the potato. Potatoes are classed as carbohydrates, and believed to cause hyperglycemic effects. But few people eat potatoes in isolation. In traditional Europe, potatoes were usually eaten with a large amount of animal fat. Some studies have indicated that eating potatoes with fat can counter the glycemic effect. No doubt eating potatoes with other foods also changes the effects of the potatoes, in ways that have not been scientifically studied.

Different cultures would eat many different things with potatoes as well as fat. For example, it became a widespread tradition in Europe and the U.S. to often combine meat and potatoes. In fact, the combination became so widespread and common that the phrase “meat and potatoes”  meant the foods that were essential for a complete meal.

Later research has established that meat is essentially an acidic food, and that potatoes are essentially an alkaline food. We know that it is important for our health to maintain the right acid/alkaline balance in our bodies. I suspect the tradition of eating meat and potatoes (or meat with alkaline foods), stems from old knowledge of how to combine foods. Knowledge learned without the benefits of chemistry or studies, learned instead through long experience.

One of the oldest and most common Chinese food combinations is to use, ginger, garlic, and green onions together, in a multitude of dishes. We know that each of these foods has beneficial effects individually, but no one appears to have studied them in combination. Yet the Chinese tradition of combining them reflects a belief that they are far more effective in combination than alone, which may very well be true.

 

How to Learn and Use Traditional Food Combinations

Fortunately, many of these combinations have been preserved as recipes and traditions. We can get the benefits just by using these recipes, with real food ingredients. We do not even need to know what they do, to get the benefits.

There are so many of them that I will not even attempt to list them, but I do use them in cooking. Not only does this usually result in a delicious meal, but I believe the nutritional and beneficial effects of the food is enhanced by using these traditional combinations. I am working on a new cookbook that is based on using some of these traditional combinations in easy recipes, using only real food ingredients. Testing the recipes for this book has been absolutely delicious!

This post is part of Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday blog carnivals.

When It Comes to Real Food, Simple and Traditional Tastes Best

By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue

A traditional stew of grass fed meat and organic vegetables tastes wonderful and is perfec for a winter day.

A traditional winter stew of grassfed meat and organic vegetables tastes wonderful.

Many people believe that good cooking is a mystery, one that can only be solved by celebrity chefs using arcane ingredients and complex methods. These TV chefs often use new methods and combinations that have been invented by the chefs, who gets praised for their innovation. High-tech modern products like meat glue are often used by such chefs.

I believe that simple recipes, using real food such as grassfed meat and organic traditional vegetables, using traditional food combinations, and traditional methods, prepared by ordinary people, taste the best.

I believe that cooking should be easy, not complex and difficult.

I am inspired by the quality and benefits of grassfed meat and real food, with their wonderful natural flavors. I am inspired by the ingenious simplicity of traditional cooking, which often uses just a few ingredients, simply combined and prepared, to produce outstanding, healthy food. These flavor combinations became traditional because they are really good. Many of these traditions are being lost, and I am honored to help preserve some of them in my cookbooks.

I contend that the best grassfed meat and real food is simple, using traditional methods, traditional ingredients, and easy recipes. When you have great ingredients, their wonderful natural taste should come out.

 

With Real Food — Simple Is Better

When I wrote my two cookbooks, Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue, I had several goals. One of the most important was to make them simple, and easy to use. Another goal was to provide recipes that were absolutely delicious. A third goal was to create recipes that people would actually make.

These three goals are not contradictory, if you are using grassfed meat and real food. The quality of these foods from nature is so high that the food itself provides most of the flavor. In fact, I contend that grassfed meat and real food are the best when prepared simply with traditional methods and ingredients. You can have a wonderful dish with just a few ingredients, if they are of the highest quality, and carefully combined. When you use only a few ingredients, all are important and changing even one of them can have a dramatic effect on the taste of the dish.

Real food ingredients have so much natural flavor and goodness that they are at their best when made simply, so that their wonderful natural flavor can come out.

Then, there is the simple fact that complex recipes, with dozens of ingredients, and difficult, complex techniques, are much harder and take much more effort and time to make. Often complex recipes fail, for any of a number of reasons. Usually, complex recipes are read, admired, and never made.

I want my cooking to be easy and simple, and delicious. I wrote these books for the ordinary person, because I wanted them to have ways to cook tender grassfed meat that were not only delicious, but easy. I wanted my recipes to be used, and enjoyed.

I did not write these books for critical acclaim, but to help people make delicious grassfed meat, the easy way.

In fact, I admit it, I prefer to make easy meals! It is not only easier, it is more fun!

This post is part of Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday blog carnivals.

 

A Magnificent Christmas Roast

By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue

A magnificent grassfed prime rib with a great fat cap and marbling.

A magnificent grassfed prime rib with a great fat cap and marbling.

Our favorite holiday roast is a grassfed prime rib, with a nice thick fat cap, plenty of nice marbling in the meat, resting solidly on its own bones. It is not easy to find such a roast, but we hit the jackpot this year.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the above picture says it all.

This prime rib is one the best I have ever seen.

Perfectly balanced on a strong rack of bones. Covered with a thick layer of its own flavor-giving fat.

Nicely marbled with small flecks of grassfed fat.

A beautiful color.

And there are even more reasons that I know this roast will be something special. Late last week, we had a grassfed shoulder roast picked up from a local market. The meat was beautiful, full of perfect marbling. It was incredibly tender and flavorful. I knew that the butcher had happened upon a truly remarkable steer.

The next day, I called the butcher up and asked if he could sell me a prime rib from the same animal. Turns out that he could. I showed up at the market, and politely called out my preferences as he cut the roast. He left all the fat on, which was my biggest concern. Due to the demonization of fat, most butchers will trim all the fat off a roast without even thinking of it. A very bad decision, because the fat contains most of the flavor, and all of the fat soluble vitamins and nutrients. And the fat itself, crisp and brown when the roast is done, is absolutely delicious and warming.

Not to worry, this butcher knew his stuff and happily complied with my request.

This is the old way of buying a special roast, where you know and trust the seller, know where the meat comes from, and carefully select the roast, even specifying the animal it comes from, and the way it is cut and trimmed. This is the way most humans have done it for most of time. Not at all like picking up a foam package in the supermarket.

Now that we have our roast, the planning for our Christmas dinner is complete. Here is the menu:

Roast Prime Rib of Beef: Lightly seasoned with herbs, pepper, garlic, and just a little salt, added at the last minute.

Roast Potatoes and Carrots: These will be roasted in the same pan as the roast. There will be no rack, as the bones make a perfect rack, and this allows us to place these vegetables in the pan, where they will become brown, crusty, sweet, flavored with the unique flavor of prime rib fat.

Sautéed Mushrooms: Cooked with plenty of butter and a bit of truffle oil, until browned and caramelized, with amazing flavor.

Yorkshire Pudding: Baked in the old style, made with pan drippings, the same magnificent beef fat

European Cabbage: From page 206 of Tender Grassfed Meat, onion, cabbage, and apple slices, cooked to perfection with bacon, in bacon fat.

Dessert? I doubt anyone will have room.

I want to wish all a very happy holiday season.

And, if you celebrate it, a very Merry Christmas!

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday blog carnivals.

This Thanksgiving, Cook It Yourself

By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue

Turkey, the centerpiece of the traditional Thanksgiving feast.

The centerpiece of the traditional Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving gets a great deal of attention every year. For many, it is a time for families to see each other over a large traditional meal. Thanksgiving is the American feast. I like the idea of being thankful for the good things in my life. I happen to love the tradition, and to love eating the old favorites, prepared from real food. Yet I must confess something. I also love to cook the Thanksgiving feast.

Yes, it is a lot of work. Especially when you add the trimmings, such as homemade stuffing and real gravy, made with fresh broth and the magnificent turkey drippings. But to see the joy it brings to those who eat it-that is truly fulfilling. And chances are that your work will be very much appreciated.

And I want to confess something else. It is not that complicated. If you get real ingredients, even average cooking skills will result in a wonderful meal. I make a turkey, a stuffing, roast some vegetables in the pan with the turkey, roast some sweet potatoes on the side, make some simple boiled vegetables, and a wonderful gravy from the drippings. None of these items are difficult to prepare. It is just that there are a lot of them, and some are time consuming. The solution is planning and organization.

I plan the cooking of each dish, organize the ingredients, start early in the morning, and it always goes well. And the smell of the roasting turkey, lovingly basted with butter, is just magnificent.

Often, you can also get family members and friends to help with some of the tasks, and it can become a fun project, with a result that everyone will enjoy.

It has become common for supermarkets to offer people a full Thanksgiving meal, which just needs to be reheated, for a large amount of money. I am certain that no reheated meal from a store can possibly compete with a home cooked meal of real food. Food prepared for people you love or like, with love, has a special quality all its own.

After the feast, turkey leftovers are considered a problem by many people. Not me. Here is a link to a recipe for the turkey broth I make after every Thanksgiving, which uses those leftovers to create a wonderful traditional broth:

Turkey Broth from Leftovers — Paleo, Primal, and Delicious

Happy Thanksgiving! May you and yours eat well!

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday blog carnival.

Beyond Broth—European Peasant Soup

By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue

Classic European organic root vegetables for soup.

Classic European root vegetables for soup.

As I continue to write and research my upcoming book on traditional cooking, I kept running into the same fact. The use of homemade broth was universal across traditional Europe. This kind of broth, made from the bones, sinews, and meat scraps of pastured animals, and simmered slowly for a long time, at least twelve hours, is a nutritional powerhouse of minerals and other nutrients.

Yet I found something else. While this broth was often heated and sipped by itself, it was common to add other ingredients to make it into a soup. The variety of these soups was almost endless, yet certain ingredients were used over and over. These ingredients were used from Spain to Russia, and everywhere in between. These ingredients were always shredded or cut very small, in the traditional soups.

Since I believe that our ancestors combined ingredients for nutritional reasons, I decided to make a soup out of homemade broth and these widely used ingredients. I did so last night, to fend off the cold of an approaching winter, and to strengthen a body that was fighting something off. I was lucky, and feel that I found something so beneficial that it goes beyond broth in its benefits. The type of soup that European peasants made for themselves, to extract every bit of nutrition from the food they were able to get.

 

The Search

I have many traditional cookbooks. I have collected these books for over thirty years, and I have so many I am embarrassed to give the actual number. I began searching these books for soup recipes using these ingredients. I came across so many recipes that I could not decide, and they were all blending together in my head and thought. So I decided to go with the flow, and follow the thought I was having. A recipe began to form in my mind.

 

The Ingredients

Cabbage. Finely shredded cabbage was used in these kind of soups almost everywhere in Europe. I had learned that cabbage, both as sauerkraut and fresh cabbage, was heavily used in winter, and in much of the rest of the year. Fresh cabbage will keep a long time in a traditional root cellar, in cool or cold weather.

Carrots. Finely chopped carrots were another common ingredient. Carrots were also a universal ingredient of these types of soups.

Onion. The onion, valued since the days of ancient Egypt, was another universal ingredient. Except that the finely chopped onions were usually sautéed in some kind of animal fat as the first step in making the soup.

Fat. These soups almost always had some kind of fat that was used to sauté the onion, either bacon, or chicken fat, or butter, or salt pork, or ham fat, or olive oil, or others, depending on what was available.

Potato. The use of the potato in these soups was also almost universal. Potatoes were not introduced to Europe until the seventeenth century, at which point they replaced the previously ubiquitous turnip.

Salt and Pepper. Used by almost everyone to season the soup. Everyone had salt, and pepper was also common, though often not available for the poorer families.

 

The Cooking

I noticed that everyone cut these vegetables very small, shredding them or even cutting them into pieces the size of threads. I decided to settle for finely chopped vegetables.

I sautéed the onion in a medium sized saucepan with three tablespoons of butter. I then added a quart of homemade beef broth, cabbage, carrot, and a small potato, all finely chopped. I brought the mixture to a simmer, covered the pot, and simmered it for twenty minutes. The aroma of this soup, when I opened the lid, was fantastic.

 

The Eating

The soup was placed in large bowls. It was very hot, temperature wise, and we sipped it slowly. We added salt and pepper to taste. It was wonderful, nourishing, filling, warming. It was very filling. In fact, I felt that I was filling my body with easily absorbed nutrients, and I began to feel very good. By the time I had finished a bowl of soup, I felt very satisfied, totally warm, and healthy. The last traces of whatever illness I was fighting off disappeared. I woke this morning feeling completely fine, and immediately got to work on this post.

Our ancestors knew how to combine foods, how to get the nutrients into their bodies in beneficial combinations. Traditional cooking is not only delicious, but nourishing.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday blog carnivals.

The Poor Man’s Caviar — A Potato Cooked in Embers

By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue

This humble organic potato could be turned into a gourmet delight by a lost traditional method.

This humble potato could be turned into a gourmet delight by a lost traditional method.

Many years ago, I used to barbecue for my parents and my aunt and uncle, on summer weekends.

I used to make simple roasts on a Weber kettle, which turned out good, even back then.

My uncle by marriage was a very wealthy dentist. He had grown up so poor that he had often been hungry, and his stomach had actually shrunk from hunger. He could only eat small quantities at one time, and was always hungry. While he was wealthy, he was very frugal, to be polite. He was usually friendly, but sometimes he would get very upset for reasons that no one else understood.

One day, just after I finished cooking, and was about to put out the fire, he showed up with a potato clutched in his hand. He smiled and asked if he could use the fire. I was astonished, as my uncle had never been known to cook anything. I agreed, and watched with fascination, as he buried the potato in the burned down coals, carefully arranging each coal with the tongs as if he was painting a portrait. This procedure took a long time, until he was satisfied that the arrangement of the coals was perfect. “Don’t touch it!” He snarled, then walked off.

Sometime later, he dug the potato out of the coals, and put it on a plate. It was burned totally black. “Is he actually going to eat that?” I wondered.

Well, he did eat it, with nothing else. He broke the potato open, and slowly ate the inside of the potato, with an expression of pure bliss on his face. The rest of us watched in wonder, unable to understand why he was enjoying it so much.

Being curious, I asked him if I could have a taste. His face twisted in the instant fury that sometimes came over him — “Get your own potato!” he shrieked. I backed off.

The next weekend, I barbecued again, and he showed up with his potato again, after the cooking was over. He went through the same procedure, and blissfully ate the scorched potato as we quietly watched him. This happened week after week. I did not dare ask him for a taste.

His potato antics became a subject for family discussion. Everyone agreed that the potato must taste terrible. But why did he go to so much trouble, and why did he enjoy it so much?

One week, when he appeared to ask for permission to use the fire, I asked if he could make one for me. I braced for the explosion, but he smiled, and cheerfully agreed. He returned with another potato. When the potatoes were done, he placed my potato on a plate. It was burned black, as usual. The potato skin broke open at the touch of the fork. I tasted some of the inside, expecting it to taste burned and bad. I was wrong. It was wonderful, easily the best vegetable I had ever tasted. It was soft, hot, with a surprisingly complex and utterly delicious flavor, somewhat sweet and smoky. I began to eat it slowly, enjoying every bite.

I tried many times to make potatoes like that, but they were never anything special. Nothing like the masterpiece he made. He had a knack, or he knew something, a way of doing it, that he never shared.

I asked him a couple of times, but he would never answer.

There is so much traditional cooking knowledge that we have lost, countless treasures that used to be passed down from generation to generation. They are worth saving.

This post is part of Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday blog carnivals.

The Joy of Engaged Cooking, and Real Food

By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue

Engaged cooking resulted in this wonderful, delicious grass fed pot roast..

Engaged cooking resulted in this wonderful, delicious grassfed pot roast.

Many view cooking as a boring chore, to be done as quickly as possible, with as little effort as possible. Others never cook, living on prepackaged meals, takeout, and restaurants. It has been reported that two-thirds of the American people do not even know how to cook.

I view cooking as an absolute necessity. Real food, the food of our ancestors, does not come in a plastic package you can nuke in a microwave. Sadly, real food rarely exists in restaurants, and when it does, it is extremely expensive.

So, if you are going to enjoy the vital benefits of real food, someone in your family is going to have to cook ,and it might as well be you. But I do not view cooking as a chore. Yes, it can be a lot of work, but it can also be an art form, one that brings health as well as joy, when done well. And the very act of doing it can be a lot of fun!

The key is to be engaged in your cooking.

 

Engaged Cooking

Some people just go through the motions when they cook, mechanically following the instructions in a recipe, just wanting to get it over with. This attitude leads to boredom, frustration, and usually results in a meal that is mediocre, or worse.

Not me. Every meal is an adventure, every time I cook it is different, and I have many rewarding experiences.

Here is why. Every food item is unique. I mean every single item of real food is somewhat different than any other. In other words, the T-bone steak I cook today is different from the one I cook in a week, even if it is from the same ranch, is cut the same way, and weighs the same. This uniqueness is true of every item of real food. No two grapes are exactly alike. every teaspoon of a particular spice tastes and behaves a bit different, even if it comes from the same bottle. Every individual onion has unique qualities, even from the onions that grew next to it and were harvested at the same time. The same is true of every individual bit of real food.

Nothing remains exactly the same, as change is the nature of life.

The same is true of the inanimate manufactured items we use in cooking. No stove cooks exactly the same, even if they come from the same manufacturing lot. Each oven has its own hot spots, and cooler spots. The size and shape of the oven also has an impact, as does the altitude. Burners, even on the same stove, vary in how much heat they give off, regardless of the setting. Every pan conducts heat a bit differently. No stove is perfectly level, and the tilt of the stove and oven also have an effect.

Climate, moisture, temperature in the kitchen, and other factors we are not aware of, change every time we cook.

This is true not only of appliances, but of barbecue fires. No two fires, even if made in the same barbecue, adjusted the same way, with the same fuel, will be alike, or will behave alike.

Everything matters, and everything is unique. And everything changes as time goes on.

What does this mean in cooking? To me, it means I pay attention to what actually happens when the cooking begins. Every cooking experience is unique. I pay attention to how the food is cooking, to how hot the oven or pan seem to be, to the smells of the cooking food. I make adjustments as I go, trusting my instincts. If something seems to be burning, or a sauce seems too thin, or the smell seems off, I take action. I make little adjustments, sometimes major ones. When you do this enough, there is a message in the sounds of the cooking, the smells, the look of roasting meat, the way the fat sizzles in a pan, that tells you things. This sense can only be developed by experience. But responding effectively to these messages is an art, and extremely enjoyable, exciting, even inspiring.

Now, this does not mean that I spend every moment a dish cooks staring at the dish, waiting for something to happen. For example, if I place a covered pot in a slow oven to cook for three hours, I will not stand by the oven for three hours. But I will peek into the pot once or twice, just too make sure that the simmering is taking place as it should. And I will come into the kitchen a couple of times, to make sure there are no smells or sounds that are out of place. And if all is going well, I know that I have done what I need to do, that meal, that time, that day.

The instructions in my cookbooks, Tender Grassfed Meat, and Tender Grassfed Barbecue, are as detailed as I can efficiently make them, and the recipes have been cooked by me multiple times, with success.

Yet even the most clear, detailed recipe is a road map. You still have to take the journey. If you follow the recipes, you can expect success. And, as you become an experienced cook, and begin to recognize things, you will begin to understand the magical messages of smells, cooking sounds, the look of the food, and you are in for a lot of enjoyment. And your food will get better and better.

Finally, cooking a great meal of real food is one of the best things you can do for your family, your friends, and yourself. The joy of a great meal brings happiness, and the nutrition provided by real food gives health.

This post is part of Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday blog carnivals.

I Confess—I Am a Grassfed Beefophile

By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue

Great grass fed hamburger  like the one shown here can be like a fine wine to a grass fed beefophile like me.

Great grassfed hamburger can be like a fine wine to a grassfed beefophile like me.

I think it is time to admit to something. My name is Stanley, and I am a grassfed beefophile.

Many people are familiar with oenophiles, who are people who deeply appreciate wines and have great knowledge and appreciation of them.

With respect, I could care less about wine. But grassfed beef is something else entirely. I love it, in many of its endless variations. I love the endless variety of flavors, caused by the different configurations of meadow plants from pastures all over the world. I love the way it makes me feel—renewed and strong after eating it. I love the wonderful aromas that delight my nose as it cooks. There is no use denying it. I am a grassfed beefophile.

 

How I Discovered my Obsession

I came to realize this yesterday, after I picked up a package of grassfed ground beef from Uruguay. I noted the deep red color, rich with promise. Even the way the meat was ground caught my attention. I was excited about knowing that this beef had come from cattle who ate grass all year round, as there is no winter there. I wondered what wonderful taste would come from the rich grass eaten by these cattle, on some of the most nutrient-dense soil on earth. I could not wait to get home and cook it!

Seriously, folks. Who gets excited about hamburger?

All the way home, I kept thinking about how I would cook it. I know dozens of ways of making hamburger, and I am not exaggerating. I was torn between my desire to add some spices to enhance the flavor, and my fear of masking the wonderful natural taste. Should the burger be thick, thin, or in between? Should I fry it, or barbecue it, or broil it?

Should I cook it until grey, as the government advises for safety, or should I make it less done, to make it more nutritious and enjoy more of the natural flavor?

So many decisions, so many thoughts. So hard to decide.

Again, I ask you—who torments themselves over the best way to cook a hamburger?

I finally decided to use some flavors from the region, trusting that the traditional flavors would not ruin the meat, or mask the flavors. I added a touch of oregano, a mere hint of garlic, a dollop of olive oil. I sautéed it gently in a pan rubbed with a small amount of olive oil. I cooked it rare, at my own risk, trusting that good grassfed beef would be alright, and knowing that I personally have never had a problem after eating it.

O my gosh, it was WONDERFUL! The meat had a unique, beefy, slightly sweet flavor. There were hints of something I did not recognize, but it was pleasant. It made me feel better with every bite. I enjoyed the lovely aroma, the very mouth feel of the burger, and the sensation of strength and renewal as I swallowed it. I was torn by the desire to wolf it down and the desire to appreciate the eating experience, to savor it, to pay careful attention to it, which could only be done by chewing slowly, and pausing from time to time.

It was a struggle, but the art of tasting won out over ravenous hunger, and I savored this wonderful meat.

Seriously, who gets this kind of deep experience and joy from eating a hamburger?

A grassfed beefophile, that is who.

 

The Benefits of Being a Grassfed Beefophile

Now that I have admitted to what I am, I must discuss the benefits. Unlike factory meat, which tastes about the same, bland, blah, and boring, has horrible mouth feel, mushy texture, and never makes me feel good—grassfed beef has endless variations in taste.

Most of these variations are good, and many great, if the meat is properly cooked. I always get a different taste by eating grassfed meat from different ranches. Even grassfed meat from the same ranch will taste different at various times of the year, because the forage changes with the seasons. I enjoy grassfed meat in the form of hamburgers, steaks, roasts, stir-fries, pot roasts, pan roasts, stews, and soups. My cookbook Tender Grassfed Meat has many delicious variations of all these forms of grassfed beef, bison, and lamb. I fry it, broil it, barbecue it, stew it, sauté it, simmer it, and often combine these techniques. I use traditional flavor combinations from all over the world, and create my own. My newest cookbook Tender Grassfed Barbecue also has many different flavor combinations for grassfed ground meat.

I eat almost every variety of cut, from nearly every part of the animal. The variety is endless, the taste wonderful, and the nutrition fantastic.

Grassfed beef is far more nutritious than factory beef. See Health Benefits of Grass-fed Products.

If I were to make an analogy to a wine connoisseur, my personal opinion is that factory beef is like the cheap, sweet wine favored by people who just want to get drunk, while grassfed beef is like a variety of fine wines, that are drunk to be savored and enjoyed.

There is some grassfed beef I would not recommend, just as there are some fancy wines a true oenophile would not recommend. But properly cooked grassfed beef, from a good ranch, is a true joy. And since the beef from each ranch is different, I never get tired of it.

This post is part of Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday blog carnivals.

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