A favorite steak is a good thing. But if you want to branch out to try something new — and who doesn’t? — you need to know the best techniques for cooking any meat.
Hands down, our favorite technique to cook almost any cut of meat is to pan-sear it and oven-finish it. We call this ‘stovetop to oven’ and it’s how we make our perfect steak. We love it because it not only keeps the meat juicy but also puts a nice crust on it.
Here are some more of the best techniques for cooking any meat.
Putting meat in the dry heat of an oven at a fairly low temperature — below 325 degrees F or so, works best if you have calibrated your oven. It also works best with added sauce or with meats that have been brined so they won’t dry out, like a ham or even a meat loaf. If you aren’t using sauce, try placing a dish of water in the oven. It acts almost like a steamer, adding moisture.
To break down muscle and get deep flavor, brown the meat, then cook it tightly covered in liquid on low heat for a long time. You can braise in the oven or on the stovetop. We love to braise pig cheeks or brisket.
We think of broiling as a finishing technique only. It’s great for crusting cheese on top of an onion soup, or melting blue cheese on an open-face sandwich.
Who doesn’t love to grill meat? But if you’re going to grill, you have to pay attention. We can’t tell you how frequently we hear from customers who burn their steaks because they walk away to open a beer, weed their garden, or whatever. There is no difference between a stove and a grill: You wouldn’t walk away from the former and you shouldn’t walk away from something on the latter. Stand over it. And get to know your grill, be it charcoal or gas. Grease it before you grill. When you start your grill, be sure to set up a hot side and a cold side so that you can move your meat from one side to the other without the risk of burning it. Use the top racks to slow(er)-cook meats you have seared. Read a little on the subject so you know the difference between barbecuing, smoking, and grilling.
Simmering something like sweetbreads, chicken breasts, or other delicate cuts gently in liquid (usually stock) on the stovetop just below the boiling point can result in soft, tender flesh if that’s something you like.
Temperature is the difference between baking and roasting. Both happen in the oven, but roasting is done at 350 degrees F and up, give or take. Loins, chops, steaks — all are good for roasting.
A large, shallow pan with a small amount of melted fat, butter, oil, or lard placed over relatively high heat, is the perfect vehicle for sautéing cutlets, thin steaks, or offal like liver. Sautéing is a quick cooking technique so larger chops or steaks won’t work with this method.
We like to sear — quickly cook on high heat — certain cuts of meat that are thin. (As mentioned, we love to pan-sear and then oven-finish thicker cuts.) Searing creates a nice crust on the outside and a juicy interior, though it does not “lock in the juices” as many people believe. This method, which uses little or no fat in the cooking process, is especially good for cutlets and minute steaks.
This extremely quick method of cooking is usually done in a wok. Both meat and vegetables are cut up into relatively equal sizes to ensure that everything cooks all at once. Little oil is needed but constant movement is necessary; always shake the wok or keep stirring the food to prevent burning or sticking.
What’s your favorite technique?