How to Cook a Grass-fed Steak

First, my apologies to the vegetarians among us.

Many of you know that we purchased a bulk order of grass-fed beef in November. Last weekend I thawed two of the New York strip steaks and set out to cook them. The result was excellent and I thought I’d share with you all what I did.

I should mention that because grass-fed beef is leaner than corn-fed beef, it needs to be cooked more slowly so it won’t dry out. Cooking the steaks was a really simple process. As someone who’s always just grilled her steaks, I did some investigating online to try to find the best method for cooking these steaks. I combined a few different sets of instructions I found for grass-fed beef and this is what I came up with:

1. I patted the steaks dry and sprinkled them with pepper and kosher salt, which I then rubbed into the steaks.

2. I set my cast iron skillet on the stove over medium/medium high heat until it just began to smoke, then I added a heaping spoonful of excellent butter. (My butter is made by the same company that makes our organic milk. There are two ingredients: cream and salt, and it tastes divine.)

3. Once the butter started to bubble, I added the steaks and seared them on all sides. Overall, this took about 5 minutes.

4. I put the steaks (still in the skillet) in the oven at 250 degrees for about 20 minutes. You’ll need to keep checking to get them to the level of done-ness you prefer. It’s best to let them rest for about 10 minutes after taking them out of the oven.

I told you it was simple, but incredibly delicious. Let me know if you try it.

For more information on cooking with grass-fed beef, be sure to take a look at Shannon Hayes’ book, The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook: Healthy Cooking & Good Living with Pasture Raised Foods.

Grass-Fed Beef

Our bulk order of grass-fed beef came in this week. We now have approximately 70 pounds of ground beef, various roasts, and steaks.

I’m excited about this bulk order and am hoping it works out as well as I think it will. There are several reasons we decided to buy the beef in bulk.

1. To save money. It turned out to be less expensive per pound to pay a flat rate for all of the cuts.

2. To help with meal planning. With a freezer full of beef, it should be a lot easier to plan our meals each week.

3. To reduce trips to the grocery store. Obviously, a bulk order of beef won’t cut out my trips to the store altogether, but I’m hoping that by having all of this meat “in stock,” I’ll plan better and cut down on my visits to the store. We’ll see how this works out.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of eating grass-fed beef, you can check out my earlier post on the topic. Also, I came across an interesting article today on Kat Eden’s Body Incredible about grass-fed beef being higher in Omega 3’s than grain-fed.

Our beef order came from Polyface Farms of Food, Inc.
and The Omnivore’s Dilemma fame. Unfortunately for those outside of our area, Polyface does not ship their products. There is a lot a great information on their website, though, about grass-fed beef and pastured pork and poultry products.

I’ll provide updates on how our first bulk-beef purchase is working out. Have you ever bought beef in bulk? How did it work for you?

Eating Better: Grass-Fed Beef

This post is the first in a series about our attempts to eat better.

I first learned about grass-fed beef when I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Prior to reading that book, I was ignorant about the way beef (and poultry and pork) production works in this country. I’d like to say the enlightening was a delightful experience, but it wasn’t. I was disgusted and depressed about what I learned. One of the most important themes of Kingsolver’s book, though, is to learn what you need to know and then do what you can with that knowledge.

Why grass-fed beef? There are lots of reasons that are really beyond the scope of this post. The most important ones for my family are these:

Grass-fed beef is healthier. Cows were meant to eat grass, not grain. Therefore, the cows are healthier (and have no need for antibiotics and growth hormones) and their beef is better for you.

Grass-fed beef is more humane. These cows are allowed to roam in the pasture and are not squished into feed lots left to spend their lives standing in the their own feces, consumed by disease.

Grass-fed beef is better for the environment.

The Search. I’ve been on a search for grass-fed beef for my family. [Note: We are not vegetarians. While I applaud those who are and have respect for their convictions, at this time, that choice is not one we are making.] In addition to seeking out grass-fed beef, I wanted to find it as close to where I live as possible. As I started doing some research, beginning with the Local Harvest site, I found there are a number of farms within my state — some only a 30 minute drive from my house. However, some of the farms use a method called grain-finishing. They feed the cows a diet of grass until the last 6 months or so, and then load them up on grain to fatten them up faster for harvesting. This is not the approach I’m after. With a little more research, I found 3 farms within 2 hours of where I live who all raise their animals in pasture, and feed their cows only grass, all the way to the end. This process is called “grass-finishing.” Once I found the farms, we were able to sample the beef by ordering just a few cuts from each farm. All were delicious. Then, as always, it came down to price.

Cost. Grass-fed beef costs more than grain-fed, factory farmed beef. Grass-fed cows take longer to fatten up so quick and massive growth and harvesting is not possible as it is at feed-lots. Also, allowing the animals to be raised in pasture, requires, well, a lot of pasture for them to roam. Also, these farms are generally on a much smaller scale than the “Big-Ag” farms and therefore do not deal in the volume that can often create lower prices. After everthing I learned, though, the choice was easy. I’m willing to pay a bit more for grass-fed beef, but I still want the best price on it I can find.

Buying In Bulk. This turned out to be the best option for us. There are several ways to buy beef in bulk, depending on the cuts you want. Many farms allow you to purchase a 1/4, 1/2, or whole cow and charge a flat rate per pound. The benefit is that while you will get some beef that would normally cost a bit less than the flat rate per pound, you’ll get far more cuts that would cost considerably more. The farm we ended up choosing allows you to purchase bulk “packages” of beef. Each package has a different price per pound and contains different types of cuts. The package we chose includes ground beef, roasts and steaks and all of the meat in this package is boneless. For us, the best part about ordering this way (as opposed to buying a quarter cow) is that we don’t end up with a lot of cuts we don’t want (like organ meats). Our order hasn’t arrived yet, but when it does, it will contain approximately 60-80 lbs. of beef which should last us a good, long time.

Freezer Space. Obviously, buying beef in bulk requires a good bit of freezer space. We have a large freezer in addition to our regular refrigerator and freezer, so this shouldn’t be a problem. If you don’t have the extra space, you might consider splitting a bulk order with some friends.

Where to find grass-fed beef. As I mentioned, a good place to start is Local Harvest. You can search for farms in your area and see what they produce. Another excellent source, specifically for grass-fed beef, is Eat Wild. Again, you can search by your location and find farms that only raise beef this way. You can also find links to sources for pastured pork and free-roaming poultry. If you are unable to find a local farm source for your beef, you can easily order online from US Wellness Meats. I trust them as a source for quality.

I recommend that you read more about grass-fed beef, so you can make an informed decision on your own. Below are some resources:

Why Grass Fed Beef is Better For Your Health @ Natural Bias

Eat Wild is an excellent resource for learning more about grass-fed meats and for finding local farms that raise it.

Why Grass-Fed Beef is Better for the Environment @ Best Life magazine

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

Food, Inc. the film

Eating Better

vegsMy family and I are trying to eat better. For us, that means more local and organic foods, creating our own square foot garden, and switching to grass-fed, pastured, and humanely raised meat. We’re not completely there yet, but we’re working on it.

It’s no secret that eating fewer processed foods and more whole foods (foods in their natural state) is healthier and allows you to avoid many chemicals and preservatives. What I’m learning, is that it takes a bit of work to seek out the healthiest choices. While those options are sometimes more expensive, if you plan well and do a little research, you can actually save money as well as time.

Over the next week, I’ll be highlighting in more detail some of the steps we’re taking to improve the quality and health-factor of our food. I’ll also talk about how we’re attempting to plan better to save both money and time. I’m certainly no expert and since we’re just getting started on this path, I may not have learned the “best” way to go about it yet. But I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned so far, and hopefully inspire you to think about the food you’re eating, too.

To kick off the healthy food theme for next week, I’ve listed some food-related sites I like:

Cheap, Healthy, Good

Food Renegade

Small Homestead

Make It From Scratch

Have a great weekend everyone!

Photo Credit: Chiefnuh