All edible meat from beef, veal, pork, and lamb is made up of muscles composed of bundles of lean microscopic fibers held together and surrounded by connective tissue. How much connective tissue is present is related to how tender a cut of meat is and to how many tender cuts can be obtained from a single meat animal. Muscles from the neck, leg, shoulder, and joints are less tender because of dense connective tissue. The rib and loin areas are known a tender arm; they have very little connective tissue. Surrounding each muscle is an outer costing of protective fat. The two basic methods of cooking meat are by dry heat and by moist heat. The method to be used depends on the kind and cut of the meat. Dry-heat methods are generally used to cook meats that have comparatively little connective tissue, and that will readily become tender by cooking. Moist-heat methods are required for cooking meats that have more connective tissue and that are tenderized by long, slow cooking. In general, poultry is cooked by the same method used for cooking meat. The older, tougher birds are best when cooked by moist heat, but the younger birds are more juicy when cooked by dry heat. Finfish and shellfish are tender and can be prepared by a variety of cooking methods. Gravy, often an important part of the meat course, usually accompanies roasts, braised meats, poultry, and some pan-fried meats. Good gravy should have the distinctive flavor of the main dish with which it is served. There are a few meat dishes such as meat loaf which yield little or no juices for making gravy. For these dishes, sauces are substituted for gravy. Many delicate sauces blend well with finfish and shellfish.
TYPES OF MEAT, FISH, AND POULTRY
The following types of meat, fish, and poultry are commonly procured for banquet services:
It is important to understand the preparation of meats, including fresh, variety, prepared, cured or smoked, and canned, meats. Fresh meats are usually boneless, frozen beef, veal, lamb, and pork. Variety meats include liver, heart, brains, and other meats which do not fit the usual classifications of regular meat cuts. All variety meat contribute essentially the same food elements as those found in the muscle moat from the same animal. Liver, an outstanding source of certain vitamins and mineral, is the only variety meat purchased by the Army for issue to dining facilities. Luncheon meat, frankfurters, and sausages of different kinds are examples of prepared, or ready-to-serve, meats. Cured meats such as corn beef have been treated with salt or other curing agents. Ham, bacon, and some dried beef are cured meats that have been treated with smoke, which adds to the keeping qualities and to the flavor of the meat. Some dried beef is cured without smoke. Canned meats include corned beef, slid ham, ham chunks, and beef and gravy.
Finfish are prepared for the market in various ways; however fresh finfish, frozen fillets, steaks, and portions are usually preferred. Shellfish are usually purchased live in the shell, cooked, or shucked. Frozen, shucked oysters, scallops, and clams and raw, peeled shrimp are used for most of the shellfish recipes. Shrimp are also purchased in the frozen, raw unpeeled, frozen breaded, and frozen molded-and-breaded forms. Cooked, dehydrated shrimp are reconstituted for some of the recipes. Canned fish issued to dining facilities include salmon and tuna.
Chicken, duck, and turkey are the types of poultry issued to dining facilities. They are usually frozen, either whole or cut up. In addition, boneless, raw (frozen) or cooked turkey are used. Canned, boned chicken or turkey are available for making a number of salads, pot pies, and casseroles. Cooked, sliced, dehydrated chicken pieces are available in cans and packages.
COOKING FROZEN AND THAWED MEATS
Thawed meats (including fish and poultry) and frozen meats that are cooked without first being thawed are prepared exactly as chilled meats are prepared. The principle of using low temperatures for cooking raw meats is equally applicable to frozen meats; only the length of cooking time varies. Roasts in the frozen state require about one-third to one-half additional cooking time. Ground and diced meat must be thawed completely before cooking. Ground meats used for hamburger and other meat dishes require shaping before they are cooked, and diced meats for stews need to be browned before they are stewed. Beef steaks. veal steaks and slices, lamb chops and pork slices must be thawed before they are grilled to insure complete doneness. Additional time must be allowed for grilling frozen meat if the grill is on the serving line, because cooking the meat would otherwise slow up the line considerably. Most fish and poultry are completely thawed before they are prepared for cooking. The following facts should be taken into consideration when thawing meats: