Meat is cooked to destroy any pathogenic organisms present and to make it more tender and more palatable. Some basic facts pertaining to the preparation of beef, veal, pork, and lamb are listed below.
The following information should help in controlling the quality of cooked meats:
- Fat acts as an insulator. Under 325° F. oven heat, fat is the first part to break down and melt. This gives a self basting effect to the roast, making it more juicy and tasteful as the fat covering contains most of the taste and flavor.
- Heavy rims of fat on meat that is to be broiled or fried should be cut off. Removing the fat prevents curling and allows the meat to cook uniformly and to brown evenly.
- A flat roast cooks in less time than a chunky one of the same weight, because the distance from the outside to the center of the flat roast is less and the heat penetrates more quickly.
- The minerals in meat are not destroyed in cooking; the method of preparation affects the mineral value of meat only if drip losses are excessive or if the cooking water is discarded.
- The yield of calcium from bones may be increased if tomatoes or other acids are added to the meat while it is simmering.
- The amount of fat on meat may alter the cooking time. Melted fat readily conducts heat, which results in faster cooking; therefore, a rack should be used for roasting to prevent frying in the fat.
- Meat should be placed in the roasting pan with the fat side up. As the fat melts, it bastes the meat and keeps it from drying out.
- A roast should be removed from the oven before it reaches the desired temperature because the meat will have an internal temperature increase of 5-8 degrees after removal from the oven. The roast should set approximately 20 minutes before carving.
Meats should be sliced across the grain; cross-grain slicing shortens the meat fibers and gives neat slices. A general rule to follow is to slice parallel to the cut surface, because meats used for roasts are usually cut across the grain at the meat process plant. The following information should help to obtain eye-appealing slices of meat:
- A slicing machine set at the proper cycle can do a fast carving job; the grain of the meat must be considered to obtain whole, even slices.
- Several boneless roasts or hams can be sliced at the same time on a slicing machine if they are properly placed on the carriage.
- Strings and skewers should be removed from roasts or hams before machine slicing.
- Once one slice of meat is cut satisfactorily, it is usually unnecessary to alter the cutting angle for the remaining slices. However, because the grain of corned beef (brisket) runs through the meat in many directions, it is necessary to turn this meat while slicing it to insure cutting across the grain.
- Meats carve more easily if allowed a cooling-off period after cooking.
CHARACTERISTICS OF BEEF
Beef is the flesh of steers, heifers, cows, and bulls; it is composed of muscle fibers, connective tissue, and fatty tissue. Connective tissue is of two types, collagen and elastin. In the presence of water, collagen is converted to gelatin. Cooking does not alter the structure or the physical properties of elastin fibers. The relative tenderness of beef depends in part upon the kind, amount, and distribution of connective tissue. Cuts of beef which are high in connective tissue are cooked by moist-heat methods.
The amount and disposition of fat in beef depend upon a number of factors such as the species, breed, age, sex, inheritance, and degree of finish of the animal. Fat is found in the connective tissue between the fiber and muscle bundles, and within and between the muscle cells. The disposition of fat, known as marbling, increases the nutritive value of meat, enhances the palatability by helping to retain the meat juices, adds to the flavor of the lean, and tends to keep the beef moist during cooking.
The quality of the cooked beef is largely determined by such palatability factors as tenderness, flavor, aroma, juiciness, color, and cooking methods. Tenderness, like fat, is dependent upon the factors of breed, sex, age, inheritance, and degree of finish as well as the kind of feed, system of feeding, and connective-tissue content.
Beef cattle usually yield a higher percentage and higher quality of edible meat than do dairy cattle. Grading takes into consideration the age and the sex differences of the animals; the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides accredited graders to do Government grading.
In general, beef from older animals is less tender than that from younger ones, but meat from more mature animals is usually more flavorful. The flavor of cooked meat is closely associated with aroma and is believed to be derived from the muscle-fiber proteins. Juiciness and tenderness are closely related; the method of cooking that retains the fluids and fats of the beef produces the juiciest finished product. Color and flavor of beef increase with the age of the animal.
CUTS OF BEEF
Usually, completely boned beef comprising the six categories shown in figure 4 is issued to the dining facility. These cuts, known as the six-way beef categories, are obtained from carcass beef or from wholesale cuts of steers or heifers, which are cut, trimmed, and portioned according to the requirements of the procurement specifications. Each category of beef is packaged separately in units of about 50 pounds. The beef is received in the frozen state, ready to cook except for thawing. It is thawed slowly at reefer temperatures (36° to 38° F.) until almost completely thawed. The thawing period varies according to the size of the meat cut (the larger the size, the longer the time required), the air temperature and circulation in the chill space (moving air accelerates thawing), and the quantity of meat being thawed in a given area. The portions and cuts of this six-way beef are shown in figure 5. Grilled steaks and oven roasts are cooked by dry-heat methods. Pot roasts, swiss steaks, and diced beef are braised (cooked by moist-heat methods); ground beef is baked, grilled, or braised. In addition to the six-way beef, frozen beef liver, corned beef, and dried beef are issued for the preparation of the daily menus.
Beef is cooked by dry heat and by moist heat--roasted, grilled, pan-broiled, braised, or cooked in water. Beef liver is breaded and deep-fat fried.
Many of the meat dishes served in the dining facility are cooked by roasting, a dry-heat method. Boneless, oven-roast beef is roasted at low temperature for 2 to 4 hours, depending on the size of the roasts. Meat loaf, salisbury steak, arid corned-beef hash are prepared according to the instructions in the recipe and are baked without a cover on the pan and without additional liquids.
SUGGESTIONS FOR CONTROL OF QUALITY. Each beef dish must be carefully prepared as outlined in the recipe to become an acceptable finished product. Care must be taken when roasting beef to insure that the moisture loss and breakdown of the surface fat are not prolonged, causing the surface to become hard and dry. Roasts and meat loaves should not be overcrowded in the pans. They should be cooked far enough in advance to allow them to cool somewhat before they are sliced.
JUDGING THE QUALITY. Listed below are some suggestions that should help in judging the quality of the finished product:
The finished product should be juicy and tender and should be cooked to the center to the desired degree of doneness.
- A well-browned roast is usually more flavorful than one that is not.
- Meat loaves crack (fig. 6) if vegetables such as onions, celery, and peppers are not chopped finely.
- Roasts cooked at too high a temperature produce more drippings and less meat (fig. 7).
Standards for doneness of roast beef are as follows:
- Rare: Center, a bright rose red, shading into lighter pink toward the outer portions, changing into dark gray in layer underlying outer browned crust; juice, a bright red; internal temperature, 140° F.
- Medium rare: Center and most slices, a light pink; gray layer underlying crust extends a little toward the center; juice, a light pink; internal temperature, 160° F.
- Well done: Interior, a brownish gray; juice, either colorless or slightly yellow; internal temperature, 170° F.
COOKING BEEF BY OTHER DRY-HEAT METHODS
Broiling is classified as a dry-heat method of cooking as are pan broiling and deep-fat frying. In broiling, the heat is applied directly to the meat surface by placing the meat under a gas flame or an electric heating unit or by placing it directly on a heated griddle without added fat. In Army dining facilities, meat is griddle broiled (grilled). Tender cuts of beef are issued for grilling in preparing such dishes as broiled steak, teriyaki steak, or sukiyaki. Ground beef is used for grilled beefburgers and grilled hamburgers. Pan broiling is cooking meat in a pan or skillet, with no addition of fat or liquid; as fat is rendered during the cooking process, it is poured off. Deep-fat frying is considered a dry-heat method of cooking. The meat is covered with a protective coat of breading material and cooked in a deep layer of fat. Thin strips of beef liver are deep-fat fried.' Each type of dish to be served is prepared as outlined in the appropriate recipe.
SUGGESTIONS FOR CONTROL OF QUALITY. Have the grill or pan hot before placing the meat on it. Brown the meat on one side, and turn and brown on the other. Use tongs for turning the meat to avoid piercing the meat. Do not allow fat to accumulate on the grill or in the pan; broiling or grilling requires no fat. Cook the meat at a moderate temperature to make the meat juicier. When the meat is turned over to cook the opposite side, season the browned side immediately.
JUDGING THE QUALITY. Steaks should be brown -on the outside and should be cooked to the desired doneness on the inside. The meat should be reddish pink for rare, light pink for medium, and gray or brown for well done.
Braising is a moist-heat method of cooking in which a very small amount of liquid is used to complete the cooking after the meat has browned slowly. Extra liquid may be added for braising, or the braising may be done by the steam from the meat while the pan is tightly covered. Types of meat dishes that are cooked by braising include pot roasts (fig. 9 and 10), chicken-fried steak, pepper steak, swiss steak, spanish steak, barbecued beef, and beef paprika. The liquid used in braising may be water; meat stock, tomatoes, tomato juice, pureed tomatoes, diluted vinegar, or juice from the meat itself. When water is used, it is added in very small quantities, as needed. Some dishes may be cooked without additional liquid, in a tightly covered Dutch-oven-type pan. The steam from the meat juices collects as liquid inside the lid and drops back to the bottom of pan.
SUGGESTIONS FOR CONTROLLING THE QUALITY. Insure that the meat is well browned so that the finished product is a luscious brown color. The long, slow cooking in moist heat dissolves the color, unless it is well browned beforehand. Some of the flavor of the meat is lost to the liquid, which is used to make gravy or sauce served with. the meat. The cooking temperature should be low (never above simmering) to soften the connective tissue. In some cases, the meat should be scored or pounded as in the case of swiss steak before it is cooked, to break the tough connective tissue and make a shorter cooking time possible. The following precautions should help to insure a better finished product:
- If sautéed onions are to be added, do not overbrown them.
- Do not overcook the meat, or it will crumble when served. Do not overcook vegetables to be added to the beef.
- Add water or stock in small amounts if the liquid evaporates.
- Uniformly cut the vegetables to be added to the meat so they will cool; evenly.
- If a roux is used to thicken gravy, cook it at least 5 minutes so it will not have a raw flour taste.
- When adding sour cream to the hot liquid, add it slowly and stir constantly. If possible allow the liquid to cool somewhat before adding the sour cream.
- When adding herbs to the liquid, rub them in the palms of the hands to release the flavor.
- When forming salisbury steaks, meatballs, or other meat patties, rub the hands with a small amount of salad oil to prevent the meat from sticking to the hands.
JUDGING THE QUALITY. Meats cooked by moist heat are generally judged to be properly done when tenderness is satisfactory. Meat that is easily pierced with a fork, is tender enough for chewing. Both the meat and the gravy should bi a deep brown. The gravy should be well seasoned because it is an important part of braised meat dishes.
COOKING BEEF IN LIQUIDS
Cooking in water or other liquids is a moist-heat method of cooking. This method requires considerably more liquid than is required for braising. The stewing of meat is the cooking of browned or unbrowned small, uniform pieces in a small amount of water at a temperature slightly below boiling. Vegetables may be added. Beef stew (fig. 11) may be cooked covered, either in a steam-jacketed kettle or in an oven. Simmering is a term applied to the cooking of unbrowned large pieces of beef in a larger amount of water than is used in braising (fig. 12). In a simmering liquid (from 185° to 200° F.), few bubbles form, and they rise to surface only occasionally. Corned beef is most frequently cooked by simmering. Simmering is also the method used to make soup stock. Whether meat is simmered to cook it or to obtain the stock, the amount of water used should be just enough to cover the meat.
SUGGESTIONS FOR CONTROL OF QUALITY. Since some of the flavor of the beef is lost to the liquid, it is important that the liquid be used in making gravy that is served with the meat. Any vegetables added should enhance the flavor, color, and texture of the dish. Vegetables for beef stew are usually diced or sliced in pieces about the size of the meat pieces. The vegetables should be added to the beef stew after it is partially cooked so that they will not be overcooked when the meat is done. Beef should never be boiled if the tenderness, shape, flavor, and nutritive value of the beef are to be preserved. If excess liquid is used, the flavor of both the beef and the broth is diluted.
JUDGING THE QUALITY. The plasma proteins are coagulated more rapidly in moist heat than in dry heat, since water transfers heat more rapidly than does air. If meat is dry, it was probably cooked at a temperature that was too high. Meat that is not cooked long enough is tough, whereas meat cooked too long loses its shape or falls apart.
Veal is the flesh of young calves. The amount of connective tissue in veal is relatively high, but the connective tissue contains little elastin and becomes very tender under proper cooking conditions. Veal has only a very small layering of fat, a small amount of marbling, and a high moisture content. The cuts resemble beef cuts in shape but are only one-third to one-half the size. Veal is pale, rosy beige in color, whereas beef is red. Because veal has a very delicate flavor, it is often combined with other foods such as cheese or is served with savory sauces. Veal roasts, veal steaks, and ground veal are issued to the dining facilities. Veal roasts, vealburgers, grilled steaks, and ovenbaked steaks with various sauces are prepared in the same manner as beef.
SUGGESTIONS FOR CONTROL OF QUALITY
The following suggestions Should help to insure a palatable finished product:
- Because the layer of fat is thin, moisture in veal evaporates rather rapidly. A roast may be covered with bacon strips, or the surface may be brushed with bacon drippings or vegetable oil to reduce the loss of moisture. Roasts are done when their internal temperature reaches 170° F.
- Veal steaks must be brushed with seasoned fat while they are grilling to prevent a dry finished product.
- When veal steaks are cooked in the oven, they are first breaded and browned to insure a juicy, flavorful dish.
- Cheese added to a veal dish should not be overbrowned.
- Oven-baked steaks should not be allowed to become too brown, or they will lose their eye appeal.
- Care should be taken not to overcook veal, or it will fall apart when served.
JUDGING THE QUALITY
Roast veal should be firm (not crumbly), tender, and juicy and should have a clear or faintly pink juice. Veal should always be cooked well done: there should be no pink color showing in the meat. Veal products that are breaded such as cutlets should be crisp and evenly brown on the outside and tender and moist on the inside. Breading should not be too thick.
CUTS OF PORK
Pork, the flesh of hogs, is the lightest in color of all meats. Young pork is a grayish pink, and the flesh is firm and fine grained. Pork cuts are issued in fresh (frozen) and cured states. Pork butts, hams, loins, spareribs (fig. 14) and slices, bacon, and sausage are used to prepare the recipes given in Armed Forces Recipe Service. The loin is considered one of the choicest cuts of pork. It is used for roast pork and for pork chops prepared in a variety of ways by both moist- and dry-heat methods. Spareribs are made from the bony but flavorful rib section of a pork side. The pork butt (often called Boston Butt) is the skinned pork shoulder remaining after the "picnic ham" is removed. The pork butts, which are usually not cured or smoked, can be used for preparing many meat dishes. Hams come to the dining facility in a variety of forms: Cured, precooked boneless; cured, canned, whole or chunks; and boneless fresh ham., Because pork comes from young animals and is high in fat, it is usually tender. However, pork chops are better when cooked in moist heat than when grilled, even though the meat is tender. Pork must be cooked long enough to insure that the end-point temperature is high enough to destroy trichinella spiralis, an organism that may be present in pork-- a minimum temperature of 150° F. However, an internal temperature of 17° F. is recommended for fresh pork to provide a uniformly cooked product and good acceptance by the troops. Bacon slices are issued as canned, prefried bacon. Also slab bacon is sliced 20 to 22 slices per pound for baking or grilling. Sausages come in a variety of types: frozen pork links and bulk sausage; canned pork links; precooked, frozen, pork-and-beef sausage; and chilled, frozen, and canned cooked frankfurters.
Fresh and cured pork are prepared for serving in the dining facility in accordance with the standard recipes in Armed Forces Recipe Service. High-quality pork such as that procured by the Army is uniformly lean and is extensively marbled with a firm white fat. The exterior fat is firm, white, and dry. Even though pork is considered a tender meat, slow cooking temperatures reduce the cooking losses and produce a more tender, juicier meat.
Meats cooked in the oven by dry heat are usually served as roasts. Pork loins and fresh pork hams are served as roasts, but bacon (fig. 15), cured ham, pork slices (chops), sausage links, and sausage patties cooked in the oven by dry heat are served as baked items.
SUGGESTIONS FOR CONTROL OF QUALITY. The only way to be sure that roasted pork is done is to use a meat thermometer and to cook the meat to the temperature specified in the recipe. The thermometer must be inserted into the center of the lean if it is to record the temperature of the lean. The temperature of the meat should begin to rise 20 to 30 minutes after the cooking begins. If the temperature does not rise, the thermometer may be imbedded in a fat pocket and should be moved slightly. When the thermometer registers the desired temperature, it should be pushed in slightly and the temperature observed; if the temperature drops, the meat should be cooked longer. Because the temperature of a roast tends to rise after the roast is removed from the oven, it is better to remove the roast when the temperature reaches 30 to 50 below the desired temperature (AR 40-5 specifies a minimum temperature; Armed Forces Recipe Service specifies 170° F. for roast pork and fresh roast ham) to avoid overcooking and to insure a juicier, more tender finished product. When bacon is cooked in the oven, the fat should be poured off as it accumulates. Baking sausages in the oven at high temperatures does not toughen them; however, it does cause excess loss in the size of the servings. Sausages should be turned occasionally while baking to insure even browning.
JUDGING THE QUALITY. Bacon should be crisp, without being brittle. Sausage should be cooked until the inside is gray with no tinge of pink showing. If roasted pork or baked ham is properly cooked:
- A fork can easily penetrate the meat.
- The meat can be sliced without crumbling.
- The fat is evenly browned without burned areas.
- The drippings are not burned.
- The meat of roost pork is gray with no tinge of pink showing.
Ham slices, sausages, frankfurters, and bacon may be cooked on the grill. Sausage links and sausage patties must be thoroughly cooked. Precooked sausage needs less cooking; it may be grilled in about half the time required for thoroughly cooking other sausages.
SUGGESTIONS FOR CONTROL OF QUALITY. Sausage links, sausage patties, and bacon cooked on the grill should be turned frequently to insure even browning. Excess fat should be drained from the griddle as it accumulates to prevent it from burning and producing offensive odors. The rim of fat on ham slices should be slashed (fig. 16) so the slices brown evenly and do not curl.
JUDGING THE QUALITY. Pork properly cooked by grilling should have the characteristics listed below:
- Ham slices should be evenly browned without any burned areas.
- Sausage links and patties should be cooked until the inside is gray with no tinge of pink remaining.
- The outside of sausage links and patties should be a deep brown but should not be burned.
- Bacon should be crisp and brown without being burned.
- Frankfurters should be juicy and plump with no burned areas.
Pork is usually tender enough to be cooked by a dry-heat method, but since it must be thoroughly cooked, many recipes in Armed Forces Recipe Service indicate cooking by a moist-heat method. For braising pork slices (chops) and spareribs, the meat is first browned, liquid is added, the cooking pan is covered to keep in the steam, and the meat is cooked in the oven. Excess fat is drained from the pan as it accumulates or before the liquid is added.
COOKING PORK IN WATER
For use in chop suey, pork butts are diced, browned, and simmered in water. Frankfurters may be simmered and served as indicated in many recipes. The following suggestions should help to insure a quality finished product:
- When diced pork is to be simmered, brown it in its own fat.
- Simmer diced pork in just enough water to cover the meat.
- Prepare simmered frankfurters in batches so that only plump juicy ones are served. Simmered frankfurters left on the serving line for long periods of time shrivel and become tough and discolored.
Lamb is the meat of young sheep, less than a year old. Lamb flesh is darker red than veal, and the cuts are smaller. Most cuts of lamb are tender, and unlike veal, lamb steaks and chops may be broiled without becoming dry. Lamb roasts and chops are issued to dining facilities. These cuts are roasted, braised, or grilled in the same manner as other meats. The following suggestions should help to insure a quality finished product: