Tips for the Health-Conscious Carnivore

Care about your health but can’t live without your weekly T-bone? Here are 8 secrets for getting healthy and tasty results when buying and preparing meat.

1. Buy Grass-fed

Here’s something the beef industry doesn’t want you to know: Conventionally raised beef has more bad fat and less of the good kind than grass-fed beef. But all cattle eat grass, don’t they? Yes and no. In the mass-production beef industry, cattle graze on grass for part of their lives, then they’re sent to giant feedlots to pig out on corn until fat enough for slaughter. Only a small number are fed on grass for their whole lives. Irish researchers reported in 2000 that cattle fed on grass had less of the artery-clogging saturated fat in their tissues after slaughter than those fed grain, and they also had a higher proportion of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (both are essential for humans).

2. "Other White Meat" is Hogwash

Whoever penned the advertising slogan touting pork as “the other white meat” is clearly a marketing genius. Light coloring aside, the truth is that lean chicken is much less fatty than lean pork. An 85-gram serving of broiled, skinless chicken breast provides 140 calories, 27 from fat, and only one-third of that fat is saturated. The same serving of roasted lean pork loin provides 275 calories, 189 of them from fat, half of it saturated. To top it off, the chicken serving has 6 more grams of protein than the same amount of pork.

3. Get Smoked Meat Online

“Smoked meat”, similar to pastrami but with different spices, is available in many places in Canada, but the people who really know it say the best comes from Montreal, where it originated. And the best of Montreal’s smoked meat, many say, comes from Schwartz’s Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen. Frank Silva, the restaurant’s general manager, says Schwartz’s didn’t invent smoked meat but it has kept the same process since the deli opened in 1928. The process begins with marinating the meat, a brisket, in a special blend of spices for 7 to 10 days, followed by 7 or 8 hours of smoking and 3 hours of steaming. No chemical preservatives or shortcuts are used, and that’s what separates Schwartz’s from the competition, Silva says. The company sells its smoked meat sliced by the pound or by the whole brisket, at Schwartz’s Deli.

4. Have Coffee with Your Steak 

Ever had coffee on your steak? Probably not, unless you’ve eaten at Rippe’s steak and seafood restaurant in Seattle. In 2003 a chef and waiter came up with the idea of smearing Starbucks on their sirloin. It soon became a big hit, and Rippe’s dubbed its creation Seattle’s Signature Steak. Laure Dixon, a fine cook and wine connoisseur who lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, developed this version of coffee-dusted steak. She says to start with a good cut of meat and good coffee beans. (Some like espresso best.) Grind the beans to a fine powder. Then use that as a dry rub on the meat, rubbing it in with your hands. Shake off any excess. Then grill, broil, or pan-fry the steak to your preferred level of doneness. After she takes it off the heat, Laure swipes the steak across a plate containing a fine olive oil, then sprinkles sea salt all over it. Other cooks have also attempted to re-create Rippe’s steak, and you can find another version at Supermarket Guru.

5. Just Add Veggies

The cattle industry would like you to saw your way through a large slab of steak for dinner. But do your arteries a favor and save the whole-steak approach for special occasions. For day-in-and-day-out dining, find ways to cook your steak with other ingredients. Examples: Slice raw beef and sauté it with peppers and onions, fajita style. Cook cut-up steak in a wok with lots of vegetables. Top a salad with steak slices. Or make shish kebab with steak cubes and veggies. You almost always eat less meat when you prepare it as part of a broader dish.

6. Cook Burgers Any Way You Like

Here’s more proof that there’s more than one way to do lots of things, despite what the experts say. Brothers Bob and David Kinkead, who are partners in the restaurant Sibling Rivalry in Boston, divide their loyalties when it comes to cooking burgers. Bob prefers his cooked in a pan because he says grilling gives you the taste of char, not meat. David says cooking over charcoal or wood brings out the most flavour. One thing they do agree on: Don’t press on the burgers while they’re cooking. That just extracts juices and dries them out.

7. Find Your Beef

Whenever you find yourself reaching for a package of ground meat, switch over to the poultry section instead and pick up some ground chicken, ground turkey, or even some soy crumbles. All of them work just as well as ground beef for meatballs, meat loaf, or chili. However, this simple substitution can cut more than 30 per cent of the calories and at least half of the fat and saturated fat in a three-ounce serving.

8. Roast Breast Down

Cooked in the traditional way with breast side up, the white meat of a chicken is dry and worn out by the time the dark meat is done. To produce meat that is tender and moist, try flipping the bird over, with its backside up and breast down, as Dixon does. One small piece of special but inexpensive equipment, a V-rack, is helpful for the inverted roasting. But without that rack, you can prop up the chicken on a long cylinder of rolled-up aluminum foil. Roast in a preheated 200°C oven until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 80°C.

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