Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Beef Guide for Slow Cooking

With so much meat being bought from the supermarket it is more difficult to work out the best cut for cooking with, I find it confusing and I worked in a butcher shop at some point in my food career!
I have been thinking more about which beef cut I’ll use as I make my way through Mum’s recipe book. Her book re-introduces me to beef cuts that I rarely use so I thought I would write a short beef guide for slow cooking.
In general people seem to find it difficult to work out the best cut for cooking with, I find it confusing too and I worked in a butcher shop at some point in my food career!
Perhaps it is because we eat less red meat these days.  We have easy access to a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables, seafood and chicken, and beef has slipped down the ranking in my kitchen and I’m sure in yours too!  I never do a Roast Beef it is almost always a Roast Organic Chicken, weighing in just under 2kg, smothered in garlic, herbs and seasonings (details another day).  So I have become less experienced with beef buying and today I had some questions to ponder:

Which cut of beef is suitable for various cooking methods? 
When the label says casserole meat, what cut is it?
What part of the beast did it come from?
What did that beast feed on?

Looking at meat in a supermarket display, lined up on trays under plastic film and bright lights it is hard to even think about the animal it came from.  I prefer to talk to the local butcher, get a feel for some honest and sustainable supply chains. The butcher makes me think that the meat is fresher, he knows where the meat comes from and if they are grain fed, I feel closer to the farmyard.  Of course buying our meat at the Wayville Farmers Market on Sundays is a better option.  I never feel very organized when I am there to buy meat up for too many meals… I should think about that really.

Beef Guide for Slow Cooking

The Braising/Casserole meats have lots of connective tissues that will melt to tenderness when braised in a flavoursome stock, with herbs and vegetables and perhaps wine, cook slowly and carefully

Chuck Steak      can be a little fatty but good flavour      cook 2-3 hours
Gravy Beef       melts in the mouth easy to use      cook 2-3 hours
Boneless Shin      flavoursome and tender, my favourite    cook 2-3 hours
Osso Bucco (shin, bone-in)      lovely flavour, bone keeps the structure   cook 2-3 hours
Topside      not my choice for a slow cook, too dry     cook 1½- 2 hours
Round**        lean, clean flavour, can be expensive   cook 1½- 2 hours
Blade (Oyster Blade)      similar to shin, great flavour   cook 1½- 2 hours
Skirt Steak                     easy to cut, lean and tasty  cook    1½- 2 hours
Casserole Steak              never too sure what it is, I avoid unspecific labelled meat

** On display at my butcher they have lovely “round” round steaks for $23.99/kg sold as BBQ steaks. And other braising steaks are available at around $17/kg, maybe as low as $12/kg in the supermarket. To cook the Danish Beef Steak I wanted to cook it just like Mum would.  So I asked my butcher if he could find me some regular, old fashioned round steaks. He sliced 1.5 kg straight off the round part of beef from out the back of the shop, and he reduced the price to $18/kg for his trouble, which was much appreciated. The round steak had an intense beefy flavour and was very tender.

To clarify and avoid confusion over the correct terminology I have referred to one of my favourite cook books to check some terminology: Stephanie Alexander (1996), The Cooks Companion (Viking/Penguin).
1. Braising is to cook meat, slowly in the oven with aromatic vegetables, herbs and stock
2. Meat cooked on the stovetop it is called a Stew, it usually has more liquid.
3. Cooking meat slowly in liquids is also called a Casserole, but actually it is the container, heavy based and with and with tightly fitted lid that is the Casserole.

Glad to have that cleared up!


When I was in Japan recently beef was selling for around $80/kg. Very expensive and really the only beef they have has all those fatty sections through it, (see above) called Kobe or Hida beef.  So for these reasons I ate lots of seafood, chicken and vegetables in Japan. 


  1. I remember a great meal in Japan when I was travelling with Mum there on a garden tour in 1992. We were served a raw red meat that was bright red but fat free. I ate it - happy to try most things.
    It was only after they asked if I enjoyed the horse meat !!! It pays to know your meat.
    So thank you for this great reference. I will use it often. xx

  2. I didn't see any horse meat when I was in Japan, but perhaps I naively assumed that all the red meat was from cow. Now that I think about it... in all my train travels through the countryside I didn't see any cows?