Grass-fed Beef Harvest: How We Do it and Cook It
We harvested several dozen steers in late May June, when our animals were at the peak of “grass fatness." We use a mobile harvest unit that allows us to keep the cattle on the ranch for their whole lives--the highest standard of humane handling. The dressed carcasses were delivered to J&R Natural Meats in Paso Robles where they were dry aged for 10 to 20 days, and then cut and wrapped during a couple of weeks in June. Then it was our turn to box up all the club shares and the extra ground for our customers.
Laird and I personally box the meat one beef at a time, carefully sorting the steaks and roasts in order to make the club boxes as even as possible. We typically get between 9 -14 club boxes per steer, plus several boxes of ground meat, depending on the size of the animal. As each box reaches the 25 pound mark, we add a soup bone or package of marrow bones as a little bonus. Broth made from grass-fed beef bones is beneficial for your joints, skin, intestinal health, and has a detoxifying effect on your entire system.
We often get questions about the various cuts of beef and how to cook them, so here are some tips from our experience and other sources. Thankfully the internet has lots of excellent recipes and suggestions, and there are some great grass-fed beef cookbooks. A couple of our favorites are The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (an excellent source!) and The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook by Shannon Hayes.
- Sirloin Tip, Sirloin Roasts, Tri-Tip, Ball Tip: These finer roasts can be traditionally roasted in the oven, or in the case of the Tri Tip or Ball Tip, grilled on your BBQ.
- Brisket, Top Round, Clod Roast: These roasts benefit from a long slow braise. We cook the brisket whole in a Dutch oven or in a crockpot all day with wine and diced vegetables. We often cut our top round and clod roasts into stew sized chunks, and use the meat in chilis, stew and pot pies.
- Rib eye, New York: grill or pan fry as you would a grain-fed steak, but be careful NOT to overcook! Use lower and lesss direct heat when grilling. The meat will look darker/redder look even when ready, so use a thermometer and err on the side of rare.
- Filet, Petite Tenders: these tiny steaks are the most tender. We pan fry for a minute or two each side and serve with a mushroom balsamic or just plain old salt and pepper.
- Flat Iron, Sirloin, Inside Skirt, Outside Skirt, Flank Steak: these lesser steaks benefit from marinating; we often brine the flat iron or sirloin for ½ hour before pan frying or grilling. We having been getting delicious results with a sugar, garlic salt and pepper rub and a Ponzu (Asian citrus/soy) marinade. Inside skirt and outside skirt are best marinated for a couple of hours, and are great sliced thinly for fajitas or tacos. We like to marinate flank steak in a soy sauce/brown sugar/vinegar/garlic/ginger marinade for an hour or two before grilling.
- Stew meat, kabobs: These need a long slow braise. If you plan to grill the kabobs, marinate for a couple of hours to tenderize before cooking.
- Short ribs, shanks: Two other long slow braising cuts. Our favorite short rib recipe, although time consuming, is delicious and worth the effort! http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/braised-short-ribs
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