Archives for August 2018

Corn Finishing

As beef consumers become more aware of cattle raising techniques and how different methods affect the meat quality, there has been increasing attention being paid specifically to what beef cattle are being fed. When it comes to the health and well-being of the cattle, as well as the nutritional qualities of the meat, the research and debates surrounding how beef cattle should be fed has grown to such an extreme degree that it can be helpful to explore these different techniques, and why some farmers choose certain methods over others.

In this context, we will be discussing corn finishing in this post, which refers to feeding beef cattle a corn-based diet as they mature and near the time to be taken to the slaughterhouse.

 

Feeding Options

Before we dive into the specifics of corn finishing, it would be helpful to outline the different feeding methods that are used in the agriculture business, especially since the decision on which method to use directly affects the marbling of the meat, the stress levels of the cattle, the nutritional qualities of the meat, and the price at the store.

Basically, there are two main options available for finishing cattle: grain or grass.

While the majority of cows are are fed in feedlots, where their diet mainly consists of a grain diet, typically corn-based, some cows are raised by allowing them to still roam the land and eat grass, or fed grass in a feedlot. Corn feed is primarily used as a way to quickly fatten the cow up for quicker returns on investment, while grass-fed diets have been slowly becoming more popular as many animal rights advocates and health conscious consumers think it is better for the animal and produces more nutritional meat.

Ultimately, the main difference consists in the diet of the cow as it is raised and nears the end of maturity. Even though corn-based grain has historically been the predominant way to feed cattle, as the methods used to raise cattle have slowly been evolving, grass has become a huge turning point for the way we raise cattle.

 

What is Finishing?

Basically, as cattle mature and gain more weight, typically as they reach around 750-900 pounds, they are transitioned to a finishing phase of feeding. During this phase, cattle are fed consistently for around 150 days, gaining an average of 3 more pounds each day. As previously mentioned, cattle are either fed grain or grass during this phase; however, the majority of cattle farmers still use a corn-based grain diet in order to keep the process quicker, as well as to produce meat that is fatty, juicy, and tender.

 

Corn

When it comes to grain-based diets, the main ingredients include ground corn, corn silage, protein supplements, and minerals. Currently, the main split among farmers that employ grain-based diets regard the usage of whole corn versus processed corn. However, based on most studies, there is not a substantial difference when it comes to the health of the cattle and the price of the feed.

Even though corn-based grain has always been the most common way to feed and finish cattle, over the last decade, there has been a growing movement towards grass-fed methods, typically because its advocates claim that it is better for the well-being of the cattle, as well as improving the nutritional qualities of the meat. Despite these claims actually having some merit, the fact remains that using corn-based grain finishing techniques end up producing meat with a much higher degree of marbling, which delivers cuts of meat that are juicier and more tender, all while being the cheaper option.

Overall, the corn finishing method for raising beef cattle is still the most common technique used among agricultural farmers, precisely because it is the more efficient and produces fattier meat, which is usually desired more. Regardless of the method used, whether it be corn-based or grass-based, what matters most is that you are personally happy with the farming practices and quality of the beef you consume.

Beef Grading

When it comes to beef, we all hope to find the best quality possible, which is why places like the United States and the European Union have developed detailed guidelines to determine the quality of beef for consumption. While these standards have specific grades, such as “Prime” and “Choice,” most of us do not know exactly what these gradings refer to and measure. Because of this, we here at LB Steak thought it would be helpful to provide a short, simplified guide to explain what is included when determining the different beef grades.

 

The Basics

Quality gradings are typically split into two categories: the quality of the beef carcass and the palatability of a specific cut of meat. While the standards for judging the quality of the beef carcass are determined by the degree of marbling and maturity, the factors for judging a specific cut of meat are much more extensive and detailed, including factors such as firmness, tenderness, juiciness, color, leanness, and marbling.

 

Marbling

Marbling is typically the most important factor used to judge the quality of meat, and refers specifically to the distribution of the intramuscular fat throughout a cut of beef, which can be identified by white streaks. Under USDA standards, the degree of marbling is divided into subunits, but the most basic way to understand it is through the following rankings:

 

Grade Degree of Marbling

 

Prime

abundant, moderately abundant, or slightly abundant
Choice moderate, modest, or small
Select slight
Standard traces or practically devoid

 

Even though the degree of marbling is actually decided through an actual numerical score of 100 subunits, these rankings are an easier way to understand the degree of marbling for each grade of meat.

 

Maturity

As previously mentioned, many other factors such as firmness and color will also be used to grade a cut of beef; however, since most of these other factors drastically change as the animal matures, the degree of maturity is an incredibly important factor for grading. Maturity determination does not rely on the actual chronological age of the animal, but rather its physical age, which refers to factors such as bone health, ossification of cartilage, and the overall color and texture of the meat.

The process of determining skeletal ossification and lean maturity are complicated, so rather than attempting to explain the measurements and formulas that are used to decide overall maturity, a simple explanation of the maturity rankings and their corresponding grade should provide the information that is most important for the average beef consumer. Basically, maturity rankings are split up into A, B, C, D, and E. While A and B maturity levels will typically include the main gradings of prime, choice, select, and standard; C, D, and E represent commercial and utility grade beefs.

Once both marbling and maturity is determined, these measurements are then added together to determine the overall quality grade.

 

Yield

Other than quality grades, the USDA guidelines also include yield grades, which are numbered 1-5 and represent the amount of boneless trimmed meat obtained from a beef carcass. A grading of Yield 1 designates the highest amount of boneless, closely-trimmed meat, while the Yield 5 grading represents the lowest amount. Along with this, other factors are also included in the yield grade, such as the amount of external fat; the carcass weight; amount of fat on the kidney, pelvic, and heart; and the area of the ribeye muscle.

 

The Beef Report Card

Since the standards set out by the USDA do such an amazing job at ensuring high-quality beef, many countries around the world have actually mirrored these standards. Based on these standards, consumers and retailers can trust the meat they purchase or sell.

At LB Steak, we pride ourselves on only serving the highest quality beef, such as our USDA Certified Prime Angus beef. Stop by an LB Steak location today to experience this superior beef quality!

Meat Terminology

Basic Terminology

 

Angus Beef – Originating from a Scottish breed of cattle known as Aberdeen Angus, Angus Beef is usually used to refer to the Black or Red Angus cattle. In the United States, the Black Angus is the most commonly raised beef cattle. Due to the increase of Angus Beef in the United States, the American Angus Association created a certification process as a way to ensure quality standards. Today, the USDA relies on 10 specific criteria standards in order to determine if Angus Beef can be considered “Certified Angus Beef.”

Antibiotic-free – Due to growing concerns regarding the use of antibiotics on animals, and the possible side-effects that are associated with it, there has been a growing movement to remove all use of antibiotics throughout the farming industry. Thus, the USDA has begun issuing “No Antibiotics” labels for animals that are raised without the use of antibiotics.

Certified Organic – Since the early 2000s, the USDA has only labeled meat as “Certified Organic” if it passes a very strict set of criteria. Among this criteria, farmers must keep records of breed history, never use antibiotics, never use growth hormones, and only allow roaming on land that has organic crops.

Choice – Quality grade used by the USDA based on a meat’s juiciness, tenderness, and flavor. “Choice” quality beef is associated with high quality beef, being second only to “Prime” quality, mostly due to less marbling.

Dry Aged – With this technique, the cut of meat will be hung in order to dry for a period of multiple weeks, typically in a refrigerated unit that can be closely monitored for temperature and humidity levels. While this method is the less common form of aging meat, usually only used for higher grades of meat, it does allow the meat to develop an incredible flavor and texture. This is because the process involves the evaporation of the majority of moisture from the meat, concentrating its natural flavors, while at the same time breaking down more of the connective tissues, tenderizing the meat even further.

Grass-fed and Grain-fed – Each of these refers to the diet of beef cattle as they are raised. Grain based diets are the predominant form of feeding for cattle, consisting of cattle in feedlots eating mostly corn or soy based food. Farmers that choose this method tend to do so because it fattens the beef cattle up quicker. On the other hand, Grass based diets have slowly been becoming more popular, as it is considered to be more environmentally friendly and stress reducing for the cattle since they are allowed to roam around more open space. Along with this, many consider Grass-fed beef to be healthier. (See post about Grass-fed and Grain-fed)

Marbling – Refers to the amount of intramuscular fat the meat has, usually seen as visible white streaks or flecks throughout the meat. The degree of marbling oftentimes determines the meats juicieness, flavor, and tenderness. One example of a meat with a high degree of marbling is Wagyu.

Prime – The highest quality grading given out by the USDA. Typically sourced from younger beef cattle, these cuts of meat tend to have the highest degree of marbling, along with amazing tenderness and flavor.

Wagyu – Specifically refers to four different beef cattle raised in Japan. Wagyu is known for its superior texture and flavor, which it receives from increased marbling. The four different types of cattle include the Japanese Black, the Japanese Brown, the Japanese Polled, and the Japanese Shorthorn. Commonly known names of Wagyu beef include Kobe and Matsusaka. (See Post about Wagyu)

Wet-Aged – As this aging process takes less time than dry-aging, it has become the predominant form of meat aging in the United States. In contrast to dry-aging, the wet-aging process is actually intended to keep as much moisture as possible in the meat. This is done by keeping the meat in a vacuum-sealed bag as it ages for ten days or less.

 

Primal Cuts of Beef

 

Brisket – Cut from the chest and pectoral muscle of the beef cattle. Since Brisket is very thick and fatty, it is usually best prepared by being slow-roasted at low temperatures

Chuck – Cut from the front of the beef cattle, the Chuck consists of the neck, shoulder blades, and upper arm. Due to a large amount of connective tissue, the Chuck tends to be a very tough meat; however, it also has a high fat content, which produces a lot of flavor.

Flank – Cut from the underbelly of the hindquarters, the Flank is a long, flat cut of meat that tends to be tough but also very lean.

Plate – The Plate is located under the Ribs, including the subprimal cuts such as Short Ribs and Skirt Steak.

Rib – The Rib primal cut is located between the 6th and 12th ribs, including subprimal cuts that are known to be tender and have a high degree of marbling. Much like the Plate primal cut, the Ribs also contain Short Ribs and Skirt Steak. Along with this, one will also find Ribeye among the Rib primal cut.

Round – Cut from the back end of the beef cattle, the Round primal cut is known to be a lean and versatile cut of meat. Popular subprimal cuts include the Round Steak and Eye of Round.

Shank – Cut from the legs of the beef cattle, this primal cut is a less commonly used because its extremely tough. With this in mind, the most common ways to cook this cut of meat is in soups and stews.

Short Loin – The Short Loin region of the beef cattle is located above the Flank, and includes very popular cuts of beef including the New York Strip and Porterhouse.

Sirloin – The Sirloin primal cut is located between the 13th rib and the hip of the beef cattle. The Sirloin is usually split into two sections, the top and bottom. Among these two sections, one will find popular cuts of beef including Top Sirloin Filet and Tri-Tip.

Tenderloin – The Tenderloin is situated between the Sirloin and Short Loin, and is considered the most tender part of the beef cattle. The extremely flavorful Filet Mignon is found among the Tenderloin.

 

 

Ways of Cooking

 

Braised – Braised meats are typically less tender cuts of meat that have a high degree of connective tissue. Because of this, braising the meat, which involves a long, slow cook at a low temperature and partly in a type of liquid such as a broth or oil, will break down that connective tissue, producing a more tender result that has amazing juices and a delicious flavor.

Broiled – This method uses a direct source of high heat from above and is best for tender cuts of meats.

Confit – While using this cooking method, the meat is cooked for a long time at a low temperature, while submerged the liquid fat of the meat.

Fried – Meat submerged in hot oil or fat.

Grilled – One of the most common ways to cook meat, grilling involves a heat source from below, typically with wood, coals, or gas.

Roasted – This method is mainly used for large pieces of meat, and involves heating from all around, usually in an oven.

Seared – When you sear a piece of meat, you want to use a flat metal surface and high heat for a short time in order to brown the outside of the meat.

Sous Vide – This unique method involves sealing a cut of meat in a plastic bag or glass jar and submerging it in heated water for a long period of time. Also, the temperature must be carefully regulated, as it tends to be lower than normal cooking temperatures.

 

Degrees of Doneness

 

Blue – Basically raw; prepared with minimal amounts of char on each side of the meat so that it is left cool and completely red on the inside.

Black and Blue – Almost the same as a “Blue” meat; however, “Black and Blue” meats tend to be quickly cooked on a hotter flame to give it more char on the outside, while still keeping it cool and completely red on the inside.

Rare – Typically, meats cooked rare are lightly seared in order to be slightly warm and mostly red in the center with pinkish-brown edges.

Medium Rare – Arguably the most common way to get a meat cooked, medium rare meats are meant to be warm throughout the whole meat, mostly pinkish-brown but slightly red in the center.

Medium – A meat cooked medium will have a solid char all over the meat, be mostly brown around the edges of the center, and pink in the middle.

Medium-well – Cooking a meat medium-well should give it a darker char around the outside of the meat. Along with this, it should be brown throughout, with a slight hint of pink in the very center.

Well Done – A well-done meat should be brown throughout the whole center, while having a good amount of char on the outside.

Ribeye

Although you will always find a variety of beef cuts at a steakhouse, one of the most prominent cuts you will find at any professional steakhouse is the Ribeye. Due to the versatility of the cut, as well as its high degree of marbling, tenderness, and delicious flavor, the Ribeye has become a staple cut of beef for many chefs and consumers.

 

Basic Terminology

Even though the term “Ribeye” is oftentimes used interchangeably to mean both “bone-in” and “boneless,” the term “Rib Steak” can usually be used to refer to a cut with the bone, while the term “Ribeye” is usually used to refer more specifically to boneless. Along with this, a “Tomahawk Ribeye” is also commonly used to refer to the shape of a Ribeye with the bone still in.

Given its self-explanatory name, the Ribeye is found between the 6th and 12th rib, with the “eye” portion of the word referring specifically to the center most region of the meat, also known as the Longissimus dorsi. Along with this, a new love for the Ribeye “cap” has been growing in recent years amongst the meat loving community. This “cap” refers to the Spinalis Dorsi, which is the strip around the outside of the “eye.” Many have begun to view this portion of the Ribeye as the “fat cap,” since it tends to be the fattest, juiciest, and most tender part of the Ribeye steak. Some steakhouses have even gone as far to cut the cap from the whole rib section and create dishes out of just that.

 

Preparation

Due to the superiority of the natural flavors and tenderness of the Ribeye, preparation can usually be kept simple. Most of the time, this cut of beef can simply be grilled, seared, or broiled with basic seasonings such as salt and cracked black pepper. Other than this, many people also roast the rib cut; however, when roasting a rib cut, it is usually not cut into individual Ribeye steaks, but instead is roasted slowly as a whole rib section. When roasting a rib cut this way, it is usually referred to as “Prime Rib.” Thus, the main difference between Prime Rib and Ribeye, is whether or not the individual Ribeye steaks have been cut before or after cooking.

When preparing Ribeye, you want to make sure to have a high-quality cut. This is because Ribeye has such a high degree of marbling and fat content. Thus, higher quality cuts will make the rendering process, or the melting away of the fat, as it cooks much easier and efficient. Overall, this process during the preparation will produce richer flavors and a more enjoyable texture.

 

Wine Pairing

When it comes to pairing the Ribeye with a wine, you will want to focus on wines that have strong, full-bodied flavors, so that the wine will be able to match the equally bold and fatty flavor of the Ribeye. Based on this knowledge, a Cabernet Sauvignon is always a great go-to red wine to pair with beef. However, other common pairings for Ribeye include Merlot and Zinfandel. At LB Steak, good examples include the 2016 California Zinfandel “Turley, ‘Juvenile,’” and the 2014 California Merlot “Duckhorn.”

 

Ribeye at LB Steak

At LB Steak, we offer a 14 oz boneless Ribeye for our lunch and dinner menu. Along with this, our dinner menu also includes a 35 day dry-aged 12 oz boneless Ribeye and a 48 oz Tomahawk Ribeye meant to be shared by two people. All of these pair perfectly with our selection of sauces, which include a Point Reyes Blue Cheese Butter, Tarragon Bearnaise, Green Peppercorn, and Red Wine Bordelaise.

Come stop by one of our steakhouses today and experience the beef cut for the true meat lover—Ribeye!

Filet Mignon

Believed to be one of the most prized cuts of beef, largely because it is considered to be the most tender, is the Filet Mignon. Cut from the end of the tenderloin region of the beef cattle, which is situated amongst the short loin region, this cut of beef is incredibly lean and has an extraordinary texture that makes each bite melt in your mouth.

 

Basic Terminology

The name derives itself from French, with “Filet” meaning boneless, and “Mignon” meaning small, dainty, and delicate. Together, Filet Mignon usually refers to the part of the narrower end of the tenderloin as it moves into the short loin region. However, if you are ever in France and order a “Filet Mignon,” you might actually be served a pork tenderloin rather than beef. This is because American chefs adopted the word to refer to the cut of beef taken from the small end of the tenderloin, while in France this cut of beef is actually called filet de bœuf. Nevertheless, cuts from all parts of the tenderloin are also commonly referred to as Filet Mignon. More specifically, the French terms for cuts taken from the smaller end of the tenderloin is tournedos, while the term generally used for cuts taken from the larger section of the tenderloin is châteaubriand.

 

Preparation

While this cut of beef tends to be on the more expensive side, the ways to prepare it are extremely various. One of the more simple preparations is to simply pan sear the filet with butter and herbs; this is the preparation you will see most commonly, as it will tend to guarantee a superb flavor while maintaining the filet’s amazing natural texture. Besides pan searing, the Filet Mignon is also commonly served raw as steak tartare. The châteaubriand region of the filet is often roasted, sliced thin, and served with a reduction sauce. And finally, a more interesting preparation is known as beef wellington, which is when the filet is coated in pate and wrapped with a puff pastry.

When you order Filet Mignon, or prepare it yourself, you will want to make sure to keep the degree of doneness lower than usual. The main reason for this is because the main attribute that makes Filet Mignon so incredible is its extraordinary texture and tenderness that will make every single bite melt in your mouth. Due to this, it is better to keep the degree of doneness of a Filet Mignon more near rare or medium rare because it will maintain this texture and tenderness better than any degree of doneness past this.

 

Wine Pairing

Despite being the most tender cut of beef, Filet Mignon is actually very low on fat content, and thus is usually cooked with some type of fatty liquid or bacon wrapped to introduce more rich flavor. Because of this, wines with solid acidity and soft tannins tend to pair better with the Filet Mignon, producing a smooth balance, and mutually enhancing each other flavor.

With this in mind, the best wines to pair with a Filet Mignon tend to be a younger Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux. At LB Steak, we offer the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Union Sacré, ‘Le Passion du Diable,’” and the 2013 California Bordeaux “The Paring,” both of which are perfect wines to pair with a tender and juicy Filet Mignon.

 

Filet Mignon at LB Steak

Here at LB Steak, we guarantee that our Filet Mignon is of the highest quality and cooked to perfection. For both our lunch and dinner menu, we offer a 6 oz and 8 oz Filet Mignon, as well as a 14 oz double Filet Mignon. Along with this, our lunch menu also includes a Lunch Plate which includes a pan roasted 6 oz Filet Mignon, fingerling potatoes, spinach, and blue cheese.