Best cooking techniques for grass-fed beef

This article was originally published in July 2012

Grass-fed beef offers rich, nuanced flavor, omega-3 fatty acids, and a quicker cooking time: It’s leaner than grain-fed beef, which calls for a slight shift in method to maintain its juiciness. We asked PCC Chef Lynne Vea for guidance.

A diet rich in forage enables grass-fed cattle to develop higher levels of many health-promoting nutrients, including conjugated linoleic acid, vitamin E and beta-carotene. Grass-fed beef also offers two to four times higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef.

PCC carries two brands of grass-fed beef: Eel River Organic Beef, pasture-raised and finished in Northern California; and PCC Grass-fed Beef, pasture-raised and finished throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Lynne grilled five cuts that err on the side of tender (or in the case of flank steak, can be cut across the grain to obtain a tender slice) to determine her recommended cooking times.

“These tender cuts are at their best cooked from medium rare to medium to keep the meat moist,” she says. To achieve that perfect medium rare, preheat a charcoal or gas grill to high heat (450° F to 500° F) and cook the steaks until the internal temperature is 125° F (it will rise another 4 to 5 degrees after removal). To check for doneness, Lynne removes steaks from the grill to a warm plate.

Holding with tongs, she inserts an instant-read thermometer from the side of the cut into the very heart of the steak. “Although pan-searing or broiling times may vary slightly from grilling, the technique of searing the meat rapidly on the outside while monitoring the interior temp to a specified degree remains the same for these cuts,” Lynne says.

Not a fan of medium-rare beef? If you prefer grilled beef a little more well done, be sure to marinade it first to seal in moisture. Enjoy well-done grilled beef sliced thinly and tossed into salads with a zesty vinaigrette, layered on rustic bread with roasted peppers and fresh basil for a picnic panini, or tossed into a stir-fry with summer veggies. Serving grilled steaks with a sauce — think red-wine mushroom or mustard-cream — is another great way to keep the meat juicy. Topping grass-fed beef hamburgers with caramelized onions or other moist ingredients has the same effect.


Useful tips

These are approximate grilling times for medium-rare steak, pulled from the grill with an internal temperature of 125° F. As grills vary greatly, use these grilling times as a guideline. The key is to get a deep sear on the outside, while keeping the inside juicy.

  • Grass-fed New York steak, about 3/4 inches thick: 8 to 9 minutes
  • Grass-fed flank steak, 3/4 inches thick at thickest part: 10 to 12 minutes
  • Grass-fed top sirloin, 1 inch thick: 13 to 15 minutes (grain-fed: about 1 minute longer)
  • Grass-fed Spencer steak, 1 1/4 inches thick: 22 to 25 minutes (grain-fed: about 5 to 6 minutes longer)
  • Grass-fed tenderloin (filet mignon), 1 3/4 inches thick: 17 to 19 minutes (grain-fed: about 4 minutes longer)

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