Meat Class
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Lesson 1: Tools + Supplies
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Introduction: Tools + Supplies

When we talk about meat we generally mean meat from any type of animal, however this class narrows the definition to just beef. By understanding where specific cuts come from, you will be better informed about which type of steak you like the most, and how to prepare it perfectly every time! Ever cook a steak and have it turn out tough, or make a roast that comes out dry? You'll find the reasons and solutions to all your meaty problems here.

Meat has been a primal source of sustenance since neanderthals were roasting mammoth meat on open flames - probably earlier. As mankind has evolved, so have techniques of cooking. Knowing the difference between a pork chop and a porterhouse might seem trivial, but knowing your cuts of meat and how to prepare each one will dramatically change how you cook in the kitchen.

Here's the basics of what you'll need for this class:

Equipment + Supplies:

The lesson on aging meat requires a few additional tools:


Know Your Equipment

Sharp Knife + Steel

Your knife doesn't need to be fancy, but it does need to be decent quality so it will hold its edge and feel balanced in your hands. The best way to determine what knife to buy is to set a budget and go into a knife store and handle a few blades for yourself.

The ideal knife for this class has at least an 8" blade and a full tang (meaning the blade goes all the way into the handle). Basic knives costs around $20-$40 like this one. You don't need an expensive knife to cut food, so only spend as much as you're comfortable with (since some knives can be very expensive).

To keep your knife sharp you should also pick up a sharpening steel, which will keep your knives honed after a few strokes. Honing the knife is not sharpening. Honing the edge will only bring back an edge that is already there, if your knife has no edge it will need to be resharpened. An analogy would be brushing your teeth vs. going to the dentist. The steel is brushing your teeth, and sharpening is going to the dentist.

To hone a blade hold the knife in your dominant hand and the steel in your other. Place the blade against the steel with the edge at about a 20° angle, then stroke the knife along the steel away from you in one motion. While stroking, ensure that you are moving the entire blade along the steel. The grooved length of the steel rubs against the blade edge smoothing out any deviations in the blade and keeping it straight and sharp. Alternating strokes on either side of the steel will bring back the knife edge to razor sharp in under a minute.

Cutting Board

Cutting boards come in all shapes and sizes. Cost will likely be your largest deciding factor, and an inexpensive cutting board will work fine. I personally prefer solid wood cutting boards, since their heft provides more resistance to slipping around when cutting, and they look much nicer than plastic boards.

Wood cutting boards shouldn't be submerged in water when cleaning, and the wood fibers will accept some discoloration from food over time. An alternative is an Epicurean cutting board.

Cast Iron Skillet

Few things are more instrumental to cooking great meat than a cast iron skillet. We'll go into more detail about the skillet and why it's such a great tool in Lesson 4 - Stove Top + Oven. Cast iron skillets don't have to be expensive, and you can even find them second-hand for very cheap. Remember that if you take care of your skillet it will last for ages, we cover care and seasoning your cast iron in Lesson 4.

Thermometer

You might see fancy chefs use a variety of methods to check the doneness of meat, but the truth is that there's no special technique required when using a thermometer. An instant read thermometer is essential for consistent everyday cooking, and a probe style thermometer is great for the oven, grill, or smoker, since it can be left in the meat while it's cooking.

Tongs

I don't know why there are so many types of tongs out there - in my opinion, simpler is better. I use stainless steel tongs with a scalloped end. This is exactly what the pros use in restaurants, and they are inexpensive. No silicone tips, no plastic handle, no goofy colors - just utility at its finest.


Secret Ingredient

The secret ingredient for preparing amazing cuts of beef isn't really a secret at all - it's salt. In Lesson 3: Cooking Basics we discuss why salt is your best friend in making amazing steaks. However not all salts are created equal: we're looking for Kosher or coarse salt.

The difference between table salt and coarse salt is easy enough to differentiate: one has small crystals and the other has large - coarse- crystals. But what is Kosher salt and why do recipes call for it?

Just about every type of salt you get at the store is iodized, meaning they add a small amount of potassium iodine to the salt. Why would they do this? It turns out that the human body can't make this micro-nutrient on its own and in small doses it's really good for us, from curing goiters to preventing intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Chemically, there's virtually no difference between table salt and Kosher salt other than Kosher has no iodine. So, why do people bother? Some profess that the taste is different, and if your palette is that refined I say go for it, but for our needs either coarse salt or Kosher salt is fine.


Heat Source

This class will cover a few different methods of cooking, focusing on stove and oven, outdoor grilling, and smoking.

For each of these cooking methods there are endless opinions on which heat source is the best. There are those that say charcoal is the only way to grill, or gas burners are the only way to cook. The truth is that the best way to cook is with whatever you have at home. Since you're probably not going to go out and buy a new stove, it doesn't really matter what everyone else says.

Every lesson in this class guides you through the methods and desired results, all of which can be achieved with gas, electric, wood, or charcoal. So don't sweat the heat source - just focus on the skills and you'll be able to make perfect and consistent meat dishes every time.


Quiz Time!

Put your knowledge to the test, try the quiz below and see how you do!

{
    "id": "quiz-1",
    "question": "What does 'full tang' mean in the context of the kitchen?",
    "answers": [
        {
            "title": "A full glass of orange Tang",
            "correct": false
        },
 {
            "title": "How tart a food is",
            "correct": false
        },
        {
            "title": "The steel of the knife goes all the way through the handle",
            "correct": true
        }
    ],
    "correctNotice": "Correct! Knives with full tang offer better control, weight balance, and are less likely to break.",
    "incorrectNotice": "Try again"
}
{
    "id": "quiz-2",
    "question": "A knife steel adds steel to a kitchen knife keeping it sharp",
    "answers": [
        {
            "title": "True",
            "correct": false
        },
{
            "title": "False",
            "correct": true
        }
    ],
    "correctNotice": "Correct! A steel doesn't add to a knife, it straightens the edge",
    "incorrectNotice": "Nope. Read the question again, it's tricky wording."
}
{
    "id": "quiz-3",
    "question": "Cast iron pans should be replaced every 3 years",
    "answers": [
        {
            "title": "Yes, keep the pans fresh",
            "correct": false
        },
        {
            "title": "No, cast iron gets better with age",
            "correct": true
        }
    ],
    "correctNotice": "Yes! With proper care cast iron pans can last for a very long time. They build up a layer of oil from previous uses which season the pan, so keeping them around for a long time only makes the food taste better!",
    "incorrectNotice": "So wasteful!"
}
{
    "id": "quiz-4",
    "question": "List the order of heating methods from best to worst",
    "answers": [
        {
            "title": "Charcoal, wood, gas, electric",
            "correct": false
        },
        {
            "title": "Wood, charcoal, gas, electric",
            "correct": false
        },
        {
            "title": "They are equal",
            "correct": true
        },
        {
            "title": "Solar Death Ray",
            "correct": false
        }
    ],
    "correctNotice": "Yes! In the sense that they all cook your food and amazing meals can be made on ANY heat source. Purists will have a preferred method, and you will, too. But, as long as the heat can cook your food, whatever you have to work with is just fine!",
    "incorrectNotice": "Really?"
}

Up Next...

Now that we have some of the easy stuff out of the way, let's dive into cuts of meat and see the difference between cuts, and what makes a "good" steak.

CLASS PROJECT

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