ENDS MEAT Knowledge Repository

Herein you will find a basic rundown of many techniques and methods needed to crank out quality grub in your own home.

Preparation

First we make things smaller, then we make them hot.

Dicing: Making things smaller, using your knife. The goal is a uniformity of size, which ensures even cooking and a sexier presentation. Watch this random young up and comer demonstrate.

 

Marination: Sometimes it is necessary to jump start the flavoring of a food before one begins to cook it.  Immersion in a flavorful liquid is one way to accomplish this.  Often this marinade will be quite acidic, consisting of vinegar or citrus juice of some kind. This has the added effect of tenderizing tougher cuts of meat or even cooking some ingredients such as fish or shrimp in ceviche.  Marinades often contain herbs, oils, and spices as well.  Basic safety tips for marinating are to keep the objects being marinated in a food safe plastic or glass container in a refridgerator.  Metals can react strangely with acidic ingredients.  Also remember to never use leftover marinade that has touched raw meat unless it its boiled directly before use. Take it away, bro.


Choppin' Chicken: Quick breakdown on how to breakdown your bird.


Scoring: Scoring means to cut a cross-hatch of diagonal lines into a vegetable or protein.  This is done to increase surface area and allow for more heat absorption.  Especially fatty meats such as duck breast or pork belly benefit from this technique as the fat is able to render and contract more without pulling the meat out of shape. Helpful tip: if you dont have a crazy sharp knife, use a razor blade to make your incisions, but make sure to just score the fat, not the underlying muscle.  Scoring potatoes for extra crispiness works great as well!

Tempering: Often the first step of many of our recipes, especially those involving thick cuts of meat, will be to temper the meat.  This simply means removing it from the refrigerator and allowing it to come up to room temperature throughout the entire cut.  This allows for an even cook, ensuring that when the outside of the meat is seared, the inside does not remain completely cold.  

BONUS TECHNIQUE: This one is a staple of lazy line cooks everywhere.  Got a bunch of cherry tomatoes you need chopped in a hurry? Grab two quart container lids, put the tomatoes between them and run a knife through. Blammo! Tomatoes done in a flash. Don't let chef know I told you that one.  


Cooking techniques

First rule of the kitchen, treat everything you intend to grab as if it were hot

Braising: Braising relies on heat, time, and moisture to break down the tough connective tissue (collagen) that binds together the muscle fibers collectively called meat, making it an ideal way to cook tougher, more affordable cuts. Many classic braised dishes (e.g., coq au vin) are highly evolved methods of cooking tough and otherwise unpalatable foods. Often the meat is first seared briefly to achieve a browned crust to retain and develop flavor. The dish is then put in the oven, often with vegetables and liquid such as stock or wine.  The goal of braising is to cook until the flavors intermingle and the meat is rendered completely tender.  


Caramelization: This surprisingly complex process involves many different chemical reactions that are both interesting and unnecessary to comprehend to achieve the end result: making things brown and delicious.  Although often used in dessert applications, we meat men are primarily concerned with using it on veggies.  Basic idea? Low heat, long time, stir occasionally. Get 'em golden brown and enjoy.


Deglazing: This slightly more advanced technique is an incredibly versatile way to add flavor and refinement to your dishes.  Basic idea: Sear your meat in fat or oil until it is cooked (or almost cooked.) Remove meat from pan, pour out majority of liquid in pan.  All that crusty brown meat bits stuck to the bottom of the pan is going to go to waste and be a pain in the ass to clean up right? WRONG!!!! Return your pan to the heat, and pour in liquid such as stock, wine or other spirit.  The resulting sizzle will allow you to scrape off all the brown goodness and dissolve to form a delicious sauce or base for sauteed greens or veggies.  If making a sauce, allow mixture to cook down a bit and whisk in some butter.  Alternately add some veggies.  If necessary you can also finish cooking your protein with the liquid.


Reduction: Reduction is the process of intensifying the flavor of a soup or sauce by boiling or simmering over time until the desired amount of liquid has evaporated. This process is especially useful after deglazing, as it can both cook off any alcohol added and thicken, intensify and enrich your end product. This guy talks a bit funny but seems to know his business.  Deglazing AND reduction!


Rendering: Often the cuts we obtain from butchering our animals will have large fat caps attached to one side. This is how most meat would be naturally, but the industrially raised animals typically found on supermarket shelves are bred to be particularly lean. While this fat may initially be intimidating, if properly rendered it can add an intensity and richness to both the meat and anything else cooked in the pan afterwards. The method shown below is my preferred way to soften and crisp up the fat cap. Heat oil in a heavy bottom skillet and then secure the meat with the fat cap down and cook on medium low heat until the fat browns and softens, then turn on a side and cook regularly.


Searing: Nerds may refer to this as the "Maillard Reaction." As with caramelization, this is an amazing complex process encompassing many interactions between heat and amino acids and various compounds within the animal protein. Per wikipedia: "The reactive carbonyl group of the sugar reacts with the nucleophilic amino group of the amino acid, and forms a complex mixture of poorly characterized molecules responsible for a range of odors and flavors." Sure thing, bud.  Regardless of how poorly understood many of the complexities are, searing is your primary and basic method of applying heat to meat to create flavor.  Contrary to popular belief, however, searing does not seal in meat juices, as the high heat applied actually causes more destruction of cells, releasing more liquid rather than less.  The flavor and textural improvement is a fine tradeoff however.  This guy again:


Sweating: Sweating veggies is cooking them over low heat in a minimal amount of oil and a little salt.  The goal is to remove moisture from the ingredients while softening them. Stir constantly, and try to avoid browning. Usually this is done with onions, carrots and/or celery as a base for soups or stews.   


Bonus Technique: Make a swan out of an apple! This is actually super easy and fun.

 

Finishing

Cuz it ain't done until it's finished

Resting: This one isn't super tough but is crucial! I know you've just spend a ton of time searing, braising, deglazing, reducing, reusing and recycling, but it's very important to let your meat rest once you have taken it out of the pan.  If you slice your meat immediately upon removal from the pan you will notice all of the delicious juices will run out immediately.  By letting the steak rest you allow all this moisture to settle back into the meat, ensuring a tender and juicy final product. 

Slicing: Another simple seeming technique that can make a big difference. You will often see us recommend cutting your steak against the grain, especially in thinner and tougher cuts.  Observe this dork-ery:


Hope this helped, let us know how these techniques have worked for you, and if there is anything else we might need to cover in the future!

Ends Meat does not own the rights to any of the above media, and is using them only in an instructional capacity