So You Want to Cook Like A Pro, But Don’t Know How (Part Two: 2 of 2): The Ingredients)

So I told you guys I would be back to finish out Part Two of the “The Ingredients”, if you didn’t catch part one of the series on “The Tools”, check it out here or if you missed the first section of part two check it out here. Now that we gotten you up to speed let’s jump right in.

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Beef

From burgers to steaks and everywhere in between beef is one of my favorite meats to work with. You have to be impressed at shear number of cuts. A good cut of beef should have nice color and be firm to the touch. In most cuts, you want to look for nice marbling. Marbling is small streaks of fat that are found within the muscle and can be seen in the meat cut. The marbling will increase the juiciness, tenderness and flavor the product. Another important factor is the meats waterholding capacity which can be witnessed by looking at the package, if excess water is found in the bottom of the retail package, it may lead to a dry cooked product.   The cut should hold water within the meat to add to juiciness

One of my favorite beef dishes is ossa bucco which is a braised beef or veal shank. These days you should be able to find beef or veal shank in your local grocery. Braising is a cooking method where meat or vegetables are first browned in a little fat, then slowly cooked in a tightly covered pot with some cooking liquid over low heat for a long period of time. To do a proper braise takes some time but the results are well worth it.

One of the misconceptions about beef is that it is expensive. To be quite honest with the shear number of grocery stores these days there is no reason you can’t eat good cuts off beef on a budget. The only thing to remember is that something like a piece of Filet Mignon which is a very high quality beef can be pan seared and oven roasted while tougher cuts like shanks, ribs, and briskets would do well to be cooked longer to make them more tender and flavorful. If you have never tasted a grilled Asian marinated flank steak you don’t know what you are missing. The bottom line is to get out to your local grocer and pick something up and get cooking.

Pork

Ah my beloved pork. The other white meat (though technically classified by the USDA as red meat). Over the years pork has gotten a bad wrap but in actuality today’s pork is almost as lean as chicken. Pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world, providing about 38 percent of daily meat protein intake worldwide, although consumption varies widely from place to place. Other than religious reasons there is really no reason why people shouldn’t have a healthy dose of pork in their diet.

pork-cutsWhere it’s the bacon on your breakfast plate or the deliciousness that is pork loin, pork is one of the greatest pieces of meat out there. I cook it all the time and no I don’t have high blood pressure either. Whether it’s my Zo’s Ultimate Holiday Ham or my famous stuffed pork chops its always great. Another piece of pork that is becoming increasingly popular especially in restaurants is pork bellies. The pork belly is the underside of the pig, from which bacon is made in the United States (in other parts of the world, bacon is more often made from back and side meats and bacon made from bellies). While only recently have some people took to cooking it in their homes, a lot of Americans have been eating pork bellies for years and didn’t even know it, ever had sweet and sour pork? Just remember pork is not so bad, give it a try and you will see.

Lamblamb

Last but definitely not least lamb. The terms lamb, hogget or mutton are culinary names for the meat of a domestic sheep. The meat of a sheep a year old or younger is generally known as lamb, whereas the meat of an older sheep is either hogget or mutton depending on its age and characteristics. Now chances are you have seen a rack of lamb, or lamb chops in your local grocer and thought about it but thought man that is too much for me. I am here to tell you not to be afraid because with the right culinary flair lamb will have you wondering you waited so long to try it.

Now lamb is often grilled or pan seared in a fashion similar to what you would do with a pork chop. For a real kick though, barbecue your lamb meat. Whether it’s the chops or a shoulder barbecue it like you would any other kind of meat and trust me you will be happy. It must be noted that lamb is a little gamey but not to the degree of something like rabbit or venison. In countries outside the U.S. lamb is very popular and is eaten on a regular basis whereas in the U.S. lamb has only started to appear on the tables of average Americans recently with the rise of restaurant use and the increased popularity of cooking shows, specifically those featured on the Food Network.

Well folks there you have it, part two of “The Ingredients”. Enjoy and remember “Zo says that anybody can cook like a pro”.

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