Five Common Beef Questions Answered

When it comes to grilling, it seems like everyone’s a bit of an expert. The team in the Canada Beef Centre of Excellence investigated some tried-and-true cooking recommendations to see just how true they are. Here is the scoop on some of their findings.

Myth #1: You shouldn’t season beef with salt before cooking?

AnswerThe practice of salting before cooking has long been debated, with concerns this would toughen and dry meat. We found that meat allowed to stand after salting did have increased loss in juices, however, we also noted benefits. Steaks salted shortly before cooking had lower cooking losses and scored higher for flavour, browning, juiciness and overall tenderness. An added bonus: you’ll likely find you need less salt for seasoning if done prior to cooking since more complex flavours develop, not just a salt flavour.

Want to know how to cook the perfect steak? How To Grill the Perfect Beef Steak

And since we’re chatting about some of the common questions, here are two others we frequently get asked:

Myth #2: Let beef stand at room temperature prior to cooking. 

Answer: In a word – NO! We measured the internal temperature of roasts and steaks sitting on the counter and found this practice created food safety risks that far outweighed any small quality benefits – even with a standing time of just 15 minutes. So just say NO – keep meat refrigerated prior to cooking.

 

Myth #3: Piercing meat will cause it to be dry and tough.  In your instructions for grilling marinating steaks or medallions, you suggest piercing meat all over with a fork.

 

Answer: Half myth, half truth. If you pierce meat while grilling juices are lost and flare ups can occur. However, we found that piercing Inside Round roasts before cooking and letting them rest for 24 hours (refrigerated of course) improved tenderness. So when done before cooking, piercing has a role to play in tenderizing beef – it’s not all bad.

Myth #4: Cook burgers until no longer pink inside and juices run clear.

Answer: Lets put an end to this colour confusion.  Numerous studies have shown that you just can’t judge beef doneness by looking at it’s colour or juices.  Burgers can be brown in the centre even when they are not cooked through OR pink even when they are cooked.  Cook burgers to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C), testing temperature with a digital rapid-read thermometer to know if they are done.

Myth #5: Grilling is best done with the lid up.

Answer: Of course the barbecue needs to be closed when cooking by indirect heat or rotisserie roasting – how else could it cook like an oven?  But cooking with the lid down even when grilling has advantages too. Keeping the lid down cooks the meat faster and more evenly.  The more you lift the lid, the longer it takes to cook.

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  1. Shane
    Shane says:

    You should NOT pierce steaks before cooking them unless you plan on cooking to well done. This is why mechanically tenderized steaks must be marked/labeled as such (and technically thoroughly cooked).
    The reason you can cook a steak to rare or medium unlike beef (safely) is because the meat hasn’t been mixed. Piercing it moves bacteria from the outside to the inside which when cooked less than medium well can cause food borne illness!

    • makeitbeef
      makeitbeef says:

      Hi Shane: thank you for your comment back, and yes, we agree: all food surfaces carry bacteria, including steaks and roasts. Because meat cooks from the outside in, the outer surface is exposed to higher temperatures for a longer time than the inside of the meat. The heat of cooking will inactivate bacteria as long as they remain on the outside of cuts, and the surface is cooked thoroughly. In ground beef, microbes from the surface get mixed throughout the beef, so ground beef needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C).
      However, lab testing looking at piercing or mechanically tenderizing implications on food safety risks have shown that steaks that are pierced, are safe when cooked to medium-rare doneness (145°F/63°C), along with the recommendation that the steak is flipped more than twice, as a way to evenly distribute the heat while cooking. This is the recommendation made by Health Canada which Canada Beef aligns with. We also recommend that you use a thermometer to test beef when cooking (ground beef burgers, steaks and roasts), as this is the best way to ensure appropriate doneness. Test results have shown that the digital rapid-read thermometers give the most accurate readings, so we recommend this type over the dial versions. We have a new blog post up on the details around the recommendations for Mechanically Tenderized Beef (https://www.canadabeef.ca/demystifying-mechanically-tenderized-meat-new-cooking-recommendations-need-flip/). We have the same cooking recommendation for all steaks, so you don’t have to remember to do anything special or different when cooking steaks that have been pierced. I hope this information helps address your concerns.

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