Effective Methods: Steak.

I’ve decided to start a new blog series called “Effective Methods”. As many of you know, my husband is an engineer. Engineers are, I think, more born than made; they carry an engineering approach into everything they do. In J’s case that means that many of our household processes are carefully engineered. I’d like to share some of those here.

The name “effective methods” comes from a conversation we had with “Stephanie”:http://stephsk8r.blogspot.com and “Steph”:http://www.commonplacebook.com/ while traveling to Roswell one year in which one of us said about J, “his methods are effective.” I remember the conversation being funny, but I can’t remember any of the context. Anyway, the phrase stuck, and seems appropriate. His methods _are_ effective.

Today’s installment is about steak. If you’re a vegetarian or squeamish about meat, my suggestion is that you skip this one.

bq. “When you trim meat you see things you don’t actually want to think about when you’re eating meat.” — J

Although this entry is about steak, we handle most of our meat in the way I’m about to describe. We buy a large quantity at our favorite warehouse club and if necessary break it down into one meal portions, vacuum pack them and freeze them. It saves a lot of money, the meat is good quality and fresh, and we always have protein on hand to base a meal around.

To do this you need…

* A large boneless beef cut – we used ribeye this time which requires some trimming but not so much that it costs more in time than you save in money by buying in quantity. The whole ribeye weighed about 12 lbs and we got 16 steaks plus one meal’s worth of stew meat from it.

* Sharp knives – a long one to do the cross cuts and a more nimble one for the trimming.

* A very large plastic cutting board – big enough to accommodate the entire ribeye.

* Paper towels.

* Vacuum sealer and bags.

* Space in your freezer!

Lay the cutting board on your sink (it should be large enough to cover one entire side of the sink and be stable enough to cut on in this position) and cover with paper towel. The paper towel will absorb juices from the meat and keep the meat from slipping on the board. Anything the towel misses will hopefully drain off into the sink.

Open the package of meat in the other side of the sink and drain. Don’t let the meat touch the inside of the sink; there’s an opportunity for cross-contamination with any other raw meats you may have been handling in the sink. After draining lay it fat side up on the cutting board. Feel for a band of fat that’s harder than the rest; you’ll definitely want to remove that during the trimming stage.

First cut the meat cross-wise into steaks that are about 3/4″ – 1″ thick.

After cutting, start trimming. Remove the fat from the outer edge of the steak. On ribeye steaks there’s a sort of pointy end that’s a combination of fat and meat; remove all of that and extract the meat. These small pieces of meat can be used for stew or stir-fry.

We discard the fat. If you make soap, you might want to keep the fat for soap-making. No need to raid the dumpster behind a lipo center. Your call.

Once everything is trimmed, group the steaks into meal-sized portions. For us that’s two steaks (although I only ever eat half of mine), but that will vary with the size and appetites of your household.

The key to this whole operation is the vacuum sealer. Removing all the air from the package means that the meat won’t get freezer burn; nothing really gets the air out quite like… vacuum. If you’re going to buy sixteen steaks worth of meat at once, you definitely don’t want to cheap out at this stage and try to squeeze all the air out of a zip-seal bag yourself. It just doesn’t work.

Vacuum seal the meat putting one meal’s worth in one bag. That way you can take out one bag to thaw and you know it’s a meal. Put your bits of stew meat in their own bag and label with a sharpie if you’re likely to forget what they are.

We always grill our steaks on the gas grill; 3 minutes per side, then 3 minutes per side again usually results in something akin to medium and if you do it just right, a nice crosshatch pattern on the meat.