Though we are enjoying the health benefits of eating Hawaii grass fed beef by increasing our intake of Omega-3 fatty acids and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), grass fed beef is notoriously tough compared to the buttery-texture of feed lot, corn-fed beef. After much experimentation and testing, we found a way to prepare and cook grass-fed beef so it retains its great flavor and makes it tender enough to cut with a fork.
We've learned that marinating beef in a refrigerator for 7 to 21 days, called wet-aging, has grown in popularity over dry aging by many meat processors. Wet-aging allows the meat to age in its own juices and natural tenderizers and to break down the beef’s tough connective tissues. So we decided to try that approach for tenderizing the low-cost cuts of grass-fed beef raised on our island that we buy from our KTA Grocery store.
Ginger is a great natural tenderizer so we created a mixture of our pickled Hawaiian ginger and its juice and sesame seed oil. We put the mixture in a zip-lock bag with a meal-size serving of grass-fed beef. We created another version of the mixture with pickled ginger and sun dried tomatoes and olive oil with great results.
We put the bags into the refrigerator and flip them a time or two each day to make sure the juices fully cover the beef.
After three days or so, the beef juices darken in the bag. We compared cutting the beef into thin slices with leaving it in thick steaks to determine if slicing it would make it more tender, but we found that it didn’t matter as much as the length of time that the beef was wet-aged. After 5 days a tough thick cut of beef becomes surprisingly tender, and after 7 days it is even better.
Our next challenge was cooking. We like our beef well-done, but after some research, we found out that part of the toughness was due to us cooking it too long. Grass-fed beef takes less time to cook and becomes tough if it is cooked too long. We cook on a stove, rather than a barbecue, so we minimized the amount of time the beef was cooking by pre-heating the pan. Some recipe books recommend patting the steak dry before cooking, but we found the beef to be much more juicy and flavorful when it is cooked with its marinade. We pour the marinade juices into the pan and wait for it to boil before adding the beef to the pan. Once the beef is browned on both sides, which doesn’t take much time, we turn off the stove (which remains hot awhile since we use electric) and let the beef continue to cook. If the cut of beef is thick, we verify that it is pink (not red) inside, by making a small cut on the side. Then we let it rest 10 to 15 minutes before serving, which lets the juices redistribute.
Marinading the beef for 7 days, cooking the beef a shorter period of time, not poking the meat with a fork to turn it over (which drains the juices inside), and letting the beef rest before serving has made an wonderful difference in the juiciness and tenderness of our Hawaii grass-fed beef meals.