In Part 1 of our article, we examined what factors affect the way we perceive the taste and flavor of beef. (Remember, flavor is the quality of something you can taste.) We also talked about how beef with higher marbling (intramuscular fat) usually wins the taste test.
There are certain cuts of beef which may be more marbled than others and/or more tender. There are also ways of adding more flavor to beef with Marinades, Rubs and Brines and also increase tenderness.
Adding More Flavor
Marinade is a seasoned liquid that adds flavor and in some cases increases tenderness. Less tender beef cuts, such as several from the chuck, round, flank and skirt, benefit from a marinade with tenderizing ingredients such as food acids or enzymes combined with a long marinating time of 6 to 24 hours.
Tender beef cuts are marinated only to add flavor and, therefore, require short marinate times – 15 minutes to 2 hours. Less acidic marinade ingredients should be used since their tenderizing effects are not required.
Acidic marinade ingredients include citrus juices, vinegar, vinaigrettes, salsa, yogurt and wine. Fresh ginger, pineapple, papaya, kiwi and figs, also contain natural tenderizing enzymes.
A highly acidic marinade can actually toughen meat fibers similar to overcooking.
Rubs are dry or paste-type seasoning mixtures used for flavoring applied to the surfaces of roasts, steaks and ground beef patties just prior to cooking, they often form a delicious crust during cooking.
Dry rubs consist of herbs, spices and other seasonings that are pressed onto the beef’s surface. Paste-type rubs are spread over the beef and use small amounts of wet ingredients, such as oil, crushed garlic, mustard, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce, to bind the dry seasonings.
Cures & Brines rely on salt mixtures/solutions. For dry cures, salt and sodium nitrate are applied directly to the beef’s surface. Beef is also cured by immersing it in pickling or brining solutions that may or may not contain nitrates.
Originally developed as a form of meat preservation, these methods are mainly used to produce distinctive flavors, such as in corned beef and pastrami today.
When beef is paired with two or more umami tastes, it creates an explosion of savory, delicious flavors in your mouth.
Popular umami accoutrements to beef are aged cheeses, bacon, barbeque sauce, mushrooms, garlic, onions, red wine, soy sauce, and tomatoes. Burgers are highly indicative of this practice – cheese and bacon are among the most preferred toppers today. (Pictured above left: Epic Burger)
Less Than Perfect Flavors
There may be times when you experience less than desirable beef flavor. Some of the terms I’ve heard used to describe this are, “livery”, “irony” and “warmed over”. Here are some tips on what you can do to avoid these situations.
Livery Flavor in beef is a complex occurrence without one clear cause, but there are ways to minimize livery flavors. 1. Red blood cells contain iron which has notes of liver flavor. A proper purge of blood during processing will help remedy the situation. 2. Avoid too much aging. Beef does become more flavorful and tender with age, but too much age can also cause a liver flavor. One reason may be that fat oxidizes during the aging process and the affects of oxidation appear to accentuate the liver flavor. If possible, avoid cooking to a high degree of doneness.
Irony Flavor or a Metallic mouth feel or iron taste is attributed to high myoglobin and hemoglobin contents which release iron during cooking. This off-flavor may be reduced by cooking beef to a lower degree of doneness.
Warmed Over Flavor occurs from reheating previously cooked meat. (Like when you reheat that doggie bagged steak in the microwave from last night’s dinner.) This undesirable flavor is caused by cooking to a high degree of doneness, improper storage, microbial contamination and exposure of cooked meat to oxygen. Consider having leftovers cold in sandwiches or salads to help minimize the problem.
The taste of beef can be enhanced. Here are our top five flavor tips for getting the most out of your next meal:
1. Choose higher grades of beef, USDA Prime or USDA Choice, that have more marbling (the marbling score is a large factor in determining the beef quality grade)
2. Opt for Properly Aged beef – anywhere between 14-28 days depending on the cut
3. Keep your beef properly chilled under 40°F until cooking and avoid freezing/thawing
4. Avoid cooking to a high degree of doneness and reheating
5. Experiment with complimentary umami flavors to create a flavor explosion.
Enjoy the taste of beef and savor the flavor!