Category Archives: Beef


For a few years I’ve been making pastrami simply by making this corned beef, then after the cure is finished, coating the meat with crushed coriander and black pepper, then hot-smoking to temperature. This is a method that has served me well, but I’ve been reading quite a bit about the Jewish delis of New York, most notably David Sax’s book Save the Deli. In his description of how the pastrami is made at Katz’s, there were two surprises to me.

First, he says that they don’t actually use brisket, but “navel”. This is definitely not part of standard Canadian meat-cutting nomenclature, but it’s described as being adjacent to the brisket, which made me wonder if it … Continue reading.


A bowl of chili with sour cream and cilantro.Chili is one of the great North American dishes, and one that is especially relevant and useful in modern life, as it is a hearty one-pot meal that can be put together and left to cook in a crock pot or low oven for several hours.

I’ll argue that the only two essential ingredients in chili are meat and beans.  When I was growing up that meat was always, always ground beef, though I have to say I really like using shredded or cubed braised beef like brisket or chuck.  For beans you are not beholden to the canned red kidney beans of my childhood: any and all pulses are great.  These days my kitchen always has dried pinto and … Continue reading.


A plate of goulash, Hungarian beef stew, served with ServiettenknödelnGoualsh is a beef stew originally from Hungary but eaten all over Central Europe.  It is the kind of preparation that Europeans will fight to the death over.  Matters like whether it is properly called a stew or a soup, whether it contains tomatoes, or potatoes, or what starch it is served with (if any) often become violent.  It is estimated that 12 Europeans are killed every year in goulash-related arguments.[1]

The following is an original recipe, inspired by the goulash made at Seewirtshaus in Semmering, Austria.  When I worked there they made a goulash similar to this using Maiboc (May deer) and served it with Serviettenknödel.  Many would take exception to my use of tomato paste and … Continue reading.

Corned Beef

Originally posted on March 18, 2012

Corned beef and its delicious, delicious juicesCorned beef, also known as salt beef and spiced beef, is a national dish of Ireland.  Recipes vary, but the cure is usually made of kosher salt, curing salt, a heap of brown sugar, and spices like clove, allspice, black pepper, and mustard seed.  The cured meat is gently simmered (usually in water, sometimes in beer) until tender, and can be eaten hot or cold.

To clarify, corned beef has nothing to do with maize.  “Corn” was once a broad English term for a small bit, whether a grain of wheat, or a crystal of salt.  “Corned beef” is beef that has been covered in corns of salt.[1]

Like most charcuterie, corned beef … Continue reading.

Burger Freak-Out

Originally published September 29, 2012.

Burger: A Sneak PeekThis summer I had a little burger freak-out.  I thought about hamburgers more in the last few months than my entire life previous, and I came to realize that, despite eating them for about twenty five years, I knew very little about them.

The following burger info will be obvious to many of you, but circumstances conspired to stunt my burger knowledge from a very young age.  For instance, the burgers I ate growing up were a bit like squished meatballs: they contained bread crumbs and eggs and were mixed to bind the ingredients together.  They were tasty and comforting, but they hampered my understanding of proper hamburger flavour and texture for years.  To aggravate … Continue reading.


Raw meatballs, ready for the ovenIn the summer of 2012 I spent a lot of time thinking about meatballs.  Mostly I thought about them as I was making them, which took several hours every other week.

They are a labour of love for certain.

Once you’ve mixed up the meat and the eggs and the milk and bread crumbs and whatever else you like, you could just press it into a loaf pan, call it meatloaf, and be done with it.  But you won’t do that, because you want meatballs.  Even though they’re awkward, and they roll around on your plate, and don’t quite fit into a submarine sandwich, you want them, because they’re fun.

And so you take the time to shape each … Continue reading.


Smoked brisketThe brisket is a special cut of meat: I  think it’s the toughest, fattiest cut of meat in common usage in western cooking.

The brisket is actually a pair of muscles, called the flat and the point in common parlance, on the breast of the cow, between the two forelegs.  These muscles sustain a good deal of the weight of the standing cow, and therefore contain a remarkable amount of connective tissue.

It takes ages to cook brisket.  Don’t get upset about this.  On the plus side, it is a low-effort process.

Even if you’ve never had brisket before, you will know when it is done cooking and ready to eat.  If you poke the meat it yields to your … Continue reading.

Know Your Steaks

Rib steaks, ready for the grillThis post is about the most expensive cuts on a side of beef: the standing rib, the striploin, the tenderloin, and t-bone and porterhouse steaks.


A Cow’s Skeletal Anatomy, Briefly…

The skull is connected to the neck, which connects to the backbone.  At the front of the back bone are the shoulder bones that connect to the front legs.  Farther down the backbone are the ribs.  A cow has thirteen ribs.  Backbones with ribs connected to them are called thoracic vertebrae.  Between the rib cage and the hip is a section of backbone that has no ribs.  These backbones are called lumbar vertebrae.  Then there is the hip bone, which connects to the hind legs.

When a cow is … Continue reading.

Beef Cutting: Breaking Beef Forequarter into Primals

This is a forequarter of nouveau beef from Nature’s Green Acres.  A side of beef is split into a forequarter and a hindquarter by cutting between the twelfth and thirteenth rib, which is the last rib.

A forequarter of nouveau beef from Nature's Green Acres


Cutting beef is more complicated than cutting pork, and I find I sometimes lose my way and forget where I am and what piece of meat I’m looking at.  To give you some idea of what we intend to accomplish in this post, here is a picture of the forequarter afterwards, broken into its subprimals.

All the primals and subprimals on a forequarter of beef


The first cut I make is between the fifth and sixth ribs.  At the top right of the picture below, above the backbone, is the standing rib … Continue reading.