HOW TO GET THE BEST FROM YOUR BEEF

THE MAIN CUTS OF BEEF

STEAKS (rump, topside, entrecote, chateaubriand, mignon): Easy to cook, fried or grilled, with ever more complicated French refinements and sauces.

FILLET: The tenderest cut, smooth in texture, the most expensive, but lacking flavour.

SIRLOIN: A prime roasting cut. May need to be wrapped with extra fat.

RIB: Foreribs and wing ribs are the prized roasting cuts, the better for being roast on the bone. Oh, for a spit-roast to do a rib cut credit.

BRISKET: The breast, a cheap cut, usually boned and stuffed. In Jewish cooking, it is salted, boiled and pressed to make fatty and delicious salt beef.

CHUCK AND BLADE: Cheaper, tastier cuts ideal for casseroling.

SHIN: From the tough lower leg. But it lends itself to slow-simmering when it will yield its high gelatine content to add sumptuous texture to dishes.

MINCED BEEF: Well, what is steak tartare but minced raw beef. Cooked beef mince mustn't be sniffed at, the basis of many delicious nourishing dishes around the world. Cottage pie, starting on home ground.

WAYS OF COOKING BEEF

You've decided on meat from a suckler herd. The farmer and the butcher have handed over signed affidavits, the parents' birth certificates, photostats from the pedigree handbook, and a detailed diary of feed from the day it was born, and now you're on your own.

ROASTING: Obviously the favoured method. Witness the roast beef of Olde England, barons of beef and the sirloin of beef (it was King James I who knighted this piece of meat, Sir Loin).

FRYING AND GRILLING: The speedy route for tender steaks

STEWING, CASSEROLING: The fibrous nature of tougher, but tastier cuts, breaks down with slow cooking.

BRAISING, POT-ROASTING: The same procedure, but done in the oven.

BOILING, POACHING: Boiled (salted) beef and carrots is a great British dish (it is poached rather than boiled). But the French boeuf a la ficelle is a tender cut suspended in fast-boiling water. Unattractive finish, but juicy red meat.

COOKING TIMES

For rib beef allow 14 minutes per 500g (13 minutes per lb) plus 15 minutes for rare meat; 18 minutes per 500g (16 minutes per lb) plus 20 minutes for medium; 22-27 minutes per 500g (20-24 minutes per lb) plus 25 minutes for well-done.

TESTING FOR DONENESS

The most accurate method is to use a meat thermometer. Push it into the centre of the thickest part of the meat, without coming too close to the bone, before the joint goes into the oven. If you have to protect the meat with foil as it cooks, make sure that the meat thermometer stays outside the foil so that it can be easily read.

The thermometer will record the temperature at the centre of the meat, but remember that as the meat rests after the oven is turned off it will continue to cook in its own residual heat. So turn the oven off when the meat is still a few degrees short of being done to your liking. For rare beef, the thermometer should read 55C/130F (reaching a temperature of 60C/140F as it rests), for medium beef 65C/150F (reaching a temperature of 70C/160F as it rests), and for well-done beef, 75C/170F (reaching a temperature of 80C/180F).

If you don't have a meat thermometer, a metal skewer is you next best bet. Plunge the skewer into the heart of the meat and leave for 30 seconds. Pull it out and place the tip on the inside of your wrist. If it is cold, then the meat is not yet done. When it is warm, the meat is rare, when fairly hot it's medium, and when it's very hot it's well-done.

CARVING A RIB ROAST

1 Holding the meat in place with a fork, loosen the meat from the rib bones with a carving knife.

2 Carve the meat down towards the rib bones in thick or thin slices, according to preference.

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