Beef Cooking Techniques

The satisfaction of our beef cravings ultimately depends on how beef is cooked — it’s that important. A USDA Prime grade steak can be rendered inedible by improper cooking while a lower-grade cut can be greatly improved with proper cooking techniques.

Beef Cooking Methods

Beef develops its desirable flavor and aroma during cooking. True meaty flavor begins with the application of heat as it transforms proteins, carbohydrates and fats into their smaller, more flavorful components of amino acids, sugars and fatty acids.

All beef cooking methods fall into two main categories:
Dry Heat Methods and Moist Heat Methods.
For tender beef cuts use Dry Heat Methods and for less tender cuts use Moist Heat Methods.
Tender cuts come primarily from the middle of the animal – the rib and loin – because they are support muscles that receive less exercise and contain less connective tissue.

Less tender cuts come primarily from the front and hind sections of the animal – the chuck and round – because these are heavily exercised muscles that develop more connective tissue. While beef cooked in liquid develops a different flavor than beef that is roasted or broiled, heat in general produces the same effect on beef proteins.

As heat denatures myofibrillar proteins, they gradually shorten or toughen and
release liquid as connective tissues solubilize and begin to break down. The key internal temperature at which these changes begin to take place is 149°F. When beef with low amounts of connective tissue, such as loin and rib cuts, are cooked beyond this temperature, the additional heat continues to toughen them.

Fast cooking at higher temperatures is preferred (dry heat). Beef with higher levels of connective tissue, such as some chuck and round cuts, need longer, slower cooking (moist heat) to allow time for the connective tissue to convert to gelatin and become tender.

Dry Heat Cooking Methods:

  • Broiling
  • Grilling
  • Oven Roasting
  • Skillet Cooking/Sautéing/Stir-Frying

Characterized by quick cooking at higher temperatures, dry heat methods use uncovered
pans, direct heat and no additional liquid.  Best used with tender cuts, dry heat methods minimize the toughening effect of heat on muscle fibers.

Broiling & Grilling: Cooking time is critical in broiling and grilling since thinner cuts such as steaks, kabobs and burgers are cooked at higher temperatures and can easily overcook.

Oven Roasting: This cooking method takes place in an open pan in the oven without liquid. Lower oven temperatures result in less moisture loss, producing higher yields.
Some very tender cuts with less connective tissue can be roasted at higher temperatures with juicy, flavorful results: like tenderloin, rib and ribeye.

Stand Time: Since the internal temperature of a roast continues to rise after cooking, it’s best to remove the roast from the oven when the thermometer registers 5°F to 10°F below the desired doneness. Roasting illustrates how the protein denaturing process can sometimes be reversed.

If a roast is immediately carved after removing from the oven a substantial amount of juice is squeezed out and lost. But when the roast is allowed to stand for 15 to 20 minutes, the proteins are able to reabsorb some of the moisture that was released during heating, producing a firmer, juicier, easier to carve roast.

Sautéing/Stir-Frying: A variation of sautéing, stir-frying cooks thin, uniform beef pieces quickly in a small amount of fat in an open skillet or wok.

For best results, use tender beef cuts, though some less tender cuts, such as flank, can be stir-fried when cut into thin strips.

The classic Chinese technique called “velveting” enhances the texture of stir-fried beef strips with the aid of a cornstarch marinade. The cornstarch binds the flavors to the beef by sealing in juices and protects the beef during cooking.

Moist Heat Cooking Methods:

  • Braising/Pot Roasting
  • Cooking in Liquid/Stewing/Poaching

A slow, gentle process, moist heat methods take place over low heat in a tightly covered pan to which liquid has been added. The beef is typically browned before adding the liquid to add color and flavor.

Best used with less tender cuts, moist heat methods solubilize collagen and develop natural beef flavors. Steam, which is produced from the liquid and retained by a tight-fitting cover, converts tough collagen into tender gelatin. 

During long, slow cooking in moist heat, beef flavor components leach into the cooking liquid creating delicately flavored meat. The lack of strong browned beef aromas also reduces flavor intensity. So ingredients such as broth and wine are often used in place of water to produce a flavorful, aromatic sauce or gravy.

The difference between cooking in liquid/stewing and braising/pot roasting is in the amount of liquid. Cooking in liquid/stewing uses more liquid, usually enough to cover the beef.
Content Courtesy of the Beef Checkoff Program.

ThermoPro Wireless Remote Digital Cooking Food Meat Thermometer with Dual Probe

Matching Beef Cuts to Cooking Method

Use the chart below to help understand the recommended preparation method for a particular beef cut.

Matching Cooking Methods to

Beef Cuts Ensures Success

Pan-Broil Pan-Fry

Stir Fry

Grill

Broil

Roast

Braise

Stew

CHUCK

Beef Country-Style Ribs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7-Bone Chuck Steak

 

 

*

*

 

 

 

Chuck Tender Steak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arm Chuck Steak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chuck Eye Steak, Boneless

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flat Iron Steak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shoulder Steak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ranch Steak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petite Tender Medallions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short Ribs, Boneless

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arm Chuck Roast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Blade Roast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petite Tender Roast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denver Steak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RIB

Ribeye Steak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ribeye Roast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOIN

Porterhouse Steak /T-Bone Steak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strip Steak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tenderloin Steak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tenderloin Roast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SIRLOIN

Tri-Tip Steak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Sirloin Steak, Boneless

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tri-Tip Roast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Requires marinating for tenderization

Matching Cooking Methods to

Beef Cuts Ensures Success 

Pan-Broil Pan-Fry

Stir Fry

Grill

Broil

Roast

Braise

Stew

ROUND

Top Round Steak

*

 

*

*

 

 

 

Western Steak

*

 

*

*

 

 

 

Eye of Round Steak

*

 

*

 

 

 

Sirloin Tip Steak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sirloin Tip Center Steak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sirloin Tip Side Steak

*

 

*

*

 

 

 

Eye of Round Roast, Bottom Round Roast, Bottom Round Rump Roast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Round Roast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sirloin Tip Roast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHANK & BRISKET

Brisket, fresh or corned

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shank Cross Cut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLATE & FLANK

Skirt Steak

*

*

*

 

 

 

Flank Steak

*

*

 

 

 

OTHER CUTS

Ground Beef

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cubed Steak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stew Meat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kabobs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Requires marinating for tenderization

Degree of Doneness

Perfectly cooked, flavorful beef achieves a balance between the minimum amount of cooking needed for maximum palatability and food safety. Meat thermometers and the visual appearance of the beef aid in determining degrees of doneness.

Steaks, Roasts and Other Whole Muscle Cuts

  • 145°F medium rare
  • 160°F medium
  • 170°F well done

Ground Beef

    • 160°F medium
    • 170°F well done

Braised or Stewed Beef

  • Always well done, fork tender