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FAQs

What are Beef Cheeks?  

It's the cheek muscle.  Remember, all meat is muscle, and when you are thinking about cuts of meat or tender versus not-so-tender, think about the animal and how it moves.  It's legs move all the time, it's legs are connected to it's shoulders and butt. Shoulder and butts require tenderizing.  Now think of the cheek, moving every time the animal chews.  The cheek muscle definitely has a daily workout!

I could tell by looking at the cheek raw that it had the potential for being a tough piece of meat. My beef cheek was about .80 lbs, and it just wasn't a pretty cut of meat.  It had zero fat, that silver skin on it, and there were sinewy bits and pieces here and there.  I removed the silver skin and the sinewy things.  Having a good sharp knife is an essential kitchen tool and makes trimming meat this way an easy task.  Once I removed the silver and sinewy things,  I covered the cheek with flour, salt and pepper (I use a plastic bag and shake to coat) and then browned it on both sides in olive oil.   I removed the cheek from the pan and put it in the bottom of the slow cooker/crock pot.  I then deglazed the pan with balsamic vinegar and worcestershire sauce, scraping the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan with a spatula to blend.  I added a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes and sprinkled dried onion into the mixture. (I discovered I had no fresh onions yesterday morning, so I used what I had in the pantry).   I stirred in two tablespoons or so of South County Apiary's dark honey and 2 tsp+/- of rosemary and removed the mixture from the heat. I cut two of the last peppers from the garden into large pieces and stirred those in the tomato mixture.  The last ingredient added to the tomato mixture was a little edible striped pumpkin which I peeled and cut into chunks.  I poured the mixture over the browned cheek and let the crock pot cook on high for 3 hours, then low for 6 hours.  (The next time I'll cook it on low for 8 hours and turn to warm.)  I had planned to serve it with spaghetti squash, but got home too late to cook that, so we had it with rice. 

The crock pot was giving off a great aroma when I walked in the door.  When I opened the pot it was a little burned on one side of the top (hence my note to cook it on low next time and turn to warm at 8 hours).   The beef cheek was still whole, and I removed it to a plate.  It was firm as I sliced it with a sharp knife.  (This is where I started to get nervous - slow cooked all this time, not falling apart, would this even be chewable?)  I served the slices on the rice with the sauce over the top.   The peppers were still identifiable as peppers, but the pumpkin chunks had become part of the sauce.   

The cheek had a rich beef taste, similar to the shank, but firmer.  The texture was dense, but the slices on the plates were fork-cutting tender.  It turned out to be a tender and delicious dish.  

I filed he beef cheek under "economical beef cuts" for braising and other slow cooking methods. 

 What is the hanger steak and how do I cook it?  

The Hanger Steak is one of the Flat Steaks.  It is a strip of meat from the underside of the beef cow. It hangs between the rib and the loin and is part of the diaphragm. Like the Flat Iron and Skirt Steaks, the Hanger Steak is flavorful, but it can be tough if not prepared correctly. The Hanger is grainy in texture, and is best when sliced on the bias (against the grain).  It is favored for fajitas.  While you can use most any method to cook the Hanger, it does have a tendency to dry out and be tough when cooked with dry heat (grilled or broiled).   Moist methods of cooking, or dry methods such as grilling after first marinating, help to prevent this lean cut from drying out and becoming tough.  Suggestions for preparing your hanger steak:  

  • Tenderize with your Jaccard tenderizer;
  • Marinate (prepared or making your own, remember the acidic ingredient); and
  • Braise (cooking with moist heat – think slow cooker and Dutch oven).

 How do you tell which cut is the most tender?

Meat is muscle. The easiest way to think about whether a cut of meat is naturally tender or not is to think about the animal that your meat comes from, how the animal moves, and the part of the body where the cut originates.  Remember, our livestock live outside, in fields where they graze, run, race, buck, kick up their heels, as well as nap and sleep.  In other words, they are not couch potatoes.  What is grazing?  It's constant walking and eating grasses and other plants, picking out the best tasting ones.  What parts of the body (muscles) move the most? The legs - four of them.  What part of the body moves the least?  The loin area.

So are the loin cuts the best cuts?  

There's no doubt that the loin cuts are delicious. They are also easiest to cook - most can be thrown on the grill on low and before you know it they're on your plate. But we're here to tell you that the more economical cuts are just as, if not more, delicious!

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