PCC Cooking Class: Grass-Fed Beef

I took a surprise grass-fed beef cooking class on Thursday night! 

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Aaron registered for the class months ago, but he’s been sick for the last two weeks and is still coughing like crazy. He decided it was best to skip it, but there was no way to get a refund or change his registration to a different class. Since the registration fee was a hefty $55 (it’s $50 if you’re a PCC member), I decided to take his spot so the money wouldn’t go waste.

And because I knew there would be delicious food to eat. Yum.

I probably needed this class more than Aaron, since he cooks all the meat in our house (BBQ, slow-cooker, oven, doesn’t matter — he cooks it) and I’m afraid I’d ruin it if I tried. We still have some of our grass-fed cow in the freezer, so now I actually know how to make perfectly edible and delicious burgers and steaks!

The class was held at PCC Natural Market, a natural food co-op local to the Puget Sound region, and taught by chef Darin Gagner, who was very knowledgeable and funny.

It was billed as a hands-on class, but rather than each of us manning our own food stations, Darin had all of the food up front and invited two people at a time to assist him with various parts of the food prep and cooking. I was up first, kneading a few pounds of ground beef and forming patties for burgers. (Grass-fed beef is much leaner than conventional beef, so kneading it helps evenly distribute what fat there is.) Then I was done and simply got to watch and take notes! I liked the format because it was a little less stressful than trying to keep up with every step for two-and-a-half hours.

First, we made grass-fed burgers with Beecher’s cheddar (my fave!), balsamic red onions, spicy aioli, and pickles.

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Even though the burgers were well-done, they were so juicy and flavorful! The only seasoning to the beef itself was a generous sprinkling of salt and a little pepper on both sides of the patties. I could have easily eaten a whole burger, especially since the toppings were perfect complements and the potato bun was incredible! Luckily I have the recipe to make at home.

Next, we made sesame, soy, and ale-marinated sirloin skewers with ginger and plum vinaigrette and baby lettuce salad. I ate this one before I remembered to take a photo, so just imagine a little skewer with alternating chunks of sirloin, shitake mushrooms, and green onion on a bed of greens. Very delicious!

The thing I found most interesting about this dish was that Darin insisted we should always use cheap, light-colored beer — Budweiser, Coors, Corona, etc. — for marinades rather than craft beer. The flavors in craft beer are too complex and can overpower the other flavors in the marinade and, ultimately, the meat. I would have thought tastier beers make tastier marinades, so this is good to know!

The final dish was dry-rubbed grass-fed rib-eye steak with cilantro-lime butter and grilled vegetables. 

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That cilantro-lime butter!!! Get it in your life ASAP:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • Zest of 1 lime, plus 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce

Beat butter in a mixer on medium-high until while and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Turn power off, add remaining ingredients, then mix on low for 1 minute. Keep at room temperature until ready to use. Leftovers can be refrigerated and brought back to room temperature before use.

Again, since grass-fed beef is lean, Darin recommends adding a bit of fat to it just before serving — a drizzle of good olive oil or a dollop of butter. Bonus points if it’s herb butter!

Here are some other tips on cooking grass-fed beef that I found really helpful (and that apply to conventional beef, too!):

  • Temper all steaks and roasts before cooking — let sit out for at least 30 minutes to come to room temperature. This will result in a more evenly cooked piece of meat.
  • Pat meat dry before cooking on a pan or grill so it doesn’t stick.
  • Sear meat on high for flavor, then finish cooking on a wire rack on top of a pan in a cooler oven (250 degrees or lower) or a cooler part of the grill.
  • Turn steak with tongs, not a fork.
  • Your most important kitchen utensil when cooking meat is an instant digital thermometer. Grass-fed beef can go from perfect to dry in one minute, so monitoring the temperature is key. Darin recommends ThermoWorks brand thermometers. The worst thing you can do to a steak is cut into it to check its doneness!
  • FDA guidelines recommend that steaks and roasts should be cooked to 145 degrees F for optional safety, but Darin recommends:
    • Rare: Remove from heat at 120 degrees and let rest for a final temp of 125 degrees
    • Medium-rare: Remove at 125 degrees for a final temp of 130 degrees
    • Medium: Remove at 135 degrees for a final temp of 140 degrees
    • Medium-well: Remove at 145 degrees for a final temp of 150 degrees
    • Well: Remove at 155 degrees for a final temp of 160 degrees
  • Let cooked meat rest for 5 to 8 minutes before cutting or serving. This allows all the juices and flavor to settle into the meat.
  • To easily clean a pan, add warm water and a few teaspoons of baking soda to the pan. Simmer on the stove with a lid on for a few minutes, then clean.

TMI? I found it all really interesting! But maybe just because I was there, ha.

I probably won’t do another PCC class because they are pretty pricey and I had hoped to eat more food than we did (I was still hungry when I got home), but maybe I’m just spoiled by my past experiences with cooking classes — namely this all-day, multi-course experience in Thailand. That was as close to heaven as I’ve even been!

Have you ever taken a cooking class?

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