So this week I tried my hand at grass-finished ground beef. For Father’s Day my brother had the great idea of buying a box of grass-finished, Charolais freezer beef from Baldwin Beef, a farm that we pass on every road trip between my Mom inRaleigh,NC and the family lake house in Moneta,VA. For years we’ve admired the blonde cows grazing on their pastures, and talked of trying their beef. Now, we have!
While I openly support all sources of beef, our family always purchases conventionally raised products from the grocery store. Luckily, ourBaldwinbeef came with some helpful hints to cooking grass-finished super-lean products, including the necessity of using a much lower flame on the grill and longer cooking times.
So far, I’ve had 3 rounds of burgers from this box. The taste of corn-fed vs. grass-finished beef truly is different, just as everyone says. The first meal, prepared by my Dad on the charcoal grill, came out a little…heavy. The meat seemed very dense in each bite, which made it less tender and for me, less enjoyable. The second time my brother gave it a shot on the gas grill, and things turned out a little juicier and a lot better. I don’t know if he took even more time grilling than Dad had, or how the difference came about, but it was 10x better the second go-round. This week, I tried some myself. I was really surprised at how different the raw meat felt in comparison to my usual brand. I found it was more dense even in the package, with less of the stringy appearance you get in the grocery store, this was more a brick of solid gound beef. I had a hard time shaping my patty the way I wanted it to be, and it felt more…oily? Which I also found very surprising.
Now, everyone should also know that I am definitely no grill-master. I actually really hate grilling myself. I prefer enjoying the meal prepared by a grilling expert. But I do know the basics. I reduced the flame to its lowest setting and (very un-patiently) waited for the burger to look finished. I accidently cooked it medium (I prefer medium-rare), but that wasn’t so much an issue. It just wasn’t good.
I really think the problem is how dense it is, as weird as that may seem. In the case of ice cream (another one of my delights), air makes up the majority of the volume. If you were to make less aerated ice cream, you’d get more bang for your buck in square inches, but it jus wouldn’t have that heavenly deliciousness. I’m thinking that the little bits of air in a burger provided by pushing together long squiggles of ground beef is the biggest difference.
Am I crazy? Has anyone else felt this way? Is my family still cooking it incorrectly? Is it even a grass-finished difference across the board, or maybe just how this farm processes and packages their individual meat?