After all the festive feasting and drinking in recent months, it’s the opportune time to looking at detoxing and giving your body a deep reset.

Keeping an eye on your diet and adopting a healthy lifestyle is key to this. Now, having a balance meal plan in play will no doubt help. Contrary to popular perceptions, red meats like beef and lamb can be your friend in your journey to eat better and stay lean and healthy in the new year.

The secret of course is knowing how to choose healthiest and leanest cuts of red meat and knowing how to cook them to retain the flavours. This will help you eliminate the need for heavy creams and dressings to spruce up your dish.

Chef Samuel Burke, product & business development manager and corporate chef for Meat & Livestock Australia, reveals more about the subject of red meat. From dispelling misconceptions and benefits to choosing the healthiest and leanest cuts of red meat, the chef and meat expert reveals more about his cuts and how to best cook them.

Chef Samuel Burke (Image: Meat & Livestock Australia)

There’s an opinion or thought that many perceive that beef and lamb are unhealthy for you. Is this a general misconception?

Yes, not all beef and lamb are the same. When it comes to choosing healthy proteins, lean Australian beef and lamb are a delicious and healthy choice for beefing up your high-quality protein needs. With Australian cattle and lamb raised predominately on pasture, these beef and lamb products are lean and naturally contain 12 essential nutrients required for good health, including Iron, Zinc, Omega-3 and B vitamins.

Can beef and lamb be easily incorporated into diets to stay lean and healthy?

No single food can provide all the nutrients that your body needs. That is why you need to eat a wide variety of foods in the right amounts to meet your daily nutritional needs. As a simple visual guide, we can refer to My Healthy Plate designed by the Health Promotion Board of Singapore which recommends individuals to have a quarter plate of protein for each meal.

Additionally, lean meat is recommended over meat with high fat content. Lean red meat has similar amounts of saturated fat compared to skinless chicken. Trimmed of separable fat, lean beef has on average 1g saturated fat per 100g raw weight.

Does red meat consumption in moderation benefit overall health and wellbeing?

(Image: Farhad Ibrahimzade/Unsplash)

Most definitely! Red meat is one of the best sources of well absorbed iron (otherwise known as heme-iron) and zinc, more effective than the iron and zinc found in plant-based foods. Iron is important for energy, brain function, healthy growth, and development particularly in babies, toddlers and children, and zinc is important for a healthy immune system. Because Australian cattle and lamb are predominantly pasture raised, they are also a source of Omega 3 fatty acids, the same ‘healthy’ fat found in fish which contributes to heart health.

What are the general rules used when selecting the healthiest and leanest cuts of red meat?

When choosing your lean cuts, always look out for meat that has a nice cherry-red tone instead of a dull brown. Good quality beef and lamb should also be firm to the touch. When picking your meat, look closely at the fibre. They should be tight and correctly cut, with the grains pointing in one direction.

Additionally, fresh meat should be neutral in odour – it should not emit any strong pungent odour that doesn’t dissipate after a few minutes. You should also ensure that the packaging of your meat is properly sealed and undamaged, with an acceptable use-by date. I always choose beef and lamb from a reliable butcher and country of origin.

What are the general cuts of lean meats we should look out for?

I recommend picking cuts with lesser marbling, which are the flecks of fat found between the muscle fibre bundles. Another easy option is to trim away the visible fat around the edge of the meat. For the healthiest cuts of beef, look for cuts that require little to no trimming of visible fat. These include the bottom and top round, tenderloin, sirloin, flank, and shank. For lamb, choose the eye of loin.

Do these cuts still retain the natural full flavour of the meat?

(Image: Eiliv-Sonas Aceron/Unsplash)

Grass fed beef and lamb are said to have a robust, earthy flavour and excellent texture. It can vary in flavour, texture, and tenderness due to Australia’s considerable differences in cattle breeds, pasture quality and type, soil type, topography, and climatic conditions.

Meanwhile, cattle that are finished on grain tend to have a buttery flavour, smooth texture, and deliver consistent eating quality. To fully maximise the flavour, increase tenderness, and prevent the meat from drying out, it is important to choose the right cooking technique. As a rule of thumb, leaner meat cooks about 30% faster with most techniques so it is important not to overcook the meat.

What are your favourite ways to cook these cuts?

Loin cuts have little fat cover and are best grilled or pan-fried at high heat to retain moisture, tenderness, and flavour. On the other hand, cuts with high amounts of connective tissues and muscles like the blade, brisket, or round taste best with slow cooking methods. Braising and roasting help to tenderise the meat. Meanwhile, the flank is a more versatile cut that can stand up to both quick and slow cooking methods.

What’s your advice on how to prepare a delicious lean steak for a meal?

samuel burke

As mentioned, leaner meat also cooks about 30% faster with most techniques so I would advise using a meat thermometer to check for doneness of your beef and lamb. To achieve a consistent cook for your lean steak almost every time, I recommend bringing your meat to room temperature before cooking, so you get that nice sizzle and crust for your steak.

Meats that are cold inside will release water, which kills the heat in the pan. I also season the meat just prior to placing it on the pan by rubbing it with some olive oil (instead of directly on a pan for a more even cook), salt and pepper, and letting the flavours penetrate for at least 40 minutes.

To cook the lean steak, preheat the pan to hot before placing the meat onto the pan for the crust to form, then reduce to medium to let it continue cooking. Once it’s done on the stove, I always rest my steak – between 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the cut – before carving, and allow it to stand for 3 to 5 minutes before serving so that the juices have time to redistribute. This is to ensure every bite is perfectly moist and juicy when I slice into the steak.

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written by.
Richard Augustin
Former chef turned writer; Richard has tip-toed around the publishing industry for two decades. When not busy chasing deadlines, you can still find him experimenting with recipes in the kitchen.

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