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How to Cook Meat

(article, Keri Fisher)

You have to wonder about a meat cookbook that, in its introduction, boldly states that the typical American diet probably includes too much red meat. But then the authors clarify: Because Americans need to reduce the amount of red meat they eat, the meat they do eat better be damn good. So here’s how to do it right.

How to Cook Meat is a lot more than a cookbook; it’s become my go-to guide for all my meat needs. If I see a chuck roast on sale at the market, I’ll look it up to find out the best way to cook it. When I can’t remember at what temperature I’m supposed to remove lamb from the oven, I’ll check the cookbook. And when I want to prove to my sister that beef hearts are indeed edible, I’ll show her the recipe for them on page 149. 

The book covers the big four of meat (beef, veal, pork, and lamb) and divides them by cut (large tender, large tough, small tender, small tough, and odd cuts, such as offal). Running alongside the recipes are detailed descriptions of the cuts, as well as any other names the cuts go by as well as acceptable substitutions. There’s also “Cook Once, Eat Twice,” with tips on what to do with leftovers, and “Butcherspeak,” which provides further details or instructions to pass along to the butcher. 

Schlesinger and Willoughby are known for their culinary sense of humor (see their book Lettuce In Your Kitchen), and How to Cook Meat is no exception, with recipes such as You Gotta Have (Grilled Beef) Heart, A Severe Tongue Hashing with Turnips and Swiss Chard, Flintstones-Style BBQ Beef Ribs with Hot, Sweet, and Sour Bone Sauce, and a pork chapter subtitled “Swine of the Times.” The humor makes the book remarkably accessible.

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There’s also a bounty of meat info: diagrams, charts, and photographs, along with tips on how to buy, store, and freeze meat. (Don’t bother trying to dry-age it, write the authors; this technique is better left to professionals.) There are detailed descriptions of common cooking techniques (braising, roasting, etc.) and tips on assessing doneness. 

The bulk of the book features recipes for main courses, but there’s a small section of classic side dishes, including Baked Stuffed Potatoes, Creamed Spinach, Candied Sweet Potatoes, and Batter-Fried Onion Rings.  

Americans are very particular about meat, which makes it difficult to judge a meat book. While some folks might swoon over White Pepper-Crusted Black-and-Blue Steak Stuffed with Spicy Sesame Spinach and Soy-Wasabi Dipping Sauce, others might simply prefer their strip steak sprinkled with salt and pepper. But that’s why I love this book: it gives the general along with the specific. There's something in How to Cook Meat for everyone. Except vegetarians.

p(bio). Cookbook author Keri Fisher (One Cake, One Hundred Desserts) has written for Saveur, Gastronomica, and Cook's Illustrated. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and two sons.


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