Suet

SuetIf you have been listening closely to the lyrics of your favorite Christmas carols or paying attention to traditional holiday stories, you may have heard the word suet used. There are plenty of words in those songs and stories that are unfamiliar. But, have you ever wondered just what suet is? And what is it used for?

Suet is a hard, crumbly saturated fat found around the kidneys that comes mainly from cows but can also come from sheep. The fat is removed from the meat, clarified, chopped, and then boiled in water—which removes any impurities. When the mixture cools, the fat and water separate. The fat is the suet. Suet has a high smoke point which makes it ideal for deep frying or for use in making pastries. Though, bird enthusiasts know it works well in birdseed cakes.

Suet has a fairly bland and mild flavor with a slight meaty scent. But, there is no meat flavor when cooked. It is used mainly in traditional British foods like puddings and pasties. And, it is probably most associated with mincemeat pie. Suet provides a richness to British puddings that you just don’t get from butter. And, when used in pie crust the result is a very flaky texture that stands up well to a wet filling.

You may see instances where the words suet and tallow are used interchangeably. But in fact, they are two different things. Tallow is the rendered fat from a cow. It’s a little complicated but the easiest way to understand the difference is that suet is an ingredient used to make tallow. Tallow is also more shelf-stable.

Suet can be difficult to find on this side of the pond as it’s difficult to store. And, frankly doesn’t enjoy the same following as our British friends. You can find it online though. And, it might be worth a try if you want to give a traditional figgy pudding a go. Read more…

Thanksgiving Alternatives

Thanksgiving AlternativesIf one item could embody all that is Thanksgiving, it would be a turkey.
But, not everyone likes turkey. Whether it’s because of flavor, texture, or even cost, a turkey aversion can make planning the big meal a challenge.

Good news! There are a number of possible turkey alternatives for Thanksgiving.

  • If your aversion to turkey is because of the price tag, there are less expensive options.
    A turkey breast is a no-brainer. You still have the traditional turkey but less waste and more room in your oven.
  • There is never a bad time for a roasted chicken. A perfectly roasted chicken can bean out of body culinary experience and so much easier on your pocketbook.
  • If you are concerned about having enough or if you just want some leftovers, consider asking your butcher for a capon. Capons are sterilized roosters and tend to be larger than your average roasting chicken.
  • And don’t forget Cornish game hens. These little birds are great for small parties as they are a single serving on their own.

For those who want to go in another direction, the possibilities are endless.
We have an excellent list of festive roasts on this blog post. And, a few are highlighted below. Read more…

Cornish Game Hens

Cornish Game HensYou’ve probably seen Cornish game hens in the meat case or even in the frozen section and wondered what they were and even more importantly, how do you eat them?

Cornish hens are the smallest of the commercial chicken family. Normally weighing between one to two pounds, they have a great chicken flavor with meat that is fall-off-the-bone tender. And, because of their small size and affordable price, they are the perfect one-person portion for dinner. They are also a great alternative at Thanksgiving for those who don’t like turkey.

Cooking a game hen is as easy as cooking a regular-sized chicken—although you do have to adjust the time down. Roasting is by far the best way to prepare these hens. However, nothing should stop you from braising or throwing a couple on your grill. Check out our recipe for Lemon-Rosemary Game Hens in our archive.

How To Roast a Cornish Game Hen
Roast game hens in a 45º0 F oven until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest breast meat registers 155º F (about 20 to 25 minutes).

After you pull the chicken from the oven, tent it with foil and let it rest undisturbed for at least 10 minutes to let the temperature come up another five to ten degrees and enjoy!

Seasoned Cornish Game Hens Recipe
Adapted from Phuong for All Recipes
Yields 4 servings
Read more…

Ground Meat

Ground MeatGround meat seems like a pretty self-explanatory thing. It’s meat that’s been put through a grinder to be used as burgers, meatballs, or in a pasta sauce. But, there is more to it than that. For example, ground beef is available in as many as five different versions, depending on how much fat you want in your meal. And, of course, almost any meat can be ground and used in your recipes from turkey to rabbit to buffalo. Depending on the grind, your options on how you use that meat can be endless, too.

Below are some of the most popular ground meats, their fat content, and popular uses:

Ground Beef
80/20: Generally comes from the chuck area of the cow which is located up by the shoulder. Contains 80% muscle and 20% fat. This grade is considered the best option for juicy burgers and accounts for the bulk of ground beef consumed.

85/15: Typically comes from the chuck area of the cow. But, can also come from the round cut towards the back of the cow. While still juicy, this grade contains less fat which may be a better option for those who want a tasty but leaner burger.

90/10: This grade has the least amount of fat and generally comes from the sirloin area of the cow. The sirloin is where cuts like filet mignon come from and for that reason, the 90/10 grade tends to be more expensive. The smaller fat content makes it the healthier option. But, you need to be careful not to overcook the meat and dry it out. However, this grade can be a great choice if you plan to mix it with ground pork for meatballs since pork tends to be fattier than beef. The flavor will still be there, but with less fat. The same would be true if you wanted to make a meat ragu for pasta.

Ground Buffalo
Leaner than ground beef at a 90/10 ratio, buffalo or bison has great flavor and is an obvious choice as a beef substitute for burgers.

Ground Pork
Usually made from pork shoulder, ground pork is often not labeled with a fat ratio. In general, ground pork contains 15% fat. Perfect for pork burgers or for mixing with other meats for meatballs, meatloaf, or pasta sauces.

Sausage Grade Ground Pork: can contain up to 20%-30% fat and is generally sold as bulk pork sausage.

Ground Turkey
Ground Turkey Breast: This is essentially fat-free, which means you have to be careful when cooking it to prevent drying. It is also ridiculously versatile so you can use it for anything from tacos to burgers—though you may have to add a little fat for the burgers.

Ground Turkey Thighs: Also called ground turkey dark meat, it is 85% lean which means it has a 15% fat content. The fat content makes it great for turkey burgers, meatloaf, or meatballs but may not be the best choice for those looking to cut back the fat.

Check out some of our favorite recipes using ground meat:  Read more…