Whether you’re an experienced cook or a beginner, choosing the best cuts of beef and pork at the grocery store meat counter can be confusing. The wide variety of choices alone is enough to make any shopper wonder what to buy – and how to prepare it once he or she gets home.
Ann Marie Bosshamer, executive director of the Nebraska Beef Council, has some answers. She and her husband, Brian, and young daughters, Breanna and Brooke, raise beef cattle on their farm near Amherst in south central Nebraska.
“We farmers are feeding our families the same beef we raise for your family,” Bosshamer says. “We take pride in the care and well-being of our animals, and we try to do it better each day.”
Cuts of Beef
Ground beef is a “must-have” ingredient in the Bosshamer household, thanks to its versatility.
“You can do so many things with ground beef – burgers, meatloaf, burritos, lasagna. It’s a staple protein for consumers on a budget,” Bosshamer says. “You can purchase a 10-pound package of ground beef on special, break it up into 10, 1-pound portions, and pop it in the freezer, and you have 10 meals at a great price.”
Steaks such as rib eyes, New York strips and filets are popular cuts, though they tend to be costly.
“Steaks are wonderful, and I love a good rib eye,” Bosshamer says. “Sirloin steak is also great because it’s more affordable and can be sliced and made into fajitas or stir-fry.”
One of Bosshamer’s go-to meals is a pot roast or stew meat, which she cooks on low in the slow cooker.
“As a working mom, I don’t have much time to cook between our kids’ piano lessons, basketball practice and other activities,” she says. “It makes sense to put dinner in the Crock-Pot in the morning, and then it’s ready when we are. I use my favorite steak seasoning on the roast with some potatoes and carrots.”
Bosshamer recently discovered a new pot roast recipe her family loves.
“You put the roast in the Crock-Pot with dry ranch dressing mix, beef bouillon or au jus mix, a half-stick of butter, and some pepperoncini peppers, and just let it go all day,” she says. “You don’t even add any liquid because the roast has its own juices. It’s wonderful – even my 5-year-old loves it.”
A chuck roast works best because it has more marbling and flavor than other roasts. “A rump roast, for example, doesn’t have as much fat as a chuck roast, so it won’t be as juicy,” she says. “The key with preparing any roast is to cook it slow and low.”
For more ideas on the variety of ways to prepare beef, visit beefitswhatsfordinner.com. The website features an interactive butcher case, as well as different cuts of beef and recipe ideas.
Cuts of Pork
Brian Zimmerman knows a thing or two about selecting a great cut of pork. He raises hogs with his wife, Tammy, at Zimmerman Hog Farms near Beatrice. They have around 200 sows of multiple breeds.
“When it comes to pork, there are two types of meat – one is enhanced with tenderizers for added texture and flavor, and the other is all-natural,” Zimmerman says. “The enhanced pork is good for people who don’t know a lot about cooking, because you can’t mess it up. It’s always tender and juicy. The all-natural pork is for cooks who are more rigid about special preparations and temperatures.”
Although Zimmerman’s three children are grown, they still come home to Mom and Dad’s freezer to stock up on pork.
“We give our pigs plenty of room in a clean environment to be healthy, so we rarely use antibiotics,” he says. “I enjoy being a pork producer because I get to follow the process from A to Z – from selecting the genetics to keeping them healthy to preparing and consuming the end product.”
Zimmerman suggests cooking a pork loin to a temperature of 145 degrees, then loosely covering it with foil and letting it rest. It will continue to cook even after being removed from the heat.
“One of the most popular cuts is a whole boneless pork loin, which is nothing but muscle, which is all meat,” he says. “You can find it for about $1.50 a pound, and if you like pork chops on the grill, you can slice the pork loin and grill it like chops. That’s an economical way to eat pork chops.”
Zimmerman prefers the flavor of bone-in chops over boneless.
“I like to get the bone-in chops cut to about an inch and a quarter thick, grill them to about 140 degrees, then let them rest,” he says. “You can use any seasoning you prefer. We like garlic pepper. It’s important to not overcook pork, so stick a meat thermometer in it.”
The Zimmermans use fresh ground pork when they prepare casseroles, Mexican or Italian dishes, rather than sausage.
“We think it adds more flavor,” says Zimmerman, who prefers Berkshire pork. “It’s richer and sweeter than other breeds, with lots of internal marbling. You can find Berkshire pork if you hunt for it.
“My favorite meal is a pork roast. Add the seasonings and vegetables you prefer, cook it on low for 10 hours, and you’ll never have a better, easier meal in your life. This week, I added a bottle of root beer to the Crock-Pot. Have fun with different tastes. Try the unexpected.”