Cooking meat: Your questions answered

It’s a question you’ve asked more than you probably want to admit: “How do I cook this meat?!” Whether it’s sirloin steak or a slab of pork that has you baffled, if you haven’t cooked the meat before you’ve likely got questions. From prep to carving, we’ve investigated the dos and don’ts of meat and answered the questions you’ve always wanted to ask.

My meat or poultry is tough and dry. How can I improve its texture?

Ah, tough meat—the bane of home cooks all over Ireland. You follow the instructions on the packaging to a t and somehow it’s still the texture of an old boot. It’s always frustrating but there are a number of steps you can take to make sure your meat is juicy and tender.

  • First things first, make sure your meat is in date and was packaged properly. If you’re using your freezer stash, make sure you remove any part of the meat that might have changed colour or texture due to freezer burn.
  • Meat can become rubbery when defrosting in the microwave, so defrost naturally when you have the time.
  • As far in advance as you can, marinade your meat using a mixture of oils, vinegars, seasoning and Asian sauces like teriyaki and soy sauce—if you have a taste for it. Avoid using extra salt in your marinades as it toughens the meat. Instead, salt when cooking.
  • Like eggs or any other protein, meat should be cooked slowly at a medium-high heat. If roasting, first sear the surface of the meat by flouring and browning the meat on the pan before placing it in the oven.
  • To keep the meat moist when cooking, coat with oil, butter or a little bit of both before cooking. Make sure you baste regularly using the juices in the pot. Yes, it’s quite a bit of work but your taste buds will thank you for it!
  • Rest your meat by covering it in tinfoil after removing it from the cooker. It’ll taste much better as any juices will soak back into the meat without it losing all of its heat.
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And what about brining? Does it actually matter?

If you like your meat juicy (and who doesn’t?) brining is something you should get familiar with. Brining is submerging your meat into a bowl of water with salt dissolved in it. It’s particularly good for lean cuts of meat.

Any lean meat can be brined, but it’s uncommon for beef to be brined. How long you should brine for depends on the quantity of meat you are using. If you are brining a whole turkey this could take 12-24 hours. If you are brining a ½ kilo of prawns, that should only be brined for 30 minutes. We don't suggest you brine foods that say ‘in brine’ on the label as these are likely already soaked.

Say goodbye to dry, tough cuts forever.

If beef tartare is safe to eat, does that mean it’s okay to touch raw meat and not wash your hands?

Nope! Bacteria tends to live on the exterior of a meat joint, so if you’re cutting into the meat, the germs will be exposed. Chicken and pork are hotbeds for bacteria and should be handled with extreme care.

We’re about to sound like a cross mum, but always wash your hands immediately after touching raw meat, especially if you’re cooking for babies or sick or elderly people as they can be more sensitive to meat bacteria.

How rare is too rare?

Bacteria lives in the surface of red meat and lamb, so once the surface is seared or cooked properly, it’s safe to eat. Salt and acid (like lemon juice or vinegar) can provide anti-bacterial benefits too.

Minced meat can pick up more bacteria through the mincing process and can be trickier to deal with. Most people avoid making risky dishes like beef tartare at home and leave it to professional chef who will use ultra-fresh meat that has been cut using a sterile mincer or knife.

I’m cooking for my in-laws and want to ace a classic Sunday roast. Any tips?

Prepare as much as you can the night before to avoid causing yourself (even more!) stress.

  • Marinade and cut the meat in advance.
  • The morning of, cover the joint in a mix of dried herbs and plain white flour. Rotate the joint on a hot, oiled pan until the edges are sealed and browned. Transfer to an oven-proof dish, add onions, garlic and seasonings and pour in a generous splash of red wine (serve yourself a glass if needed!) and place in the oven.
  • For rare meat, cook at 240°C for 15 minutes per 500g. For medium, 220°C for 20 minutes per 500g and for well done, 220°C for 20 minutes per 500g.

Top Tip: Carving matters. Meat is composed of muscle fibres which go in the direction of the grain of the meat. By carving against the grain, you’ll sever these fibres and your meat will be gorgeously tender.

And voila, a chef-quality roast!

Whatever meat you need, we’ve got it

Your local Tesco is stocked full of quality Irish meat.  If you’ve got any meat-related questions we’ve missed, ask us on Twitter or Facebook