Understanding Meats and Game

eat is muscle tissue. It is the flesh of domestic animals (cattle, hogs, and lambs) and of wild game animals (such as deer). As a cook, chef, or food service operator, you will spend more of your time and money on meats than on any other food.

It is important, then, to understand meats thoroughly in order to cook them well and profitably. Why are some meats tender and some tough? How can you tell one cut from another when there are so many? How do you determine the best way to cook each cut?

In order to answer questions like these, it is helpful to start at the most basic level of composition and structure. We then proceed to discuss grading and inspection, basic cuts, and appropriate cooking and storage methods. In addition, we discuss the characteristics of variety meats and of popular game meats. Only then can we best approach the individual cooking methods and recipes presented in the following chapters.

After reading this chapter, you should be able to

1. Describe the composition and structure of meat and explain how they relate to meat selection and cooking methods.

2. Explain the use of the federal meat inspection and grading system in selecting and purchasing meats.

3. Explain the effect that aging has on meat and identify the two primary aging methods.

4. Identify the primal cuts of beef, lamb, veal, and pork, and list the major fabricated cuts obtained from each of them.

5. Select appropriate cooking methods for the most important meat cuts, based on the meat's tenderness and other characteristics.

6. Prepare variety meats.

7. Identify the characteristics of game meats and select the appropriate cooking methods for them.

8. Determine doneness in cooked meat.

9. Store fresh meat and frozen meat to gain the maximum shelf life.

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