Cooking Grass-Fed Beef and Other Lean Meats

By jacob dickson

You just bought a beautiful piece of locally raised, grass-fed beef, and I know you don’t want to disappoint both me and the farmer by making a mediocre meal with something so carefully raised and butchered. So here are some tips to make sure you get plenty of OOOH’s and AAAH’s at your next BBQ.

Because this beef is grass-fed, it is leaner than the grain or corn-fed beef you may be used to cooking with. Lean beef cooks much more quickly, and overdone lean beef can get dry and tough. For a nice, juicy steak or burger, its best to aim for cooking it rare to medium-rare.

To properly cook a porterhouse or ribeye (approx 1.25” thick), take the meat out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking. Once the beef is at room temperature, salt and pepper liberally, toss it into a thick cast iron skillet (or other heavy pan) that has been pre-heated (10 minutes over high heat) with canola oil, or onto your pre-heated grill. Cook over a high heat, 3-4 minutes on each side and remove from the heat. Let it rest (see RESTING) and enjoy!

If you are having trouble keeping your beef rare in the middle or are cooking a thinner cut of meat, you might want to start cooking while it is still a little cool, rather than waiting until it has reached room temperature. This will allow the outside to sear, while the middle cooks a little more slowly. Everyone’s grill/stove/pan setup is a little different, so it might take some practice to get optimal results. Don’t get discouraged – it will be worth it.

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By jacob dickson


Letting your beef rest after cooking is as important as the cooking itself. This goes for all meats and all cuts. Once you pull the meat out of the pan or oven or off of the grill, put it on a cutting board and let it chill for about 8-10 minutes, longer for larger pieces of meat.

If you cut into meat right after cooking, all of the juices will run out, leaving the meat dry and tough. While meat rests, it re-absorbs these juices and the amount of ‘doneness’ becomes consistent throughout piece of meat. This is probably the most important rule when cooking all meats.

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By jacob dickson

When it’s time to slice, it’s best to cut the beef across the grain and at an angle of about 45 degrees (rather than straight down, perpendicular to the cutting surface). By doing this, you will cut through as many muscle fibers as possible with each slice. In general, this will be across the short section of rectangular piece of meat (though this is not a hard and fast rule).

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Dry Aging – Why Does Old Meat Taste Better?

By jacob dickson

Dry aging is the process where an entire animal carcass or primal cut (whole rib or loin), without any type of covering on it, is placed in a refrigerated room at a specific temperature, humidity, and air velocity for 7-21 days.

During this process a crust forms on the outside of them eat, similar in texture to beef jerky. This layer is trimmed away after aging, leaving steaks that are superior in tenderness and flavor. During the dry aging process, the juices are reabsorbed into the meat, enhancing the flavor and tenderizing the steaks.

Forty years ago, most of our beef was dry aged. Yet in the early 1960’s the process of vacuum packing beef right after slaughter became the norm.

The advantage of this process was that processors could “wet age” the beef in the bag and not lose any of the weight of the beef due to evaporation and trim. During wet aging, the meat sits in its own juices causing the beef to have a wet, metallic taste. But wet aging was much more cost-effective for processors. As they changed over, consumers tastes followed — slowly, the consumer forgot what the real taste of steak was.

Currently 90% of the beef consumed in this country is wet aged. And nearly all dry aged beef that is available is only the premium cuts (Loin and Rib section). The image of Rocky in the meat cooler is pretty much myth at this point.

All of Dickson’s Farmstand meats are dry aged as full carcasses. Even your ground beef benefits from the wonderful process of dry aging.

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How Big Is Big Beef?

By jacob dickson

So how big is Big Beef and our industrial agriculture system, you might ask? Just thought I’d share some interesting (read: scary) numbers on where your beef did notcome from.

Nicholas Lampert

According to the USDA’s data for APRIL 2008:

  • Beef production: 2.25 billion pounds. Cattle slaughtered: 2.96 million animals
  • Pork production: 2.02 billion pounds. Pigs slaughtered: 9.99 million animals

You might wonder how it is possible to slaughter and process nearly 3 million cows and 10 million pigs in one month completely out of view of the American consumer?

The secret lies in huge factory slaughterhouses. At the largest of these operations, 400 cows are processed each hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The scale and speed of these facilities often leads to poor working conditions, inhumane handing practices, and contamination of the food supply. When so many animals are handled in a factory-like fashion, one sick animal can taint thousands of pounds of meat, as weíve witnessed with the huge beef recalls in recent years.

All of the meat at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats is processed by small, independently owned facilities. These are facilities where, during a busy day, 10 cows are slaughtered. This scale allows for the safe and humane handling of all animals. Great care is taken and the risk to your food is greatly diminished.

We are proud of the dedication and commitment of our small-scale processors, and we believe in complete transparency in this system of production and distribution. We want you to meet the people who bring you your meat. If you’d like, we will schedule a visit for you at any of our facilities (though it is not for the squeamish).

To Learn More About Factory Farming :

The Meatrix : Award Winning cartoon spoofs on The Matrix movie series that highlight factory farming practices and their evils.

Factory Farm Map : Put together by Food and Water Watch. Has an interactive map showing number of factory farms and animals by region and county. Lots of other great info as well on water quality issues and sustainable agriculture practices.

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What Does “NATURAL” Mean?

By jacob dickson

 Natural is a tough term to reliably and consistently define these days. The term is not regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in a way that is meaningful to consumers. “All Natural” on a label simply means “Minimally Processed.” This says nothing about the use of hormones, animal based feeds or antibiotics. “Naturally Raised” is thus becoming prevalent in the industry to cover that gap, but there is no fixed definition for this term either. Every producer and processor can define “natural” as they please- as long as that definition is registered with the USDA and made available to the consumer. So, for example, sometimes naturally raised means no antibiotics ever, and sometimes it means no prophylactic antibiotics administered, and sometimes it says nothing about antibiotics at all.

It is also important to note that the USDA only covers labeling claims, so pretty much any claim made in marketing materials or on a website is not verified by the agency.

Because of all of this ambiguity, we think it’s worth the effort it takes to buy your meat from a traceable, trusted source — whether that source is Dickson’s Farmstand or the farmer himself.

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Internal Temperatures for ‘Doneness’

By jacob dickson

 Beef and Lamb

  • Rare — 120° to 125°F — Center is bright red, pinkish toward the exterior portion.
  • Medium — 140° to 145°F — Center is light pink, outer portion is brown.
  • Well-Done — 160°F  and above — Uniformly brown throughout.


  • Chicken & Duck — 165°F — Cook until juices run clear.
  • Turkey — 165°F — Juices run clear. Leg moves easily.


  • Medium — 155° to 160° — Pale pink center.
  • Well Done — 160° and above — Uniformly brown throughout.

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Basic Cooking Instructions and Methods

By jacob dickson

 Roasts for use with :

  • Lamb Cuts : leg of lamb (bone-in or boneless), shoulder roasts, bone-in loin roast
  • Beef Cuts : top round roast, bottom round roast, standing rib roast, chuck roll roast
  • Pork Cuts : loin roast, fresh ham, pork shoulder roast
  • Poultry Cuts : whole or half chicken (or other bird)

Steaks and Chops for use with :

  • Lamb Cuts : loin chops, rib chops, shoulder chops, round-bone/arm chops, leg steaks
  • Beef Cuts : ribeye (bone-in or boneless), T-bone, porterhouse, NY strip, sirloin steak, flat iron, top round steak, chuck steak
  • Pork Cuts : bone-in loin chops, boneless loin chops, center cut pork chops
  • Poultry Cuts : boneless chicken breast, chicken thighs or legs, bone-in chicken breast

Braising for use with :

  • Lamb Cuts : lamb shanks, lamb neck slices,
  • Beef Cuts : short ribs, 7-bone chuck roast, cross-cut beef shank
  • Pork Cuts : fresh hocks, pork shoulder
  • Poultry Cuts : whole chicken (or other lean birds)

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