Here’s another guest post from our favorite ChefBear. He shot me an email the other day with this information and I thought it was relevant because once the SHTF we’re not going to want to waste food. Well, I’ve come across steaks in the ‘fridge like he describes here and threw them out, when in fact if I’d had this info I could have cooked them and enjoyed them like he did here.
by ChefBear, a prepper and chef
Salvaging Old Meat
Hello again folks in SHTF Blog land! I have new a cooking topic for you guys today… What’s new right?! Well this particular article came to me while I was cleaning out the refrigerator this morning; I came across a VERY nice, VERY expensive cut of Dry Aged USDA Prime Organic Rib eye. I had purchased this wonderful, delicious, 1.5” thick cut, 24oz, $22/lb steak to cook for my girl and myself… well 2 weeks went by and she kept having to work mandatory overtime at, so the worst part is I didn’t get to spend time with her, but almost as tragig… this BEAUTIFUL hunk ‘o’ steer just sat in the fridge and was almost forgotten.
Luckily the over-packed refrigerator had finally got on my nerves to the point where I felt it HAD to be cleaned! The reason for this spontaneous cleaning adventure was a full pickle jar falling on the top of my foot!
Needless to say, I was cleaning out of sheer anger. But when I came across the formerly “breathtaking” steak, I almost shed a tear! The surface had started to turn grey (weird for dry aged beef) and it was starting to develop a funky smell, but hope was not lost yet! I knew I had to act fast, so I fired up my sautoir (large, straight sided, deep sauté pan) with a little bacon grease and got to work.
How to Cook Meat Past its Prime
First, after preheating the pan, I inspected the steak more closely, everything seemed OK, just lacking it’s former glory. I then gently rinsed off the surface with warm (~130F water) to try and improve the chances of removing any uninvited guests (pathogens… i.e. bacteria), gave it the smell check again, and everything seemed kosher (pardon the pun).
Then I commenced to seasoning the steak, fresh cracked black peppercorns, flaked kosher salt, little touch of garlic powder and into the pan it went. Cooked it for 4 minutes on both sides (and edges because of the thickness) over high heat to form a nice “crust”, deglazed the pan with cognac and beef stock, let that reduce a bit, added sliced shallots and a little fresh sliced garlic with about 2 cups of Merlot, and threw it into the oven for about 35 minutes @425F. IT WAS AMAZING!
That might have been a lengthy explanation for the idea which came to me at the thought of having to throw out that wonderful cut of meat, because I forgot about it… Sorry, here is the point. We often think that just because meat is a little “past its prime” it’s no longer OK to eat. This is not always the case, yes if the meat smells like 3 month old DEATH, it’s probably not wise to eat. However, our digestive systems are tougher than we give them credit for!
There are actually recipes from other countries which were developed to save valuable food resources by making use of meat that is “on the edge”, like Sauerbraten from Germany (or Eastern Europe). Knowing how to spot meat that is still OK to eat is a great skill for extending your food options Post SHTF. Cooking these less than prime cuts is another important skill to learn.
Things to Look for on Old Meat
When you are evaluating a questionable piece of meat there are a few things to look for…
- Ground meat usually goes bad faster than “whole muscle” meat like steak, when it does use it for bait or give it to mans best friend!
- Oxidation is normal, a slight grey color is ok, when the meat starts turning green and getting a rotten smell, then it’s time to REALLY question it.
- If the cut of meat is big enough, you might be able to trim some of the “off color” parts and retain some good meat from underneath.
- If the meat is discolored and has a SLIGHT foul smell, try rinsing the meat with warm water and then dry it with paper towel/kitchen towel, smell it again, if the smell is gone or greatly reduced it should be okay.
- If you know where the meat has been (i.e. your fridge) then you can be relatively sure it has been kept at an appropriate temperature, and the bacteria growth which causes it to spoil should be reduced compared to meat from an unknown source (i.e. a deer carcass found in the woods).
Another important thing to remember, because “whole muscle” cuts, like steak and roasts, are cut from a solid muscle. The bacteria that causes it to spoil is usually limited to the surface of the meat, or just below the surface. Compare that to hamburg, which is ground up and exposed to a lot more air.
Whenever you are cooking meat that could possibly have an excess of bacteria present in it, it’s a REALLY GOOD IDEA to cook the hell out of it!
I know, you are probably saying, “But Chefbear if I cook the hell out of the meat it will be all tough and dry, then I won’t want to eat it and I will just have to go hungry…”
Vacuum Sealing Side Note: Buying a vacuum sealer like this Geryon pictured to the right can greatly extend the shelf-life of meat (and other foods) in your freezer. If you find yourself throwing freezer burnt food out, a sealer like this could pay for itself in no time.
NOT SO! When you apply the proper cooking technique you can be sure you have obliterated the majority of the bacteria present (it is not possible to kill it all, those bastards are tough for such little guys!) and have a juicy, tender delicious resulting product. The method I usually employ is called “braising.”
Braising consists of searing the meat on all sides to obtain a golden-dark brown color (not burnt), then deglazing the pan with a flavoring liquid, vegetables such as onions, carrots, celery/celery root, potatoes, turnips… almost any vegetable can be added, and then the entire pan is placed into an oven at about 325F for several hours, adding liquid if needed.
This can also be done right on the cook-top, or even better in a Dutch oven. Also, tougher cuts of meat tend to work better because they have more connective tissue (connective tissue= gelatin, gelatin mimics the texture/flavor of fat and helps retain the juicy texture). This cooking technique can also be applied to parts of the animal often overlooked by other people, like the neck, shanks, breast (like veal breast, looks similar to raw veal bacon), ribs and even tougher bits of meat trimmed from larger cuts while butchering.
Another great thing about braised dishes, is that with a little “finesse” you can turn the left over to make stew, with VERY little extra effort. Both of the resulting dishes (braised meat/stew) go great with some home-made bread, and if you are resorting to less than desirable meat you might not have a whole lot on your shelves, so check out this article I wrote a few weeks ago for ideas on bread to go with your meat/stew.
Prime Rib Past Its Prime Summary
Thanks again guys, I hope I have helped to expand your food/cooking options just a little bit more!
Have you ever tried to “salvage” some meat that is “past its prime”? How did it turn out? What cooking method did you use? Do you foresee braising in your future? As usual, any questions, comments, concerns you may have just let me know and I will address them to the best of my abilities!
My wife liked the ”Beans, Bullets & Band Aids” Jumbo tote bag 🙂 I was sort of hoping that she wouldn’t, so I could keep it. ps-readers from Arizona, please click on my name to see what’s going on locally. thanks.
Great post. Now to try and convince my wife……
Jarhead and Ranger Man:
What’s the weather like in your neck of the woods at the time of this posting? Probably a whole lot less snow than up here. Were making up for the past 2 months I suppose. Should make for a nice Can-Am Crown. Too bad for the Biathletes that we didn’t have all that snow you had and had to use machines to make it. Oh well.
It’s been quiet here for the last couple of days weather-wise. Plenty of snow, but nothing fresh has fallen in a week.
NoMEPreppy- Believe me I understand the challenges of explaining the need to salvage meat to the “significant other”, although I can say that for me it wasn’t as hard as it could have been. I simply say “I am trained to cook the best tasting, most biologically safe food possible”, that works about 99% of the time, but you might have to be a bit more creative. One idea is to tell her “I am just trying to not only save us some money right now, but also trying to figure out the best way to get the most out of what food we might be stuck with in an emergency”. Explain to her some of the points I raised in the article, like the fact that whole muscle meats (like my steak) are only really at risk of bacterial infection on/near the surface, and that if the meat is not good near the center you plan on cooking it up and giving it to the dog (or the neighbors dog) so as to not let it go to waste. There is always the option of telling her after-the-fact, and if she doesn’t notice, then no harm, no foul! If those options don’t cut it, tell her that you want to try to salvage it, and if it comes out terrible you will order Chinese food!
So what did everybody do for their “someone special” today?
My girl and I don’t celebrate Valentines day, we both think that it is WAY to over-commercialized, instead we “do our thing” on 2/22 (the day of our first date, and first kiss). Gotta say, I am a bit of a “hopeless romantic”, last year I made her a solid chocolate box of hand-made chocolate truffles, on top of the box I used white fondant so it looked like a frozen pond, her favorite animal is penguins, so I made a few penguins out of gum paste and had them sliding around on their bellies on the “ice”.
This year I am making her a bunch of her favorite treats… cinnamon rum meringue coated toasted pecans (some will be dipped in dark chocolate, so they will taste like a crunchy, airy Mexican hot chocolate with pecans), caramel and dark/milk chocolate covered pears with toasted hazelnuts, hand-made (like the York ones) peppermint patties, rose scented white cake (cupcakes) with candied fresh rose petals and whipped rose scented butter-cream frosting, mint-schnapps flavored Parisian chocolate truffles, and 4 different bottles of wine to pair with the desserts…. And a new hunting knife!
I usually toss leftovers to the dog if they’ve been in the fridge for 3 days. I get rid of fish within 24 hours. The oldest thing I’ve cooked was only in the fridge for a day or two – no problems with taste or sickness.
So what did everybody do for their “someone special” today?
We normally don’t celebrate either, but we did Friday because the baby was due to arrive pretty soon and we won’t have a chance to get out for a while. We went to a pretty nice steak restaurant – after 3 tries we finally found a table/booth she could fit in (lol). Had ribeye steak, ribs, shrimp, cheese sticks, apple turnovers w/ ice cream, yeast rolls, and I believe a salad and baked potato…. That was just her. I had potato soup because I’m still recovering from a fast.
Celebrating early was a good call. Our son arrived bright and early Saturday morning. The labor was fast and furious, he was already here by the time the midwives had arrived. Everything turned out great and they’re both recovering nicely but I’m going to need a stiff drink at some point, it was pretty nerve wracking delivering without the midwives.
Congrats on the arrival of your son Prepared N.D.!! That’s awesome. And you delivered him yourself? My hat’s off to you! (Although it sounds like he didn’t give you much of a choice!)
Thanks! I asked her to stop pushing but she wouldn’t listen lol.
Hardcore – congrats!
CONGRATULATIONS! That’s awesome!
Having worked in the restaurant industry for about 15yrs, it’s always better to go out either before or after Valentines day. It’s the second busiest day of the year, a close second behind mothers day.
According to the VA department of health, you are good with foods up to 7 days in the fridge (after expiration date), including fish. Cooked foods should generally be consumed or pitched within 5 days.
@Chef, I know we waste a lot of food with my system, but I just like my food to be as fresh as possible. Maybe it’s all in my head but I think I can taste the difference when it’s a day or two old.
I’m old and I remember my mother scraping meat before cooking it to get the residue old blood and tissue off the surface of the meat. This really works. If your meat is just a day or two off prime date, scrape it. Then rinse it and dry it (the cholorine in most water supplies is going to help stop bacteria growth).
Another thing to do if you think you will keep meat for awhile before cooking is to take it out of the container with the sanitary pad at the bottom, scrape it, dry it and put it in a plate in the fridge with a paper towel over it. You can also put a dry rub on it and save it that way by infusing some nice garlic and spice flavors.