At The Free Range Butcher we understand the pleasure of gathering family or friends together for a great meal. On these pages we share with you some of our best cooking tips and tricks. And if you need some inspiration for what to cook, head over to our Recipes page.
Preparing your Meat
Before cooking red meat, it's best to remove it from the fridge at least half an hour before you use it and bring it to room temperature. This way the meat will cook evenly rather than burning on the outside and still being cool or uncooked on the inside. At the same time, remove the Cryovac packaging and allow the meat to breathe. By doing this you will reduce the cooking time and decrease the required cooking temperature.
Cooking the Perfect Roast
Roasting really is one of the easiest ways to cook. Put it in the oven, set the timer and forget about it. Tips for the perfect roast:
- Preheat the oven according to the type of meat you're roasting, and its weight.
- Place the roast on a rack in a roasting dish (if you have one). Raising the roast allows the heat to circulate, browning it evenly all over.
- Different meats require different cooking times per fixed weight. For ease and accuracy you can use a meat thermometer.
- Remove roast when cooked to your liking. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil for 10-15 minutes before carving. Carve across the grain to ensure tenderness.
- Choose the right cut - Are you eating the steak on its own or as part of a dish? If eating the steak on its own, try New York, T-Bone or Scotch Fillet. If the steak is part of another dish, try a Rump.
- Bring the meat to room temperature - Half an hour before you want to cook your meat, take it out of fridge, and remove the packaging. Your meat should be at room temperature when you cook it.
- Preheat your pan or grill - Your pan or grill should already be hot when the steak comes into contact with the heat. You’ll know it’s right when you hear the sizzle.
- Resist the temptation to turn - Place your steak on the pan or grill and leave it there until you start to see moisture rise on the surface. When ready, turn your steak to the other side. The second side will only need half the amount of time as the first side.
- Rest your steak - Remove your steak from the heat and cover it loosely with foil for a good few minutes. The residual heat means your steak will keep cooking even when removed from the heat. If you like your steak well done, it’s best to let it continue cooking while resting (rather than cooking it longer in the pan), as the juices will keep it moist.
How to Make Perfect Pork Crackling
- Choose a piece of pork with a generous covering of fat and rind.
- Remove pork from Cryovac packaging the day/ night before you intend to cook it and absorb any moisture on the rind with paper towel. Wrap in a tea towel and leave in the fridge.
- Remove from the fridge and allow the meat to come to room temperature before cooking.
- Make sure the pork rind is very dry, as any moisture can prevent it from crackling.
- If it’s not already scored, use a sharp knife to score the rind by making cuts to the fat layer, about 5mm apart. This allows moisture and fat to run out of the rind, which makes it crisp.
- Rub a little oil and salt over the rind and into the cuts – this helps to draw any moisture out of the rind and makes it crackle.
- Now you have two options for cooking your roast for the perfect crackle:
- Preheat oven to 220°C. Cook for 20 minutes at 220°C then turn down oven to 180°C and cook for roast for 40 minutes per kg. Rest under foil for 5 – 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 100°C - 150°C and place pork shoulder or pork belly into oven on top shelf. The skin/fat will soften and render during the slow roasting process and the skin will crackle. You may need to turn your dish around about half way through if your oven cooks unevenly. This method never fails for me but if the skin is not crispy enough for you, then now you can do high heat for 5-10 mins. Keep a close eye on it so it doesn't burn.
Slow Cooking Tips
- Pre-warming your slow cooker is a good idea. It's like pre-heating your oven; having the food go in to a warmed slow cooker assists the cooking process. Pre-warm on low for 15 minutes without anything inside your slow cooker.
- Meat should be trimmed of any excessive fat before going in to the slow cooker. The fat won't 'cook off' as it would in an oven or pan and may make the dish taste greasy.
- Meat dishes using tougher or lesser cuts of meat will have nicer flavour and texture if they are simmered and not boiled. Cooking on low allows more time for the flavours to develop.
- Frozen vegetables do not require pre-cooking. Simply add them to your slow cooked meal 10 minutes before the end.
- If you wish to thicken any type of sauce or gravy, add a little flour mixed to a smooth paste with a little water, stirred in at the end of cooking. Cook, covered on high for an additional 30 minutes.
Tips for Making Stock and Broth
- Stock making is all about the aromatics and passing those into the foods you’re cooking
- All stocks should include celery, carrot, leek, onions and herbs
- Prepare your stock in large pot, bring it to a boil and then reduce heat so the water is just trembling
- If you can, skim the “muck” for the top of your stock as it’s cooking (especially if you’re using vegetable peelings in your stock)
- At the end of the cooking time, strain the stock and then reduce once more. Bring the water to a boil and simmer gently until it’s reduced to your liking.
- Once reduced, place in preferred containers (icecube trays are handy) and defrost as needed.
- To give body to your stock, add lentils or a small handful of oats
- If your stock is a thick concentration (after being reduced) you can add water to it again when it’s time to use it
- For more specific tips about Beef, Lamb, Chicken and Seafood Tips, click here.
Tips for Resting Meat
Resting meat before you carve and serve is crucial. If you cut your meat straight out of the oven, you’ll find all the juices will run out and it won’t be as moist and succulent. Opinions differ on the best way to rest meat. You can take it out of the oven and leave it resting in the tray or pan covered with a tea towel or foil, or you can do what chef Neil Perry recommends and rest your meat in the oven. To rest your meat in the oven, turn your oven down as low as it will go and leave the door slightly ajar (a temperature of 60 degrees Celsius is optimum for resting meat).
As a rule of thumb, you should leave your meat to rest for half the time that you cooked it for; e.g. if you cooked the piece of meat for 30 minutes, you should rest it for 15 minutes. Remember, your meat will continue to cook while it’s resting due to the residual heat inside, so always remove it from the oven before it's cooked to your liking.