my beef obsession

Last week we took our two beef to the slaughterhouse.

(My husband told me later that he and the kids were still trying to get the second steer off the trailer when they heard the gun go off inside. I guess it’s an efficient operation?)

Since then, I’ve been consumed by beef. My Google searches are all about hanging weight versus live weight, briskets versus roasts, flank steaks and cut charts and videos and cubic square footage for freezers. The freezer issue even had me up for a couple hours one night. How in the world would we fit all that meat into a couple freezers? (But then I put out a Facebook plea and within a day two different freezers landed in our laps, whew.)

For days, I puzzled over my cut sheets. If I get ribeye steaks, then no rib roast, right? What’s the difference between a Porterhouse and T-bone? Is NY strip steak better than filet, or vice versa? And how thick should they be? How many per package? It was enough to make my eyes cross.

Yesterday I drove to the butcher shop so I could talk with an actual person. The owner, bless his heart, came out in his blood-spattered white coat and talked meat with me for a good twenty minutes. He asked me questions and explained the process, filling out the official cut sheets himself as he went along. When we were discussing steaks, he went to the back to fetch some freshly-cut steaks so I could get a better handle on the thickness. And when I hesitated on the roasts—each steer yields 30-35 3-4 pound roasts and there was no way I needed that many—he suggested I take the six best roasts and turn the rest into burger. (For the other steer, we got the 12 best roasts. His logic: count on about one roast per month, but since we’re vacuum sealing, they’ll last longer than a year.)

The meat will be ready for pick-up next week and I am so excited. All-we-can-eat meat: burger (over 300 pounds of it, to be precise), short ribs, steaks, brisket, roasts, stew meat, soup bones, sirloin! I need to read up on pressure canning beef (on the recommendation of some friends, I plan to can a bunch of the stew meat), and I need to buy a meat thermometer. I’ve never really understood meat, especially not large hunks of it, and I know nothing about steak, so now’s my chance to experiment and practice and actually learn something.

It’s pretty much the only way out, right?

PS. This morning when I told my husband that I’d spent the night, yet again, dreaming about beef, he said, “Well, I dreamed one of the steers looked through our bedroom window and then jumped off the roof.” Clearly, we’re obsessed. Or maybe haunted?

PPS. If you have any to-die-for beef recipes/methods, I’m all ears. Actually, anything beef-related—advice, cautionary tales, whatever—is welcome. Because there’s a good chance I might be in over my head…

This same time, years previous: pile it on, the quotidian (8.8.16), a new friend, horses and hair, crunchy dill pickles, why I am recuperating, elf biscuits.


  • Lisa

    We also get grass-fed beef from a friend's farm and are so grateful for it. I'm glad for these comments – I had no idea grass-fed was tougher meat!

    My favorite (and very easy) way to use beef (ground or stew meat) is to take either frozen mixed vegetables, or vegetables I have leftover from various market trips, and mix it all into a soup. Add broth made from the neck bones and some seasonings (whatever you like), serve with hot biscuits and yay! My husband and five children all love it, and it's very nourishing on a winter night.

    Our steaks we just grill using salt, pepper, and butter – simple and delicious.

    Enjoy! I love your blog – especially all the great pictures you post 🙂

  • Lindsay

    This has become one of our favorite uses for ground beef:
    The only things I change are to cook it a little longer than the recipe recommends – until the sauce reduces some and the meat gets a bit caramelized. Then stir in a healthy handful of chopped cilantro. And I usually skip the sesame seeds. I serve it with rice and a wok'd veg or two.
    If you have a pressure cooker it is the best thing to ever happen to a roast. I made some shredded beef for flautas the other week and it was super easy and eye-rolling delicious. Just used a couple cups of fresh salsa that was getting a little long in the tooth as the braising liquid and cooked it for about 60 minutes at pressure.
    They're spendy, but I've loved my Thermapen instant-read thermometer. It works so much better than the cheap ones I've used previously.

  • Lana

    I can't recall the times and pressure but canning meat is seriously just filling the jar with cubed meat and capping and canning it. You do not need to add anything. I typically do pork since it is so inexpensive and easy to cube but the method is the same. It really looks gross in the jars so I don't ever tell my family that they are eating it but it is tender and delicious. My favorite quick meal with my home canned meat is to just shred it and heat with BBQ sauce and we are eating in no time.

    The secret to a delicious tender roast is an aluminum Dutch oven. No nonstick coating or and , just aluminum. My Mom has always been famous for her roast beef and that is her secret.

    For steaks, never cook past medium! It makes all the difference! We just coat with oil which makes a huge difference and salt and pepper it and onto a very hot grill. Grill to 135 to 140 degrees and take off onto a warm platter and tent with foil for 5 minutes.

  • Rebecca

    One of our favorite ground beef recipes is Middle Eastern Meat Loaf on pg. 310 of Simply in Season. I make it into meatballs and serve with rice or flat bread and cucumbers with yogurt. Sliced tomatoes on the side.

    Our beef consumption takes off when the garden slows down but I wanted to be sure and recommend this recipe while the cucumbers and tomatoes are going.

  • Athanasia

    That is a lot of beef. We share one whole with my oldest son's family and with my oldest daughter's family, 15 people total and we have plenty. We all like less ground beef and more roast so we have less go to ground beef. Other than hamburgers and sloppy joe we don/t use is for much. We, ourselves, never cook steak so all of that goes to shish kebab which we like very much. My son's inlaws are Chinese and his mother in law does all the cooking and they use less meat overall, so they take less of the share, my daughter takes more and they work it out between them.

    I am glad you were able to get an extra freezer. I think 2 beef would be more than the capacity of one freezer alone. Happy dreaming and planning!

    • Jennifer Jo

      Yep! I think we got just one, and actually, now I'm wondering if I should've gotten two—calling the butcher shop right now!

    • Joanna

      I love flank steak. Salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then broiled. We ate it so much when I was a kid; my brother calls it a Cold War staple. 😀 But now it's so expensive! $8.99 a pound?!?

    • Jennifer Jo

      Pressure canning turns the meat super tender, and it's ready to use immediately. (A bunch of my stew meat is coming from the top round which is a tougher cut of meat. I also got some of the top round cut into cube steaks, which tenderizes the meat.)

  • Kathy Gardner

    I second marinating the lean cuts, especially steaks. They will have more flavor and be much more tender.

    There is SO much you can do with ground beef that you are going to be amazed. I think you did good by getting more ground beef than roasts. A roast is delicious, seasoned and put in the crockpot then some potatoes, carrots and onions cooked with it. A little ground beef makes a big casserole that may give leftovers. I like leftovers!

    I think you are going to have a great time experimenting with all that beef. You post great recipes for other items so I have no doubt that you will find great recipes for beef as well. I like the recipe sites where they have reviews for the recipes so that I can see how many people really liked the recipe and what changes they made. Have fun and Bon Appetite.

  • Margo

    heh. I learned to cook beef because we've been buying an eighth every fall for years. I would defrost a package and then start researching!

    Is your beef grassfed? If so, it's going to be leaner than corn-fed beef which is the typical stuff you get in the grocery store. So you have to make some adjustments unless the recipe you're using is for grassfed. I deal with grassfed steaks by marinating the heck out of them – we like them, but they're not always tender (recipe is here:

    How fortunate that you had a butcher to explain those sheets to you! I always try my best without understanding a lot of the vocab.

  • rick yoder

    Ha. Just this past Monday we picked up the vacuum packed cuts of a goat we got butchered — 26 lbs. Not quite the quantity you got!

    • Jennifer Jo

      I remember you talking about the soup, but unfortunately, I didn't get the tail. It wasn't on the cut sheet list so it didn't even cross my mind. (I did get the soup bones, though—that has to count for something, right???)

Leave a Comment