“How do I make grassfed beef tender?” is a question we hear a lot at White Oak Pastures. We’re proud of the animals we raise on our pastures, the carbon-sequestering land management methods we use, and the products we produce for our customers. But we also recognize that grassfed beef is, quite literally, a different animal to cook with in the kitchen.
Check out our guide to cooking with pasture-raised, grassfed beef, recipes included.
Grassfed vs Grain Fed Beef
We asked Brian Sapp, Director of Operations at White Oak Pastures, to explain the marbling of grassfed beef.
The marbling of beef dictates how we perceive the tenderness of the product. Higher marbled beef will be more tender than less marbled beef.
Beef from cattle raised on a strictly forage diet tends to be somewhat tougher than commodity beef items. As animals have to move about to forage and access water, they burn calories and fat. This creates a leaner product that will have a bit different muscle fiber structure than commodity beef items.
There are 3 main reasons for this:
- Grassfed animals are more active during the growing and finishing process
- More activity means less marbling in the meat
- Animals are typically a bit older at time of slaughter
Typical commodity, corn-finished beef are slaughtered 6-8 months younger than pasture-raised beef. The animals are usually confined to feedlot operations where movement is limited. The animals have feed and water brought to them, gaining weight faster, keeping muscle fiber structure smaller, and marbling well.
Brian adds that even some beef labeled “grassfed” may not be what it seems.
There is "grassfed beef" being raised in the US in feedlots, too (as well as imported grassfed beef sold as “produced in the USA"). There, cattle are fed in confined lots using hay and pre-grain silage. This is to limit movement and foraging to make the animals gain weight faster than a pastured operation, therefore slaughtering animals at a younger age.
White Oak Pastures cows, raised on pasture and with plenty of natural exercise, have less marbling than commodity feedlot cattle. This is because of our commitment to the welfare of our animals, who were born to roam and graze.
This also means that some prep work and cooking alterations should be made to increase the tenderness of our product. And don’t worry - the flavor is unbeatable. Check out some of our recipes, below, to get started.
How tender is grassfed beef?
Brian has a few cooking tips.
I prefer to age roasts in the refrigerator for 10-14 days prior to cooking. Slow cooking in a crockpot is the best way to tenderize the roasts. Steaks I like to age in the refrigerator for 10-14 days then "jaccard" and grill them to medium rare. I am excited to try some steaks in a sous vide cooker I have on order. I will let you know how that turns out.
How To Perfectly Cook Grassfed Beef
White Oak Pastures Recipes
- Versatile beef chuck roast
- Tender & Juicy Instant Pot Beef Roast
- Slow-cooked corned beef and cabbage
- Grilling steaks: How to Cook the Perfect, Tender, Grass Fed Steak (Shannon Hayes)
- Dry brining steaks: How To Cook Perfectly Tender Grass-Fed Steak (Primally Inspired)
- Cast iron cooking: How to Cook the Perfect Steak in a Cast-Iron Skillet (The Rising Spoon)
- General guide: Cooking With Grass-Fed Beef (Whole Foods)