It’s heating up outside and that means barbecues will also be firing. Here’s your expert guide to cooking the perfect lean beef on the barbie this summer.
It’s time to dust off your barbie and clean that grill. From family dinners to relaxed entertaining with friends, you can’t beat a succulent piece of grilled beef. But which cuts are the healthiest and what about mince? How long should you cook it? Is cooking it well-done bad for you? We’ve got the info you need to ensure the perfect, healthy barbecue every time.
Why go for beef?
Beef is an Aussie icon, the centre point of the traditional Aussie barbie. Like all red meat, it’s one of the best sources of five essential nutrients. 150g raw (which is about one serve), will give you 25% of your Recommended Daily Intake of iron, 50% of your intake of zinc, 58% of protein and 75% of vitamin B12.
Less healthy is the amount of saturated fat that some cuts of beef contain. Eating too much saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels. Because of this, it’s important to choose lean cuts without much marbling through the meat.
You can also reduce the saturated fat content by trimming the fat off the edges before you throw it onto the barbie. See below for the best cuts of beef to barbecue with. And for heart health it’s always good to use premium or ‘heart smart’ beef mince for burger patties or rissoles.
In Australia, our serves of meat are generally much larger than we need to eat, so keep an eye on serving sizes. A serve of beef is about 100g when cooked (the size of the palm of your hand).
A way to choose quality beef
Not sure how good that cut of beef is going to be? Meat Standards Australia (MSA) is a grading system designed to help take the guesswork out of buying and cooking Australian beef. The MSA program identifies beef cuts that meet standards for tenderness, juiciness and flavour. The system is a voluntary program run by the Meat and Livestock Association, so there will still be good quality cuts of beef that don’t necessarily carry the logo, but it’s a fast and easy way to see you’re buying a quality cut of beef. MSA graded beef is available nationally at Woolworths, Costco and selected butchers.
Common beef cuts for the BBQ
There are many different cuts of beef and your choice will depend on your taste and budget.
Sausages are higher in fat and salt than lean beef so choose extra lean.
*These cuts are recommended by HFG dietitian Zoe Wilson as the most healthy choices.
How to BBQ beef
1. Preheat the barbecue grill or flat plate to a medium-high heat (it should sizzle when the meat hits the grill). Bring your steak to room temperature just before cooking then brush both sides of the steak with olive oil to prevent it from sticking to the barbecue. Olive oil is rich in unsaturated fats, making it a ‘heart-healthy’ choice. It has a high smoke point so it can be used at high temperatures and brushing it onto the steaks, rather than the hotplate, reduces the amount of oil you use.
2. If seasoning with pepper or a meat rub, season one side of the meat, then cook seasoned-side down first, to seal in the juices and therefore flavour. Season the other side just before turning over.
3. Cook the steak on the barbecue using long handled tongs to turn the steak once, until cooked to your liking. Cooking times vary depending on the thickness of the cut. Press the middle of the steak with your tongs. If it’s rare it will be soft (about 1–2 minutes each side), medium it will spring back (2–4 minutes each side), and well done, it will be very firm with no spring back (usually 3–6 minutes each side). Be careful not to let it burn (see What's wrong with charred beef, below).
4. After cooking, transfer steak to a plate and set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
What’s wrong with charred beef?
When meat is burnt, carcinogenic compounds, called heterocyclic amines, are formed which can damage our cells. This happens particularly when cooking at high temperatures such as grilling, pan-frying or barbecuing. Cancer Council Australia recommends we avoid eating burnt or charred meat as it may increase our risk of certain cancers such as bowel cancer, so be careful not to let it burn on the barbecue this summer.
Try this app
The Beef essentials iPhone app tells you the best way to cook different cuts of meat. It also lets you select the cut and thickness of meat you have, then calculates how long it will take to be cooked to your liking – and even acts as a cooking timer for you. Free from iTunes.