Tender Grassfed Barbecue: An Interview with the Expert Stanley Fishman

Food Supply & Food Politics

Nov 08

graasfed meat, cookbook

I recently had an opportunity to interview Stanley Fishman about his fabulous new book Tender Grassfed Barbecue. This book gives step by step instructions for successfully grilling grassfed meat so that it is really tender and delicious. I learned so much from reading this book — I realized I had been making so many mistakes in cooking grassfed meat — no wonder it was always tough and dry! Here is just a fraction of what you will learn from this wonderful book!

Question:  I have read a lot about the dangers of eating barbecued meat — that it is carcinogenic and should be avoided. Why is it OK to barbecue grassfed meat?

Answer:  Modern studies have connected barbecuing with the creation of carcinogens in food. But the traditional peoples studied by Dr. Weston A. Price cooked most of their meat and fish this way, and they had no cancer. You can barbecue in a way that avoids the very conditions that create the carcinogens. It is a way that was used by most traditional peoples, and is ideal for barbecuing grassfed meat. The studies identified two types of carcinogens that are created by contemporary barbecue.

The first is created when meat is seared over direct high heat, especially when the flames hit the meat. The second is created when fat from the meat hits the heat source, and is turned into a kind of smoke that is driven back into the meat, and is a carcinogenic substance. The method I use in the book prevents both of those conditions from happening.

The other difference is in the fuel used. The fuel you use in any barbecue will send substances into the meat. Modern composite charcoal and gas were not used as fuel by traditional peoples. Traditional peoples did use hardwood charcoal, and wood burned down to charcoal. Modern composite charcoal often contains petrochemicals and other substances that are not in traditional charcoal. I do not know what substances are placed in the meat by burning gas, but I do know our ancestors had no experience with them. Personally, I believe that the traditional fuels are the best, and the book is designed to use them.

Question:  I was taught to sear meat over a high heat first and then cook at medium heat. Is this not a good idea for grassfed meat?

Answer: The direct high heat method will ruin almost any grassfed meat. It was developed in modern times, as a way to deal with all the water in grain-finished meat. If you do not use that kind of heat with feedlot steaks, you can have a grey, soggy mess that tastes terrible. Some steakhouses use broilers that reach a temperature of 1500-1700 degrees! Our ancestors never used this kind of high direct heat to cook grassfed meat. Grassfed meat has much less water and is best when cooked traditionally. It should never be cooked over direct high heat. A properly cooked grassfed steak has a nicely browned outside, that is flavorful and tender, never a hard crust.

Question: Could you talk a little about the unfiltered olive oil you use for marinating the meat? Does this olive oil withstand the heat of the grill without oxidizing?

Answer: Unfiltered olive oil is one of the most traditional ingredients for marinating meat, going all the way back to the ancient Greeks, Romans, and even older peoples. Small amounts do wonderful things for grassfed meat without overwhelming the great natural flavor. The oil does not oxidize in my recipes, because it is never put directly over the heat source, and does not get that hot.

Question: How do you go about basting a steak or roast on the grill — how often do you bast and what do you use for a bast?

Answer: Basting is also a very old technique, ideal for barbecuing, that has been largely forgotten. It is actually very simple and easy to do. You dip a long handled basting brush into the baste, and brush it over the surface of the meat. Basting adds incredible flavor to meat, and keeps it from drying out. Barbecued meat that has been basted at intervals over a long cooking time develops a wonderful glossy surface that is just brimming with flavor. How often you baste varies with the recipe. Some bastes are applied prior to cooking, and others are brushed on during cooking. I never baste more than a few times. The ingredients vary based on the recipe. Most of the bastes contain some kind of animal fat, and they should be kept warm, not hot. None of the bastes include modern ingredients such as sugar, soy, modern vegetable oils, ketchup, msg, etc. All are made of traditional ingredients, and some have only two or three ingredients. But they give incredible taste and texture to barbecued meat, also making the meat more tender.

Question: I have a gas grill which I insisted on getting a few years ago for it’s convenience. Now I see that using a charcoal grill with hardwood briquets is the way to go. Can you explain what you mean by using a rack set into a drip pan for cooking on a gas grill — do you then place this on direct heat?

Answer: No, actually you place a rack and pan on a turned off burner. You need at least two burners to use this method on a gas grill. At least one burner should be turned off, with the rack and pan placed on the turned-off burner. If you have three burners, you may have the other two burners on, or just one, depending on how much heat you want. If you have four burners, two should be turned off and two should be turned on, though you might have only one burner on when you want lower heat. The idea is to have the rack and pan in front of, not over, the heat source.

Question: I have a meat thermometer that cost me about $7.00 and I’m not sure how accurate it is. Could you recommend a brand of high quality thermometer and what is the general cost of these items?

Answer: There is a wide variety of meat thermometers, some are accurate, and some are not. I find that the most accurate meat thermometers are usually made by companies that sell barbecue cookers. They vary widely in price. I usually shop for thermometers at Amazon.com, which has a wide variety, often on sale. They often have customer reviews of the product, which really helps me in deciding what to buy. More expensive is not necessarily better. I prefer a simple instant-read thermometer that you can stick into the meat, and get a quick reading. Other people prefer digital readout thermometers.

Question: I know you’ve written another book called Tender Grassfed Meat. That one covers cooking meats inside. Could you give me any pointers for cooking grassfed pot roast? My pot roast sometimes comes out very dry inside. I sear it in tallow or lard on high heat in a pan first then cook it in the crock pot for 8 – 10 hours on low, half immersed in water. The part of the meat that is out of the water gets hard and dry. What am I doing wrong? Help!

Answer: I do not use crock pots for cooking pot roasts. Crock pots do not simmer meat properly, and a proper simmer is key to a great pot roast. I use a cast iron casserole, but an enameled cast iron casserole would also work. You can get a wonderful tender grassfed pot roast full of flavor by following the recipes on pages 111 – 119 of Tender Grassfed Meat. The basic idea is to brown the meat at the proper temperature, then simmer it in a low oven or over the stove until it is very tender, with a wonderful concentrated flavor as the flavors of the ingredients blend together.

There is so much more to learn from Stanley in his book Tender Grassfed Barbecue (and Tender Grassfed Meat). Here is where to buy:

Tender Grassfed Barbecue

Tender Grassfed Meat

Stay tuned for a Giveaway of this fantastic book: Tender Grassfed Barbecue that Stanley Fishman has so generously offered to sponsor coming next week!

Photo Credit: Stanley Fishman


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