Eating healthy doesn't have to mean that you eliminate flavor from your diet, no matter what all those healthy websites tell you. I mean, come on, who is going to eat boiled, leftover chicken and black beans three or four times a day?
Of course, we aren't saying you should go out and fully stock your freezer with prime rib and eat nothing but ribeye steaks for the rest of the month. But incorporating flavorful, fatty meats into your diet can help alleviate those boring, healthy meals. The key to understanding how to incorporate fatty eats into a healthy lifestyle is understanding the truth behind the types of fats and recognizing the importance of portion control.
Lean Meats vs. Fatty Meats
Particularly with beef, a fattier cut of meat is going to have more flavor than a leaner cut of meat. That doesn't mean that lean meat will always lack flavor, but it does mean that you'll need to prepare and cook fatty and lean meats differently to get the same type of excellent results. We broke down the differences between fatty and lean cuts of meat in a previous blog if you want to know all about that fascinating subject. We get in-depth about the differences between saturated fat, unsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and all of the science behind fat.
Getting Lots of Flavor from Lean Meats
Avoiding fatty cuts of beef doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice flavor. The trick to getting tons of flavor from lean cuts of beef like sirloin, eye round, or tenderloin is to use good-quality seasonings and take the time to allow flavors to incorporate into the meat.
Using a Marinade
This means using a marinade, often with some type of acid like lime juice or vinegar that helps to break down the tough fibers and encourages the marinade to work deeper into the muscle for more flavor. Adding soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or liquid aminos helps to bolster the savory, umami flavor that you recognize as a good piece of beef.
Using a Dry Rub
Many of the best lean cuts of meat will benefit from bold, robust dry rub ingredients to add layers of flavor the meat simply can't provide. One of the reasons that salt, black pepper, and garlic are so popular when cooking beef is because the spices enhance the natural flavor of the beef, making it taste like a fattier cut than it really is. The perfect steak seasoning: Bearded Butcher Brock Lesnar Blend
Cooking Lean Meat to the Right Temperature
The main trick when cooking leaner cuts of beef is to carefully watch the internal temperature. Overcooking lean meat leaves you with dry, tough, flavorless shoe leather that no one wants to eat. You have the best chance of success using a cooking method like searing or reverse-searing extra lean cuts and cooking them to only a medium-rare to prevent toughness and enhance the flavor.
Portion Control for a Fatty Meat Diet
One of the most popular diet regimes right now is the Keto diet. Keto, short for ketosis, is a diet that involves eating lots of fatty meats like bacon and avoiding carbohydrates and foods that are "unnatural." The trick for people on a Keto diet is understanding how much of fatty meat is appropriate.
There isn't any particular "rule of thumb" about how much fat and protein you should eat on Keto to lose weight or build muscle since there are many different variables. A person who has a sedentary lifestyle will need far less fat and protein than an individual who spends four to six hours a day in the gym.
Most websites that focus on a healthy Keto meal plan indicate that you should eat one to three meals a day incorporating some meat, and offsetting that amount with dairy, nuts, and eggs. The reason is that you'll want to have the added nutrients, proteins, and healthy fats found in these ingredients to get a balanced meal, even if you are eating a pound of bacon every day.
Most Keto diets tell you to start out eating the fattiest beef cuts, but regulating the portion size. The American Heart Association claims the average person should eat approximately three to four ounce portions of fatty beef once per week. It's okay if you are laughing, we laughed at that one also. The USDA defines fatty meats as containing more than 10 grams of fat per 100 grams of total weight.
Instead of living like a prisoner with your token scrap of meat once a week, you can make other choices that allow you to enjoy eating without overloading your body with saturated fats. Mix in lean meats like fish, chicken, and pork, and use lean cut of beef like sirloin and top round to offset the fats and you'll find that there are tons of excellent options for making great meals.
8 Fatty Meats That Are Full of Flavor
Whether you are striving toward portion control perfection or you are just trying to figure out a cut of meat that tastes better for your once-per-week treat, understanding the most flavorful cuts of beef will give you a heads-up when you are shopping. Let's start by discussing some of the best fatty cuts of beef for flavor.
- Rib Eye: A rib eye steak is right up there at the top in terms of fat and flavor. Ribeye has a mixture of marbled fat running throughout the muscle along with a hardened fat cap on the outside. When you make a rib eye, you can cut the fat off and trim most of the visible fat to make it a little healthier. It won't be an extra-lean cut by any stretch of the imagination, but it will reduce the total fat intake.
- Skirt Steak: The skirt is another fatty cut that features plenty of marbling. This is also a thin piece of meat that benefits from a quick sear rather than a long-and-slow cooking process. Trim fat off the skirt to make it somewhat healthier.
- Filet Mignon: This is considered to be the ultimate in tender, delicious steaks, but honestly, it has less beefy flavor than many other cuts. Portions tend to be small, making it a good choice.
- Chuck Roast: Chuck is an incredibly marbled, thick hunk of beef that is packed with tons of flavor. Slow braising and roasting unlocks even more flavor and allows some of the fat to render.
- Brisket: Brisket is a well-marbled, stringy cut that requires a long, low-temperature cook to avoid the meat from becoming tough and hard to eat. Smoked brisket is one of the best things in the world.
- Ribs: Just one glance at a rack of beef ribs lets you know that there is more fat than meat on those suckers. Delicious, though, especially smoked.
- Porterhouse: One of the most popular cuts of beef in the world, Porterhouse steaks are actually several steaks all in one. Porterhouse steaks can include the New York Strip steak, filet mignon, and the T-bone depending on how the cut is done and where on the rib area the cut is taken from. All are high-fat and packed with flavor.
- Ground Beef: Ground beef can have anywhere from virtually no fat (5% or less) to lots of fat (20% or more). Reading labels and understanding what you want to do with the ground beef is important. Too fatty and some recipes won't turn out. Not enough fat and you'll end up with hockey pucks.
Bottom Line: Best Cooking Methods for Fatty Cuts of Meat
The cut of meat you are working with will determine the proper method of cooking. Our rule of thumb is that any cut around an inch thick or more is going on the grill or in the smoker. Thinner cuts typically get a fast sear in a cast-iron pan or on a griddle. Roasts that are fatty get slow-roasted and braised.
In general, the longer you cook fatty meats, the more fat will render out of the meat, leaving you with a leaner and more flavorful cut. The trick is to avoid overcooking that will leave your meat dry, tough, and lacking flavor.