When I splurge and go to a fancy restaurant, you can bet that I’m going to skip over the pastas, seafood, and foreign cuisine and immediately look for the beef section before anything else. I love trying out beef dishes, especially when it’s a steak cooked perfectly to a rare or medium-rare, depending on my mood (or a medium-well when I’m with my mother, who thinks anything less than a well-done steak is still raw and unhealthy). If your restaurant can serve me a good steak, you know I’ll be coming back to eat there again.
What’s even better than a restaurant that serves good beef is a restaurant with various red wines to pair their dishes. As any good wine connoisseur knows, red wines do not all taste the same, and finding the right balance of tenderness and flavor from the various kinds of beef cuts matched with the different sweet and smoky wine flavors can make all the difference in a good dining experience.
Why Do Different Beef Cuts Taste Different?
Have you noticed that some beef cuts are tender and require little effort to cut through even if it’s inches thick, while some require a steak knife to cut through? There are also the different flavors of beef cuts even if both these meats came from the same cow.
That’s because things such as fat, bones, and cow exercise can affect meat texture and flavor. Meat that has more fat usually means more flavor. Marbled meat parts are the cuts with white lines and flakes on the red muscle. When you cook them, these will release fats that produce more flavor, making it have a better flavor profile than lean meats that have less marbling.
Bones and the bone marrow in it add to some of the flavor, so cooking it with the bone alters the favor and texture. Finally, muscles that cows more a lot are tougher and have a dark red color but have more flavor while less exercised parts are tender but do not have as much flavor.
Choosing Beef Cuts
Choosing the right cut whether you’re in a restaurant or cooking at home can have an effect on your overall dining experience, so if you’re not familiar on the various differences of meat cuts, you can ask your waiter or butcher to explain the parts for you.
First We Feast has a useful guide to beef cuts, its location on the cow, far content, cooking method, and average costs. Browse through their article to get an idea of what beef cut you want to look for when going to the butcher. What you pick would have to depend on how you want your beef cooked, your budget, and how much fat content you’re looking for on a cut.
Always make sure the beef you’re buying is fresh. Beef cuts can either be a dark red or pink with some white fat marbling or surrounding the meat, but if it looks artificially pink, it is no longer fresh and might have lost a lot of its flavor or is using artificial preservatives to retain its flavor.
Some larger beef cuts may also have smaller, more popular cuts. You’ll want to read Fine Dining Lovers’ article breaking down the different beef cuts into a chart and what is the best way to cooking them.
How Should I Have My Steak?
Unlike chicken and pork, beef is one of the meats you can eat that is still a bit red on the inside. While there’s been some debate on which beef doneness is best, it really depends on your preference. However, this could have some effect on your steak.
For instance, eating a rare steak can lessen the bitter taste of wine. So, a young red such as a cabernet sauvignon could, when paired with a rare steak, taste more mellow. On the other hand, a fattier steak can help you enjoy stronger wines more, so a ribeye would go well with a Rhone, but a fillet steak would be better with a pinot noir. Well-done and charred beef cuts are more bitter, so you want to avoid the Malbec in favor of a Napa Valley cabernet instead.
Beef and Wine Pairing
For leaner cuts, you want to avoid the heavier red wines for a light or medium-bodied alternative. When your meat is lean, the acidity can help cut through it. Lean meats in stews such as round steak, round roast, and top sirloin would pair well with Sangiovese, a bold but medium red.
Fattier meats work better with bolder, bitter red wines. The problem about eating beef with high fat content is that you have to eat it while it’s warm because, as it cools, the fat will start to turn solid and leave a bad slimy texture in your mouth. The bitters in the wine cleanse your mouth and scrape the fattiness out. A Barolo would pair nicely, therefore, with a ribeye, T-bone, or porterhouse.
Lighter red wins pair well with leaner beef cuts that are cooked around the blue rare to medium rare side. The acidity goes well with the texture and the flavor. In this case, a St. Laurent or Gamay would go nicely with Beef and Venison Tartare or a Pho.
Medium wines are for beef dishes where beef is an ingredient, but it’s in a mixture with other ingredients. Lasagna, stew, hamburgers, and nachos, for example, have beef but not in an overpowering way where you get a mouthful of savory beef. In this case, it’s best to balance it out with a red wine that’s not to strong or acidic. I would recommend a merlot or a dolcetto.
When choosing a beef dish and red wine pairing, while you can never go wrong with asking an experienced person for their recommendation, it helps to know what kind of combination you’re looking for. If it’s fatty meat, go for acidic. If it’s bitter and charred, go for sweet. Let the wine counter or complement the beef you’re eating.