While Jozi's food lovers are gearing up for this weekend's The Fire and Feast Butcher's Festival, Raynor Damons, who is the executive chef at The Crowne Plaza, shares his Top 10 cooking tips when it comes to beef. 

Having started his career at the Table Bay Hotel, he acquired lots of knowledge by working overseas before returning home and finding himself in the kitchen at the Maslow Hotel as well as Fairmont Zimbali Resort & Lodge.

He can be found in "The Beef Zone" section alongside Sasha Zambetti, who co-owns The Cooking School as well as TV host.

These are his Top 10 tips:

Cooking tip #1: Understand your cuts

First things first: The tenderness and juiciness of beef is influenced by the cut. The more muscle in the meat, the tougher it will be. Likewise, the more fat, the juicier. The most tender cuts of beef are (in decreasing order): tenderloin steak, top blade steak, top loin sirloin, rib roast, rib steak, and rib eye steak. And keep in mind that beef with a bone-in will have more flavour.

Cooking tip #2: Match quality to purpose

If you are cooking beef simply, without heavy sauces, choose the best grade of meat possible. For stews or meals featuring sauces, you can opt for less expensive cuts.

Cooking tip #3: Get the grade

There are three grades of beef: prime, choice and quality-select. Grade is determined by marbling — the amount of fat imbedded in beef that keeps it moist. The tenderers beef will have marbling throughout and not just on the outer edges. Marbling is important because once you cook beef, the fat will begin to melt and add flavor and juiciness. Prime is the most highly marbled with fat as well as the most tender and tasty.

Cooking tip #4: Buy brightly colored

Make sure your beef is fairly firm and is a bright red color. If beef is a darker red to brown, it may be older. And though properly-aged beef will be more tender, most grocery stores do not carry aged beef.

Cooking tip #5: Keep beef fresh

As soon as you get your beef home, if you are not cooking it that day, remove it from the butcher paper and wrap it in plastic wrap. Then place it in a zip-lock bag and keep it refrigerated.

Cooking tip #6: Marinate for added flavour

To prepare beef for cooking, wipe it with a clean damp cloth and consider a simple marinade. Marinating meat can help add tenderness and flavour — but remember that good quality beef won't need a lot of extra flavour to taste good. Even just a generous sprinkle of salt and black pepper can be enough. However, a mixture of wine, olive oil, lemon juice, and a few fresh herbs and spices can be a great overnight marinade to help tenderize.

Cooking tip #7: Cook evenly

Before you cook your beef, remove it from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. This will ensure that it cooks more evenly because it will be the same temperature throughout.

Cooking tip #8: Be temperature-wise

How you cook your beef will have a major influence on tenderness and juiciness. For most cuts of beef, you should cook it to an internal temperature of 130 degrees F. for rare and 140 degrees F. for medium-cooking meat. Any higher than medium will be dry. Use a meat thermometer to get accurate internal temperatures.

Cooking tip #9: Sear, then roast

A good method for cooking tender cuts of beef is to sear the outside in a hot, lightly oiled cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet and then finish it in a 400 degree F. oven. While cooking, only flip the beef once and always use tongs to flip, not a fork. If the meat is cut into, all of the juices will immediately run out.

Cooking tip #10: Let it rest

Remove beef from the oven and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting. You want the juices to settle and distribute before serving.

Meanwhile, Stefano Strafella, who can be found in "The Lamb and Mutton SA Kitchen", shares one of his recipes. Strafella has worked at some of the most reputable kitchens - Sandton Sun, Saxon, The Westcliff Hotel and Mount Grace Hotel & Spa, to outline a few. He is currently the executive chef at Sason headquarters.  At the festival, he will be joined by Citrum Khumalo (aka Chef Khumalo), who has a deep passion for African cuisine and is completely at home in a braai setting. 


LAMB RUMP

Olive Tapenade and Smokey Aubergine




LAMB RUMP

LAMB RUMP

1

kg

Lamb Rump, trimmed

Score Fat lightly and rub Lamb with Citrus Rub

2

tbsp.

Citrus Rub Spice Blend

Place  fat side down on a medium warm grill




Turn often to ensure even cooking – about 20-25 minutes




Remove when medium , and wrap in foil and allow to rest for 10 min







SMOKEY AUBERGINE

SMOKEY AUBERGINE

1

ea.

Aubergine

Slice the Aubergine in 1 cm slices and then  lightly score

2

tbsp.

Olive Oil

Make a loose paste from the Olive Oil Hickory Rub, Cumin and Garlic

1

tsp.

Hickory Rub

Rub Paste evenly over the slices

1

tsps.

Cumin Seeds

Grill on high heat for 5 min a side

1

clove

Garlic , Mashed

Remove from grill and wrap in foil and keep in a warm place until needed




Season with salt and another drizzle of Olive oil







OLIVE TAPENADE

OLIVE TAPENADE

200

g

Black Olives, De-Pitted

Finely chop all the ingredients to a rough ‘salsa’

50 

g

Anchovies

Drizzle in the olive oil

25 

g

Capers

Season with a grind of pepper

2

tbsp.

Olive Oil


clove

Garlic, Mashed




Black Pepper








MINTED YOGHURT

MINTED YOGHURT

100

g

Extra Thick yoghurt

Combine the Yoghurt, Mint and season with Salt

1

tbsp.

Mint, finely chopped




Salt









Carve the lamb, then arrange on a plate with the aubergine




Drizzle with the Olive  Tapenade and a dollop of yoghurt