Cooking with sustainably raised beef, lamb, and eggs gives you remarkable flavor and health benefits. Try our tips for choosing and cooking the right product to maximize flavor and health potential.
27 mouth-watering burger recipes
How to cook grass-fed beef
Beef that's conscientiously raised, good for you, and incredibly tasty―now that's something to sink your teeth into. Grass-fed operations are easier on the environment than grain feedlots are, and easier on the animals too (grass is, after all, a cow's natural diet). Grass-feeding also gives the meat a truer beef flavor that's not masked by the marbling of fat typical in grain-fed beef. Plus grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fats and higher in omega-3s and other essential nutrients.
How to successfully cook grass-fed beef:
1. Lower the heat. Grass-fed beef cooks fast. Instead of searing burgers and steaks, put them over a medium flame.
2. Add moisture. With a larger cut (like a roast) that needs a longer cooking time, marinate or braise the meat to keep it from drying out.
3. Don't overcook. Rare to medium rare grass-fed beef is tender, but medium to well-done is tough and chewy.
7 mighty grilling marinades
Grass-Fed Top Round Roast
5-lb. grass-fed or regular top round roast
1/2 cup fine dried bread crumbs
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
9 salt-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed; or oil-packed
2 garlic cloves
6 tablespoons salt-packed capers, soaked in water and drained, or rinsed brined capers, divided
Yolks from 3 hard-cooked large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. canned tomato paste
2 1/4 cup packed roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
About 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Preparation (Salsa Verde)
1. Stir bread crumbs and vinegar together in a small bowl and let sit 5 minutes.
2. Pound anchovies, garlic, and 4 tbsp. capers into a paste in a mortar. Add egg yolks and tomato paste, then parsley, and pound to mix. Pound in bread crumbs. Stir in enough oil to make a thick sauce. If using a food processor, whirl soaked bread crumbs with anchovies, garlic, 4 tbsp. capers, the yolks, tomato paste, and parsley; then drizzle in the oil.
3. Turn into a bowl and top with remaining 2 tbsp. capers.
1. Preheat oven to 250°. Heat a cast-iron ridged grill pan over high heat until very hot. Trim any fat from roast, then sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Wipe pan with an oiled paper towel, then sear beef on each side until a nice brown crust forms, 10 to 12 minutes total.
2. Put pan of beef in oven and roast until meat registers 130° in center when tested with an instant-read thermometer, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Let rest 20 minutes. Slice paper-thin across the grain and serve with salsa verde.
Why buy grass-fed lamb?
It's often expensive, so what makes it worth trying?
1. Healthy animals. Grass is the natural food of cattle, bison, sheep (and lambs); when allowed to munch on pasture, they're eating the way nature intended.
2. Healthy us. Grass-fed (versus standard grain-fed) meat has higher levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, and is usually lower in fat.
3. Great for the land. Grazing animals fertilize the pastures as they roam.
4. Great taste. The flavor is often cleaner and more complex than that of grain-fed meat. Find 100 percent grass-fed lamb at eatwild.com and well-stocked grocery stores. Three of our favorite ranches that sell online: GrassRoots Meats (grassrootsmeats.com), Lava Lake Lamb (lavalakelamb.com) and Willow Spring Ranch Montana (montanaorganiclamb.com).
30 delicious ways with lamb
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup chopped roasted piquillo or other red peppers
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 wide, crusty loaf of bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pea and mint relish
1 cup fresh shelled peas
2 tablespoons packed fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon chopped seeded fresh red or green Fresno chile
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Blanch peas in a saucepan of boiling water for 30 seconds, drain, and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and pat dry.
2. Whirl mint in a food processor to finely chop. Add peas, chile, olive oil, and lemon juice. Pulse until finely chopped. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
1. In a large bowl, mix lamb, rosemary, roasted peppers, salt, and pepper to taste. Form into 6 burgers about 3/4 in. thick. Put on a plate, cover, and refrigerate 2 hours.
2. Cut 12 slices, each about 1/2 in. thick, from bread and save the rest for another use. Lightly brush slices all over with olive oil.
3. With a silicone brush or oiled paper towels, lightly oil a charcoal grill over a solid bed of hot coals or a gas grill on high heat (you can hold your hand 1 to 2 in. above cooking grate only 2 to 3 seconds). Lightly toast bread on grill, turning once, and transfer to a platter.
4. Lay burgers on grill; close lid on gas grill. Cook burgers, turning once, until they're done the way you like, about 6 minutes for medium-rare. Set each burger on a slice of grilled bread. Top with pea relish, then remaining bread.
Why buy farm-fresh eggs?
A fresh egg from a hen that spends most of its time pecking around in open pasture is a wonderful thing to eat: deeply flavorful, with a bright yellow (sometimes almost orange) yolk and a tender white.
Besides flavor, pasture-raised eggs seem to be better for you too. Several studies suggest that they're higher in omega-3s and vitamins A, B12, and E and lower in fat and cholesterol.
What's the difference?
The difference, according to Jo Robinson, author of Pasture Perfect (Vashon Island Press, 2004; $15) and founder of eatwild.com, is in the chickens' feed. "Fresh grass is a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids and carotenoids. Eggs from chickens raised on good pasture have an intense yellow-gold color, most pronounced in the spring and early summer, when the grass is at its peak." The shells, though, can be any color. Whether brown, white, or blue, they simply indicate the breed of chicken, not what it ate.
In the supermarket, you'll see "cage-free" and "organic" eggs, but these labels don't specify feed and don't necessarily mean that the birds spend time outside. "Pasture-raised" isn't a government-approved definition, but it's generally accepted to mean that the chicken got most of its nutrition from foraging, with some grain to supplement. Although these eggs aren't widely available in stores, you can often find them at farmers' markets. Pick up a dozen and treat yourself.
Fast & fresh egg dishes
Creamy Baked Eggs with Asparagus and Pecorino
Creamy Baked Eggs with Asparagus and Pecorino
Butter for ramekins
6 thin asparagus spears, ends trimmed
4 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup lightly packed shredded pecorino
Pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 275°. Lightly butter two 4-oz. (1/2-cup) ramekins or ovenproof bowls and set in a baking pan just big enough to hold ramekins.
2. Slice asparagus thinly on the diagonal. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add asparagus; cook until just tender-crisp, 1 to 2 minutes, and scoop out into a colander. Keep water boiling, covered.
3. In a bowl, beat eggs with milk until smooth. Stir in cheese and salt. Divide mixture between prepared ramekins. Top each with half the asparagus and sprinkle with pepper.
4. Set ramekins in baking pan and put in oven. With oven door open, carefully pour hot water into baking pan up to the level of the eggs in ramekins. Bake until eggs are set in centers (touch to test), about 45 minutes. To remove ramekins, carefully pull oven rack out partway; lift ramekins from pan with tongs and set aside. Push rack with pan back into the oven to cool. Serve eggs immediately.
More from Sunset:
Sustainable seafood buying guide
108 great seafood recipes