Meat - Does anyone else like it with a bit of chew?
It seems like when we talk about meat, you hear phrases like "fall of the bone", "So tender you can cut it with a fork", "fall apart" and so on.
Meet that is soft, tender, with no real chew to it seems to be most prized. I think I am in the minority when it comes to liking a bit of chew to the meat. It being tough has no issues. with me. Questions, Is the value "soft or tender" meat only within this culture. Are there cooking culture where chewy meats are more prized?
Most Mexican meat dishes I've had, and we're talking strictly skeletal-muscle meat, do tend very much towards chewy. Thin pork steaks fried to a chewy crisp and machaca, a crisp-fried shredded beef and egg dish, are the two I've most encountered. It was the California vaqueros who first cooked beef tri-tip over red oak fires, and that is not only chewy, but about as good as chewy gets.
I disagree that our culture is strictly anti-chew; there are plenty of folks whose opinions I've heard in conversation, or read here and elsewhere, who have no great love for tenderloin, either beef or pork, and who would much rather have a good sirloin steak than filet any day. Even a prime porterhouse, done to my taste, will have some chew to it; I don't care much for flabby meat of any sort, for the most part.
re: Will Owen
You're right about the sirloin vs. tenderloin point, but it isn't due to the relative chewiness in my opinion but simply that the sirloin has more flavor. Same reason that dark meat chicken folks like the dark--it's more flavorful (not sure chewiness enters into that discussion, but I digress).
I think flavor is also wrapped up with the "fall off the bone" thing. Long slow cooking leads to very tender meat certainly, but (done correctly of course) there is also a buildup of flavor, perhaps based on increased glutamates, and it seems to me that here too flavor is a very important reason for the preference.
I'm with you -- flavor is most important, and tenderness is a distant second. My husband disagrees, however.
As long as I keep up my count of dentition
Somewhere up in the high 20's
Then I'll grin with the gnaw that a good piece of meat gives.
I accede with glad nod to my gnawing ancestors.
They probably had even lower limits on tooth count.
and we can only assume the harmonic cacophony
as they banged on the bones for the marrow.
I sneak now today, with my supermarket meat,
to cook it and break proteins down,
in seek of that connection.
I think there's a difference between having a bit of a chew to it, and being tough, and my preferences for texture depend on the cut of the meat.
For something like steak, I want something that gives some resistance when I chew it, but there's definitely such a think as too tough. For something like beef shank, I find it needs to be cooked past tough into tender before it's really good. There are other dishes that are supposed to be pretty chewy - chicken gizzard yakitori, for example, generally puts up a good fight.
Actually, I find Japanese cuisine has very different standards when it comes to what is considered an enjoyable texture. In western cooking, for example, I find that instructions for okra inevitably tell you how long to cook it to avoid the sliminess, and gizzards are cooked so they aren't too tough. In Japanese cuisine, I find a lot more slimy textures are prized (raw sliced okra, grated tororo, natto, raw egg) and there are more tough textures too (gizzard yakitori and grilled chicken cartilage, for example).
I grew up eating london broil at home and in local diners - I like chewy meat. It's satisfying. This isn't to say I don't enjoy filet mignon, but I am often in the mood for london broil, which makes me feel like I'm really digging in. If that makes any sense at all.