Inattention to the temperature of the water and too early application of salt cause great waste in boiling meats. To make fresh meat rich and nutritious it should be placed in a kettle of boiling water (pure soft water is best), skimmed well as soon as it begins to boil again, and placed where it will slowly but constantly boil. The meat should be occasionally turned and kept well under the water, and fresh hot water supplied as it evaporates in boiling. Plunging in hot water hardens the fibrine on the outside, encasing and re-taining the rich juices - and the whole theory of correct cooking, in a nut-shell, is to retain as much as possible of the nutriment of food. No salt should be added until the meat is nearly done, as it extracts the juices of the meat if added too soon. Boil gently, as rapid boiling hardens the fibrine and renders the meat hard, tasteless, and scarcely more nutritious than leather, without really hastening the process of cooking, every degree of heat beyond the boiling point being worse than wasted. There is a pithy saying: "The pot should only smile, not laugh." The bubbles should appear in one part of the surface of the water only, not all over it. This differs from "simmering," as in the latter there is merely a sizzling on the side of the pan. Salt meat should be put on in cold water so that it may freshen in cooking. Allow twenty minutes to the pound for fresh, and thirty-five for salt meats, the time to be modified, of course, by the quality of the meat. A pod of red pepper in the water will prevent the unpleasant odor of boiling from filling the house.
Roasting proper is almost unknown in these days of stoves and ranges - baking, a much inferior process, having taken its place. In roasting the joint is placed close to a brisk fire, turned so as to expose every part to the heat, and then moved back to finish in a more moderate heat. The roast should be basted frequently with the drippings, and, when half cooked, with salt and water.
To roast in oven, the preparations are very simple. The fire must be bright and the oven hot. The roast will need no washing if it comes from a cleanly butcher; wiping with a towel dampened in cold water is all that is needed; if washing is necessary, dash over quickly with cold water and wipe dry. If meat has been kept a little too long, wash in vinegar, wipe dry, and dust with a very little flour to absorb the moisture. Place in pan, on a tripod, or two-or three clean bits of wood laid cross-wise of pan, to keep it out of the fat. If meat is very lean, add a table-spoon or two of water;, if fat, the juices of the meat will be sufficient, and the addition of the water renders it juiceless and tasteless. While the meat is in the oven, keep the fire hot and bright, baste several times, and when about half done turn it, always keeping the thick part of the meat in the hottest part of the oven. Take care that every part of the roast, including the fat of the tenderloin, is cooked so that the texture is changed.
If the fire has been properly made, and the roast is not large, it-should not require replenishing, but, if necessary, add a little fuei at a time, so as not to check the fire, instead of waiting until a great deal must be added to keep up the bright heat. Most persons like roast beef and mutton underdone, and less time is required to cook them than for pork and veal or lamb, which must be very well done. Fifteen minutes to the pound and fifteen minutes longer is the rule for beef and mutton, and twenty minutes to the pound and twenty minutes longer for pork, veal and lamb. The directions for beef apply equally well to pork, veal, mutton and lamb. Underdone meat is cooked throughout, so that the bright red juices follow the knife of the carver; if it is a livid purple it is raw, and unfit for food. When done, the roast should be a rich brown, and the bottom of the pan covered with a thick glaze. Remove the joint, sift evenly over with fine salt,; and it is ready to serve. Never salt before or while cooking, as it draws out the juices. To prepare the gravy, pour off the fat gently, holding the pan steadily so as not to lose the gravy which underlies it; put pan on the stove, pour into it half a cup of boiling water (vary the quantity with the size of the roast; soup of any kind is better than water if at hand), add a little salt, stir with a spoon until the particles adhering to the sides of the pan are removed and dissolved, making a rich, brown gravy (some mix flour and water, and add as thickening).
In roasting all meats, success depends upon basting frequently (by dipping the gravy from the pan over the meat with a large spoon), turning often so as to prevent burning, and carefully regulating the heat of the oven. Allow fifteen to twenty-five minutes to the pound in roasting, according as it is to be rare or well done, taking into consideration the quality of the meat. Roasts prepared with dressing require more time. In roasting meats many think it better not to add any water until the meat has been in the oven about half an hour, or until it begins to brown.
Broiling is the most wholesome method of cooking meats, and is most acceptable to invalids. Tough steak is made more tender by pounding or hacking with a dull knife, but some of the juices are lost by the operation; cutting it across in small squares with a sharp knife on both sides is better than either. Tough meats are also improved by laving for two hours on a dish containing three or four table-spoons each of vinegar and salad oil (or butter), a little pepper, but no salt; turn every twenty minutes. The action of the oil and vinegar softens the fibers without extracting their juices. Trim off all superfluous fat, but never wash a freshly-cut steak. Never salt or pepper steak or chops before or while cooking, but if very lean, dip in melted butter. Place the steak on a hot, well-greased gridiron, turn often so that the outside may be seared at once; when done, which will require from five to ten minutes, dish on a hot platter, season with salt and pepper and bits of butter, cover with a hot platter and serve at once. A small pair of tongs are best to turn steaks, as piercing with a fork frees the juices. If fat drips on the coals below, the blaze may be extinguished by sprinkling with salt, always withdrawing the gridiron to prevent the steak from acquiring a smoky flavor. Always have a brisk fire, whether you cook in a patent broiler directly over the fire, or on a gridiron over a bed of live coals. Broiling steak is the very last thing to be done in getting breakfast or dinner; every other dish should be ready for the table, so that this may have the cook's undivided attention. A steel gridiron with slender bars is best, as the common broad, flat iron bars fry and scorch the meat, imparting a. disagreeable flavor. In using the patent broilers, such as the "American" and the later and better "Dover," care must be used to keep all doors and lids of stove or range closed during the process. The dampers which shut off the draft to the chimney should be thrown open before beginning, to take the flames in that direction. Never take the lid from broiler without first removing it from over the fire, as the smoke and flames rush out past the meat and smoke it.
Frying is properly cooking in fat enough to cover the article, and when the fat is hot, and properly managed, the food is crisped at the surface, and does not absorb the fat. The process of cooking in just enough fat to prevent sticking has not yet been named in English, and is sauteing, but is popularly known as frying, and ought to be banished from all civilized kitchens. The secret of success in frying is what the French call the "surprise." The fire must be hot enough to sear the surface and make it impervious to the fat, and at the same time seal up the rich juices. As soon as the meat is browned by this sudden application of heat, the pan may be moved to a cooler place on the stove, that the process may be finished more slowly. For instructions as to heating the fat, see what is said under head of "Fritters." When improperly done, frying results in an unwholesome and greasy mess, unfit for food, but with care, plenty of fat (which may be used again and again), and the right degree of heat, nothing is easier than to produce a crisp, delicious, and healthful dish.
To thaw frozen meat, place in a warm room over night, or lay it for a few hours in cold water - the latter plan being the best. The ice which forms on the surface as it thaws is easily removed. If cooked before it is entirely thawed, it will be tough. Meat once frozen should not be allowed to thaw until just before cooking. 13
The most economical way to cut a ham is to slice, for the same meal, from the large end as well as from the thickest part; in this-way a part of best and a part of the less desirable is brought on, and the waste of the meal is from the poorest, as the best is eaten first. After cutting a ham, if not to be cut from again soon, rub the cut side with corn meal; this prevents the ham from becoming rancid, and rubs off easily when the ham is needed again.
Beef in boiling loses rather more than one-quarter; in roasting it loses one-third; legs of mutton lose one-fifth in boiling, and one-third in roasting, and a loin of mutton in roasting loses rather more than a third.
Beef suet may be kept a long time in a cool place without freezing, or by burying it deep in the flour barrel so as to entirely exclude the air.
For hints on buying meats, see "Marketing."