Two important animal products, milk and eggs, have been. studied, and we come now to a consideration of the sh of animals as food. The cooking of the flesh in any way is a comparatively simple matter once we have mastered a few fundamental laws which are practically the same as in cooking eggs.
The choice of different sections-of a creature for different purposes and the decision as to best ways of cooking whatever cut happens to be available, are less simple.
The primitive cook applied heat to his fish, fowl, or section of meat and consumed it when cooked. The modern marketmen first divide and clean, then the chef seasons and applies the heat in different ways to the various portions. One part is naturally tender and ready for immediate cooking, another will be better if kept a week or a month, others will be improved by salting or smoking.
Savages have fewer kinds of food and simpler methods of preparation than civilized man. Because of greater abundance it is a natural tendency in civilization to discard as refuse certain portions formerly eaten. On the other hand, business competition makes it necessary to save all by-products and every portion of an animal is used for some purpose and brings some money return, even though small. Were it not for this, our animal foods would be higher in price than they are. As it is, they are the most expensive part of the daily food.
This is partly due to the fact that the flesh of animals is a secondary product. Animals consume grains and require additional human care, and thus must cost more than the grains, themselves, alone. Moreover, it has been learned by dietary studies that average families in the United States obtain from half to two-thirds of the protein in their food from animal source, and the cost of food is usually proportionate to the demand.
The composition of all animal foods is similar. Milk is mainly water, but contains some of each of the food principles. Eggs have less water than milk, and no carbohydrates, but furnish larger proportions of fat and protein. Fish would average about the same proportion of protein as eggs, but rather less fat Poultry yields more protein than eggs, but about the same amount of fat. The flesh of the larger animals will average about two-thirds water, the protein and fat being in varying proportions according to the age and condition of the animal.
Without regard to the names given by marketmen of different localities to the cuts of meat, we may learn the location of the choicest pieces. Cuts which offer tender muscle or large proportion of muscle will naturally command the higher prices.
In any of these animals the framework of bone is practically the same. The larger portion of bone is in the forequarter. This is one reason why the fore-quarters are cheaper than hindquarters in our markets. Consequently, there is less nutritive value per pound and what there is is less accessible, for the meat is not easily carved unless boned before cooking.
Meat of any kind should have little odor when in good condition. It should be firm and dry rather than moist, and should be well marbled with fat.
The lower part of the legs will have little muscle in proportion to the bone, and there will be tendons holding the muscle to the bone.
Muscles getting little motion or exercise will be tender, while those which are active will be tough, though juicy. The neck and legs, therefore, will be suitable for broths but not desirable for roasts.
A general rule is this: the market value of meat increases backward from the head, but decreases downward toward the legs. This brings the choicest cuts in the back upper part of the creature and includes the rump and loin.
The muscle of good beef is dark red when first cut and grows brighter when exposed to the air for a short time. The fat is yellowish white.
Mutton and lamb have a hard white fat. The flesh of mutton is a duller red than beef. The lamb is pinkish in tinge. The bones of veal and lamb are smaller than those of beef and mutton. Veal and fresh lean pork are somewhat the same shade of dull pink, but the pork has more fat mixed with it.
Meat from young animals is tender but not so nutritious, and does not keep so well as that from older ones.
The heart, liver, sweetbread, kidney, tripe, are also used as food and the same general laws govern the methods of cooking them.
The chef may not recognize the same elements in meat that the chemist does, yet his choice and preparation of a cut of meat are based upon its composition. From this point of view, meat consists of three parts: lean muscle, fat, and bone, and the market value of any cut is based upon its relative proportion of these.
Lean meat is most desired and tender fibres command the higher prices. Some fat is utilized with the meat, but a large part goes to the manufacture of artificial butter, lard, and soap. Much of the bone is refuse, but some of its substance may be extracted by right treatment.
Lamb Chops And Kidneys
The lean portion of meats is about one-fifth or twenty per cent, protein about, five times as much as in an equal weight of milk.
The muscle or the lean meat may be freed from skin, gristle, bone, and fat, wholly or in part before cookingo It is easier to serve when this is done, and there is no waste at the table, but there may be loss of flavor. Raw meat may be digested readily, but we cook it to make it more attractive in appearance and-more appetizing in flavor.
Some fat is required to keep the meat from drying during the cooking process. Often the muscle is so closely associated with bone, tendon, and gristle, that to remove them would cause serious loss of juice. In any case, when the tougher portions are removed they should be used for stock and their flavor returned to the muscle as a sauce or used for soup or other good purpose.