This section is from the book "Philadelphia Cook Book: A Manual Of Home Economies", by Sarah Tyson Heston Rorer. Also available from Amazon: Philadelphia Cook Book.
As stated in the remarks on soup, the principal constituents of animal food are fibrin, fat, gelatin, albumen, and osma-zome. It also contains a large amount of water. Liebig assumes that 74 parts are water and 26 parts dry matter.
"The ratio of water in meats, fowl and fish is quite uniform, ranging from 70 to 80 per cent., but the proportion of other constituents, muscular fibre, fat and bone, exhibits the widest possible diversity. In some animals, more especially wild ones, as deer, there may be hardly a trace of oily matter, while swine are often fed until the animal becomes one morbid and unwieldy mass of fat. The pure muscle of ordinary meat, with all its visible fat removed, is assumed by Liebig to still contain about 8 per cent. of fat. In beef and mutton such as is met with in our markets, from a third to a fourth of the whole dead weight generally consists of fat." (Johnston.)
In cooking meats our object is to retain the nourishment and flavor, consequently we must follow directions exactly the opposite from those for making soup. The flavor and juiciness of meat depend as much upon the method of cooking as upon the quality of the meat. If cold water and a moderate heat will soften the fibre and draw out the juices, boiling water or a strong, dry heat will retain them, by coagulating the albumen on the surface and to a certain depth within, thus enclosing the meat in a water-proof case or crust, which neither permits the juices to flow out nor the water to penetrate within; in this way only is meat juicy and well flavored.
The more albumen the flesh contains the more tender it is, consequently veal, lamb, and spring chickens are more tender than beef, mutton, and fowl. The coagulation of the albumen throughout the meat gives it the white, dry appearance. The tender meats also have less flavor, as they contain very little or no osmazome.
I emphatically say do not wash meats, as in this way they are robbed of a large proportion of their nutriment. The steaks or roasts freshly cut from the beef are certainly free from all objectionable matter; the outer edges which the butcher has handled may be well wiped with a damp cloth and they are ready for use.
Heat is generally applied to meat in four ways: boiling, baking, roasting, and braising. The first includes all stews and boiled meats; the second our ordinary baked beef, commonly called roasted in the oven; the third, roasting before or under the fire, and broiling. Roasting means exposing one side of the meat to the fire and the other to the air, which is decidedly the best way of cooking large joints. But in these days of small kitchens and ranges, so few persons have space or accommodations for using a spit or even a tin kitchen (although the latter may be used before any ordinary range) that almost every family "roasts" in the oven; and this is by no means an inferior way if the oven be very hot at first, in order to form a crust upon the outer side, then slightly cooled, to prevent the crust from burning, and finished at a moderate heat. In this way the meat may be well done, and if properly basted will retain its juices. The fourth way is braising, which is neither boiling nor baking, but has the advantages of both. The meat is placed in a braising-pan (a pan with a close cover), surrounded by water, and baked in a hot oven. This is a very nice and economical way of cooking meat.
"Reed's Roaster" is the best and most convenient pan that has come under my notice, being a close box with a door at the end; thus enabling you to look at the meat without removing it from the oven, which is usually necessary with other pans.
Meat loses, while cooking, a certain amount of its weight. It is estimated that moderately fat beef and mutton will lose about as follows: -
4 lbs. of beef will lose
1 ℔. 5 OZ.
1 ℔. 3 OZ.
4 " " mutton "
1 ℔ 6 "
1 " 4 "
The foregoing table will show that boiling or stewing is the cheaper method of cooking meats, as the meat loses less of its weight, and you use the so-called inferior pieces. These pieces are rejected, as Mrs. Turner fitly says: "not because they are actually much inferior, but largely for the reason which induced the generation before ours to throw away shad-roe, sweet-breads, and other things now considered luxuries."
When we consider that a bullock weighing 800 pounds contains only 120 pounds of what are sought after in markets as the best pieces for roasts and steaks, and that only 8 to 12 pounds in the whole 800 are tenderloins, and when all dealers admit that the comparative cost of the traditional best pieces is out of all proportion to their comparative value as nutrition, we may well be tempted to tamper with our tradition and experiment a little with portions of the remaining 680 pounds; and from these 680 pounds are made all our nicest dishes, such as ragouts, brown stews, pot-roasts, rolls, and in fact all the French made dishes.
In the recipes for stews and their companions, you will notice that we never stew in plain water and thicken afterwards, but make a gravy first, either from salt pork fat, dripping, suet, or butter (never lard), and in this way the meat is more savory and rich.
By changing the spices and flavorings, by browning, or not, the sauces, an endless number of dishes may be made from the few recipes given.