Suggested Wine Pairings for Grass-Fed Beef

Dave the Wine Merchant and Chef Adam Moore discuss the environmental and nutritional benefits of Grass-fed beef, and how the meat’s lower fat content impacts related wine pairings.

Chef Adam Moore creates recipes for Australia’s grass-fed beef & lamb

Pulling on a lifetime of food and wine pairing experience didn’t prepare me for matching wine with lower fat grass-fed beef. And a lifetime of cooking beef didn’t really prepare me for cooking grass-fed beef properly either! I dried it out regularly, and found the results bland and tough. But after this discussion with Chef Adam Moore, I now know the tips and tricks for preparing it perfectly! And read to the end to see how my wine-with-beef recommendations change when drinking wine with grass-fed beef!

Australian Beef and Lamb aims to be completely carbon-neutral by year 2030, and their water usage, land preservation, and greenhouse gas emissions prevention have allowed it to become one of the most environmentally friendly ways of raising cattle. You can find Australian grass-fed beef in grocery stores coast to coast, including Costco, Tops, Wakefern and Savemart. Look for “product of Australia ” on pack or ask your butcher for Australian.

Poolside image - Austrailan grass-fed beef burgers

Here is the transcript from my conversation with Chef Adam, followed by my wine pairing suggestions and links to three of his favorite recipes for low-fat, grass-fed beef!

DAVE: Hi Chef, thanks for your time today. Can you start by explaining to my readers why grass-fed beef is better for us and the environment?

ADAM: Grass-fed beef is a naturally lean source of high-quality protein, with 13 essential nutrients required for good health, including Iron, Zinc, Omega-3 and B vitamins. It has 4 times more iron than chicken. It’s high in protein and low in calories – for example, to get 25 grams of protein (about half your daily requirement) you’d have to consume 3 cups of quinoa (with 665 calories!), or just 4 oz of grass-fed beef tenderloin, which is only 145 calories.

And when grass-fed beef is raised naturally and sustainably like it is on Australia’s abundant open pasturelands, you can feel good about choosing a high-quality protein that’s better for you and better for the environment.

DAVE: Grass-fed beef as a category sounds like a good thing for all of us. How is grass-fed beef from Australia any different than any other grass-fed beef? Can’t we buy from a domestic source and eliminate the emissions from the trans-pacific crossing?

ADAM: For some, it’s the choice of grass-fed beef from livestock that freely graze on open, natural grasslands and pastures for their whole life. For others, the nutritional benefits of lean grass-fed beef as a good source of protein and iron; and lower fat content is a plus.

For many more, it’s the ‘as nature intended’ flavor of a clean, green product. Care for our animals and the environment are at the core of what we do. Our ranchers pride themselves on being stewards of the land, with sustainability as a priority. As a country, we set a high bar for environmental standards, and our grass-fed beef speaks volumes about the results. In fact, one of our latest goals is to be carbon neutral by 2030. And we are well on our way to reaching it. In the last 14 years, we’ve reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 56%.

DAVE: We have a few cattle ranches in California too. When I buy your Australian beef, does it offset the ecological benefits of grass-feeding when it is transported across the Pacific? I mean, I know the crossing has much lower impact than a trans-continental truck ride, but when we’re looking for every sustainable advantage possible…

ADAM: Not all Dave. Actually, shipping is the most environmentally friendly form of transport. Less than 5% of greenhouse gas emissions, water, and energy come from transport.

DAVE: Really?! I knew it was low but not THAT low! Do you have a source for that?

ADAM: Of course! It’s from recent research conducted by the The Journal of Cleaner Production and The Journal of Agricultural Systems.

DAVE: OK Chef, let’s get to the meat of the matter (sorry) – your cooking tips!

In my experience, grass-fed beef tends to be less flavorful and easier to dry out than grain-fed or even grain-finished beef. What tips can you share with our readers to make sure they have a great meal and choose grass-fed beef on a regular basis?

ADAM: Well Dave, funny you should mention that. You know that journey to America we were just talking about? It actually improves our already tasty grass-fed beef! The fresh meats are immediately vacuum-packed after processing, and while on the water our temperature-controlled meat begins the 14-day wet-aging process which improves tenderness and flavor quality relative to domestic versions.

But I also have a few tips when cooking grass-fed beef vs. grain-fed that can certainly help:

  1. First, about an hour before cooking, take the meat out of your refrigerator and allow it come up to room temperature before cooking. This helps to keep it from drying out.
  2. Because grass-fed beef is lower in fat, it cooks up to 30% faster than grained beef. So my #1 tip is don’t be afraid to pull the meat off the heat well before your instincts tell you it’s ready!
  3. When grilling, handle lightly, flipping only once.
  4. And finally, let the meat rest for 5 – 10 minutes before cutting to keep it nice and juicy. If unsure of the proper cooking time, take advantage of our handy ‘steak mate’ tool at www.trueaussiebeefandlamb.com. Just plug in the details and we’ll do the rest.
Dave at the Wine Shop

DAVE: Thanks Adam, those are some helpful tips! As a wine merchant, I can’t let you off the hook without asking about your favorite wine pairing for this lower-fat beef.

ADAM: Now Dave, you’re the wine expert, I just serve up the delicious food! What wines do you suggest? We’d love to pass along your recommendations to our followers.

DAVE: (Laughing) I’ll be glad to. In general, I like to make general recommendations rather than specific wines. That way, people can find delicious pairings even though specific wines may not be available.

REDS: Though beef and Cabernet Sauvignon are a classic pairing, it’s only true because the tannins in Cabernet-based reds is a nice foil to the fat in grain-fed or grain-finished finished beef. Because grass-fed beef is 30% lower in fat, I’d recommend Cabernet only to its biggest fans. Most others will find pleasure in lighter reds such as Pinot Noir, the Sangiovese-based wines of Chianti and Tuscany, or the Nebbiolo-based wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. But any lighter-bodied red will pair nicely. Shop my current portfolio of red wines here, or while we’re branching out from the old standards…

ROSES: My regular club members and readers may be tired of my mantra that dry Rose wines are among the most food-friendly on the planet! Especially when paired with lean grass-fed beef served with a chimichurri or salsa or other bit of heat, a dry Rose will outshine most other pairings. Plus, a dry Rose is lower in alcohol and calories – an appealing benefit for our health-conscious times. Shop my current portfolio of dry Roses here.

WHITE WINES: Pairing beef with any white wine is not my favorite idea. Though wine generally improves any savory dish, my white wine and beef recommendations are only for those wine fans who only drink white wine! So my advice here is to go big and bold – a CA Chardonnay, for example, or a wine from the Rhone Valley featuring Viognier, Roussanne or Marsanne. Shop my current portfolio of white wines here.

And of course, as always, much depends on the method of cooking and side dishes! Click here for my wine pairings to go with three of Chef Adam’s dishes featuring Australian Grass-Fed Beef:

Chef Adam’s “Better Burger” featuring Aussie Grass-fed Beef

Aussie Strip Steak Sandwich

Caesar Salad with Warm Australian Beef

Cheers!

Cabernet Sauvignon & Grilled (Grass-Fed) Ribeye Steak

In June, 2009, this recipe was paired with the Sojourn Cellars ’05 Sonoma Valley Cabernet sent to members of our Grand Cru Selections sampling program.


SOJ Cab Sauv 05B 1-14-08 AgainAs I wrote the tasting notes for the 2005 Sojourn Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ($48) I began craving grilled steak.  I could practically smell the hot grill and hear the sizzle.  And got hungry!

We’ve recently started buying grass-fed beef, ever since my wife investigated the environmental and health impacts corn-fed cattle brought to large feed-lots.  I listened attentively as she taught me all about the downside of corn-fed beef, with the antibiotics they require in the over-crowded feedlots where they’re fattened up  just prior to their last moo.  It’s the sort of “Hey listen to this” reading that romantic married couples do for a few minutes before the lights go out and we retreat into our individual dream cycles.

After learning the dangers of commercial beef, I was looking forward to tasting  the healthier, more sustainable, and more expensive alternative.  I just want it to be at least as good as corn-fed beef, perhaps even tastier.  But my first few experiences with it were less than stellar.

You see, grass-fed beef is so much lower in fat that it must be cooked at a lower temperature and for shorter periods of time than regular beef.  We had been told this, but it proved difficult to overcome a lifetime of experience that had taught us exactly how long to leave a steak on the grill.   As a result, we over-cooked our first few efforts with grass-fed beef.  When grilling or pan-searing beef (high heat, short cooking time), it is best to use a New York strip or rib eye, as it comes from a more tender part of the cattle, and benefits from both bone and a layer of fat.  And fat, my friends, is  flavor!

The fat of grass-fed beef is more yellow than that of corn-fed beef, as grass provides a richer source of Vitamin A.  Its flavor will be more mineral-driven than the more iron (blood)-driven flavor of regular beef.

We also found considerable flavor differences among sources of grass-fed beef.  Terry, our butcher at the Real Foods Market,  carries a brand from Argentina that we didn’t find as tasty as the Prather Ranch brand we prefer.  So we invited him over for a taste-off – he brought his brand and we provided the Prather Ranch and all were grilled in an identical manner.  Every taster could tell the difference in flavor without hesitation, but as for which was preferred, there was no concensus.  So you may need to try different ranches before you find a favorite!

Ingredients
1 Grass-Fed Rib Eye Steak per person.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
A good grill.  Mesquite or other hardwood chips add a nice layer of flavor, but I prefer my steak unadorned with extra filigree.  It’s up to you!

Procedure

Arrange your grill for high, indirect heat.  Grill your steak as you normally would, but muster every ounce of will power you can, and shorten the cooking time by a full minute per side.  Depending on the thickness of your steak, this might mean leaving it on the grill for only 2-3 minutes per side.

Serve with grilled corn on the cob and a side salad of fresh tomatoes with basil and balsamic and life won’t get much better.

Happy MerchantCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant
Dave@SidewaysWineClub.com

Today’s Quote
“Red meat is not bad for you.  Now blue-green meat… that’s bad for you!”
~Tommy Smothers (American Comedian and Winemaker.  1937 – )