Trim off the fat, sear the meat, and finish at lower heat in a braise or stew for the most wonderful dinner. We explain to you how.
Beef cheek is a formidable cut of meat from the face of the cow, ideal for braising or stews. It has an exceptional beef flavor that stands out from other cuts, especially when the cut has been cleaned and cooked well.
If you bought it from your local butcher, you may be wondering what is the best way to trim them:
You trim beef cheeks by laying the meat flat on a cutting board and trimming one side at a time. Place the knife at an upward angle, cutting away from your body as you pass the blade between the meat and the fatty tissue. Do the same to the other side, then trim around the edges.
At all times, keep your free hand on top of the meat to hold it firmly in place; your fingers straight out or slightly upward to prevent yourself from getting cut.
It is critical to be careful when trimming beef cheeks because the knife you use will be sharp. We recommend a fillet knife with a straight blade with a point at the end that is highly sharp for trimming.
We will go through classic and valuable information in the rest of this article that will help you trim and cook beef cheeks.
Beef Cheeks Are a “Lesser” Cut of Meat
Beef cheeks are a less popular cut of meat because they are not as quick or easy to prepare. They are fatty on both sides and are very often sold untrimmed. In most recipes for beef cheeks, although there are exceptions, this fat must be removed.
Beef cheeks are one of the less desirable cuts, but they are known for their exceptional flavor when prepared properly. To get tender beef cheeks, you must trim them properly so that not too much fat gets into the dish you are preparing.
When beef cheeks are properly trimmed, the perfect look is a marbled cut of meat. Pull your knife against the natural grain of the meat to get a perfectly trimmed piece. Don’t cut too much, but don’t cut too little either.
Beef cheeks are used in many different dishes, such as beef cheek tacos or even beef cheek stir-fry. They can also be used as meat for a classic stew, something like the Italian version, where you sauté onions and garlic, add chopped carrots and potatoes, salt and pepper, fresh thyme sprigs, bay leaves and beef broth; then simmer the whole thing for three hours.
Trimming Both Sides of Beef Cheeks
Before cooking it, you need to skim off all the fat to keep your meal light. Beef cheeks are one of the tougher cuts of meat. That said, when you trim both sides after cutting them open, and cook them well, it becomes incredibly tender.
These are the steps to safely and accurately trimming the fat off of the beef cheeks.
Step 1: Lay the meat flat on a butcher’s block or a cutting board and trim one side at a time.
Step 2: Place the knife at an upward angle, cutting away from your body as you pass it between the meat and the fatty tissue. Do the same to the other side, then trim around the edges.
Step 3: Repeat these steps with each piece of meat you want to be trimmed.
You want the knife in an upward angle so that you do not cut off too much meat with the fat. Keep your free hand on top of the meat to hold it in place, and make sure your fingers are straight out or slightly up to avoid getting sliced.
How Do You Cook Beef Cheeks?
Beef cheeks are muscle meat and, to be made tender, they must be seared, then cooked low and slow for several hours. To make them more flavorful, some cooks brine them by rubbing them with salt 1 hour before cooking; others marinade them in wine.
To make marinade for beef cheeks, simmer wine over medium heat for 6-7 minutes to reduce the alcohol. Let the wine cool down completely, mix it with salt, pepper, thyme, garlic cloves, and vegetable oil. Pour over the meat, seal tightly, and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
As with any other piece of meat, browning the beef cheeks develops their texture, aroma, and flavor. So, before braising or stewing them, get your pan nice and hot over medium-high heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of avocado oil, rice bran oil, or canola oil, and brown the beef cheeks for 1-2 minutes per side.
Add carrots, onions, and celery to the pan, give them a quick sauté, then throw in a few cloves of minced garlic. Cook the garlic for 15-20 seconds until it releases it perfumes your kitchen with its pungent odor, then pour broth or wine into the pan and let simmer over medium-low for a couple of hours.
After a couple of hours, you have yourself an aromatic and delicious braise like no other.
Beef Cheeks are Versatile
Trimming your beef cheeks before cooking will leave you with tender, delicious meat that is perfect in any dish you want.
The flavor of beef cheeks pairs well with many different ingredients that pair together wonderfully, like artichoke hearts, olives, tomatoes, or mushrooms. You can make a barbecue-style beef cheek sandwich with onion rings and spicy mustard on top of the meat too.
If you want to make a stew, you will find few cut of meat to be more suitable than beef cheeks. Beef cheeks are packed full of collagen, which helps thicken the stew’s sauce when it breaks down and dissolves into gelatin during the slow cook.
When you cook this cut of meat, it is crucial to remove as much of the sinewy tissue as possible beforehand so that your finished product has a smooth texture.
Beef Cheeks for Beef Stew
Take out your sharp boning knife and put on some food-safe rubber gloves. Your butcher should have already done this for you, but there could still be some tough pieces where sinew remains between each cheek muscle.
Put the cheek meat side down on your cutting board and separate it into four large chunks by making vertical cuts at 1/4 inch intervals along its width (be careful not to cut all the way through).
Turn the chunks so their broadside is down and horizontal on your cutting board, and carve away any sinewy tissue. The chunks will only stay separated when you move them while you cut.
Repeat this process with the four chunks. You should now have 8 large cubes of meat and some thin pieces. Remember to carve off any remaining tough bits from the thin pieces.
In the end, what you will be left with are perfectly cubed beef cheeks ready to go into braises, stews, curries, and other styles of dishes. This whole process will take about 15 minutes. Once this process is completed, you are ready to make your beef stew.
It is a low and slow process, but you can also cook it on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. Once you take a bite of the beef cheeks cut into small chunks, you will understand why this is the best cut for beef stew and braising.
Sometimes, it makes us wonder why it is not a prime cut once that flavor kicks you in the taste buds. The look, flavor, and texture will keep you on this cut of meat.