Charcoal or gas, you really can’t go wrong grilling steak

Published 8:49 am Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Albert Lea Farmers Market season started in mid-May, running Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. The market will run through October.

The market has a large group of vendors that are available every week with a wide selection of products from baked goods, potted plants, jams jellies, eggs, chicken, pork, beef, seafood and garden produce. So far this year the weather has been excellent for growing crops. There are early season crops that are available now such as rhubarb and asparagus. It seems each week something new is being harvested, and strawberries are on the near horizon.

I spend a lot of time at the market and run into a lot of people, each with their own reasons for going there, and it got me to thinking what do we offer that is different, or advantageous for consumers that they can’t get anywhere else, and I came up with a short list of reasons what the farmers market offers to the community and the people of that community. These are just a few.

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The produce, baked goods and meat are all produced locally and harvested when perfectly ripe, which enhances the taste, aroma and quality of the products.

Transportation costs are much lower, which is a plus for the farmers, but a huge advantage to the world. The traditional system for food distribution requires an enormous amount of energy and resources, before the product reaches your table. The average food item will travel 1,300 miles from farmer to table. Another alarming statistic is that only about 10 percent of the fossil fuels used are in production (down at the farm); the rest is used storing and transporting products from one place to another. With everyone becoming earth friendly and going green, this one statistic should have you at a farmers market every week. For example, in my meat business, the meat travels from my farm to the processor (to sell meat it must be federally and/or state inspected) to my freezers and then to the consumer. The produce vendors are strictly farm to market — an unbelievable savings in natural recourses.

Purchasing products at a farmers market keeps the local farmers in business, and strengthens the local economy.

Fresh produce and meats produced and harvested at the peak of the season or at the correct age (for meat) will retain more nutrients and flavor.

Purchasing products at a farmers market will only get you half your money’s worth. The other half is available from the vendor in how to cook or prepare produce, how to cook steaks or just to get recipes. Buy from the source and take advantage of all they have to offer.

Our local market has a couple extra advantages, besides the availability of the products for sale, On Wednesdays you can usually find someone cooking dinner, Many groups use the market as a fundraiser and offer hamburgers, brats, hotdogs, pulled pork, etc. It’s different every week. Also, every third Saturday of the month pancakes and sausage are available, with $1 of every sale going to a local group. Also, on most Wednesdays there is entertainment.

My expertise is with pork, beef and seafood, so I feel the need to include a little information about that in my columns. With summer here and grilling season in full swing, I think it’s important to go over steak hierarchy, just some basic info on what kind and how to purchase steaks. I am always asked what the best steak for the grill is. Everyone seems to have a favorite, but in terms of tenderness and overall quality of cut, the best steaks to grill are: tenderloin New York Strip, rib eye, T-bone and sirloin. I would rate these your best choices of commonly available steaks, they all pack a lot of beef flavor yet are extremely tender. There are other steaks, and some “new” cuts, but I’m just mentioning some of the basic steaks.

One other widely available steak is the round steak. This is a common steak, but not a good choice for the grill using common grilling methods; this type of steak needs to be slow cooked and usually with liquid, even though this cut is the most difficult to conquer it also has some of the best beef flavor when done right. Ask me at the farmers market for recipes on how to cook round.

Most grilling mistakes are made using too-high heat and drying out your steak, This will make it tough no matter what cut you started with. Also, I would not add any salt or salt-based products when you first place your steak on the grill because again this will dry the steak out while it’s cooking. It is best to add that when finished. Marinades often help with keeping steaks tender by using liquid and can enhance the flavor. It’s a good choice for a more economical cut.

You really can’t go wrong grilling steaks using either charcoal or gas, just pay attention to what you’re doing. You and your steak will work through it together.

Dan Matz is a member of the Albert Lea Farmers Market.