| 4.1°C Dublin

Pat's top Tips for getting better value from your meat

Pay a visit to your local butchers if you'd like more information on what you're eating and advice on cooking cheaper cuts. Try lamb shank, pork belly and ox-tail for slow-cooked, mouth-watering casseroles. Butcher shop meat has been hung for longer in order to mature and will have better flavour than the quick turnaround of beef, lamb and pork required by the supermarkets.

Consumers gain because the meat won't shrink as much when cooked.

  • Colour is a good indicator of quality in beef -- it should be dark red, springy to the touch, with a light, sweet scent.

As fat is the primary taste enhancer, look for marbled fat -- delicate and thin veins of fat threaded through the grain, not a few thick streaks, which can indicate the animal was badly fed.

  • Don't spend money on fancy equipment. The most essential tool for cooking meat is a meat thermometer, it will prevent you from over-cooking food and more importantly, under-cooking it.

A kitchen timer, a pair of tongs to prevent burns and a roasting rack, which lets air circulate around a joint, are other useful tools.

  • Buy a whole chicken rather than fillets. Oven-roast it with some simple veg and you've a healthy, great value, meal. The darker meat can be used to make soup later, or provide a second meal in a quiche.
  • Try using different cooking methods. Braising -- searing the meat before cooking it slowly in a sealed pot -- is the best method to cook cheaper cuts of lamb, pork or beef.
  • Don't be afraid to buy your meat online. Buying half a lamb, pre-packaged in various cuts, works out at good value , especially as its coming direct from the farm and you are cutting out paying the middle man.

Irish Independent