Does anybody have a sense of the main methods our ancient paleo kinsmen used to cook meat?
- Smoked meat is delicious, but an occasional thing for me because of the polycyclic bad guys. Not a huge issue for cavemen because stomach cancer typically comes after age 65, past reproductive age.
- Pan fried is okay, but the hotter the pan, the more AGEs and oxidized fats
- Grilled is out of the question in the great white north(east) for this winter
- Slow cooked seems to have no safety concerns. Except it's...slow
- Spit roasted would be great with a group of paleo friends, but not for n=1
- Steamed seems absolutely safe, but I've never done it for some reason, maybe because it reminds me of...
- Boiled, and anytime I boil meat, it tastes not super
My gap ridden teeth have a hard time chewing some meats, so tender slow cooked meat is great for that. But I'm looking for a third leg for my cooking stool: Pan fried, Slow-cooked, and XXXXXXX. Is there good evidence on how our ancestors did things? Did they cook things with skewers, or on hot stones, or something else?
Does their cooking method matter to me as a modern paleo? In other words, what they ate is important for what we eat because of our physiological needs, but does cooking method fit as neatly into that picture?
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The short answer is no. It doesn't matter. I love my cavemen brethren, but they probably weren't the best of cooks. The tools they had were rudimentary. They'd cook most of their food stuffs over an open flame. It probably created a good number of AGEs which is fine to a degree. They didn't eat an AGE heavy diet or live in an AGE promoting environment. Our bodies can deal with some AGEs rather nicely. But it's even nicer if we can keep them low, especially in the toxic environment we live in and especially since most of us grew up eating an AGE rich diet (thank you fructose). So now we look for ways to best cook food from a health perspective something our ancestors didn't really think about. The main thing to watch out for is high heat. Don't burn your meat please. Don't char it. That's not ideal. Use the right oils. Butter, ghee, coconut, lard are the kings of the cooking oil world. Buy the bucket of tallow from USDA Wellness Meats.
The old guys, our cavemen brethren, probably ate a good deal of raw meats also. So if you feel like taking that on good on you. I'm sticking with the cooked stuff for now. I'm also staying away from bugs. Overall, don't worry too much. Enjoying your food is more important than getting every single detail right. Keep that cortisol low! Do what tastes good and maybe turn the oven/burner down a few degrees.
I think that the third leg to the stool of paleo cookery has to be broths. It is a way to extract the goodness from bones and sinews and other indigestible bits, easy to make and can be stored effectively in the freezer.
Primitive people would have used broths for the purpose of extending meat intake even when there had been no live catch for a while. Cram-packed with minerals, bones and sinews would never have been discarded or overlooked and of course things like eyes and hooves would also have been added (I use pig's trotters in my broth which adds gelatine to the mix - superbly nutritious) as they cannot have been consumed any other way.
We today have the added benefit of being able to use mineral rich broths as a basis for many gorgeous dishes - take soup for instance, infinite flavours and textures can be produced, in fact you could have a different tasting soup for every day of the year, depending on what you add (doesn't get stuck in the teeth either!). Never get bored! Treated as a 'poor man's food' but not to be overlooked, soup has fed whole nations (especially in times of famine) to great effectiveness.
Wonderful sauces and roux can be made from broth, which could enliven any meat dish - just pick up any basic french cookery book and learn how to make a sauce properly and you will never ever be short on taste again.
I use broth in my children's food. It is a fantastic way to add nutrients to their meals without them knowing/complaining. I add it to bolognese sauce, shepherd's pie, even creamy sauce for their veggies.
And of course the last and most important reason why you should make broth a necessity in your household: it is great medicine. Simple broth with strips of chicken added to it (and perhaps rice noodles for kids or the elderly) is food for the soul, for fevers, for colds, for convalescence and any other ailment that needs some fortifying nutrients given with love.
I think one factor for a modern paleo person which is crucial here is 'taste' - hence the fact we are searching for different ways to cook the same old ingredients and I think broth is somewhat overlooked by paleos as time-consuming or too intricate or not relevant to modern cooking methods. Well, there is nothing difficult about broth, as long as you have a pot, some heat, water and some bones and/or other animal/vegetable bits and pieces and I do not believe it could have possibly been overlooked by any primitive culture.
Boiling sucks, but poaching is my preferred method of cooking fish- the difference is the heat is lower and you use the liquid as a flavor element, using plain water just robs flavor. I like citrus, white wine, onion juice, vinegars or the like as poaching liquid. Spicy teas are also a neat trick if you like "baking" sort of spices with fish (I find it works well with chai teabags and salmon)
I second the "hunk of meat in the crockpot and let it roast" plan too. That is what I am doing with a chunk of pork right now. Tricks are to 1) Put it on onion slices so it doesn't stick to the bottom 2) Apply a dry rub to season 3)Put the fat side up (this works very well on cuts with a fat strip on one side) and 4) serve the liquid
Sometimes I add a little apple cider vinegar to the bottom of the crock for flavor when cooking pork. With beef I will sometimes take out the roast and add in stew meat and cover with a 50-50 combo of balsamic vinegar or read wine and water and make a stew in the drippings which is really yummy.
Sous Verde is nothing like what cavemen did but it is the next trick I want to learn after I have my crock pot pimped to support the temperature regulation. This interests me because the results are so talked about.
After that my next experiment might be with Thermal Cookers. I don't think I will use them for dinner but it seems like a really interesting lunchtime solution- to have a stew cooking all morning long in a thermos getting ready for my lunch.
As you can see, I am generally a big fan or low temp cooking. I am also a fan of methods that make me commit to dinner in the morning because I find I am less likely to decide to go out or otherwise slack off then when compared to right after I get home. The combo really works well for me.
New on the AGEs debate, an article from Ned Kock:
Slow-cooking in the oven or crockpot has been amazing except for the 'slow' part, but then I discovered the pressure cooker and I haven't looked back!
I wonder if roasting meat over an open flame is as common as we imagine. Wouldn't that have meant the loss of lots of precious, precious fat?
I remember reading in Jack Weatherford's "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World", that, before Genghis Khan was Genghis Khan, he was once forced into the wilderness with a few of his closest allies. They would have almost starved, had they not come across a wild horse.
They cooked the horse's flesh by making a bag from it's skin, and placing in it the chunks of meat, water, and stones made hot by a fire. So I imagine our ancestors found many ways to maximize the nutrition and calories of the food they cooked. I can imagine steaming was also common- perhaps by using hot stones coverned with leaves, etc.
I personally have come to love meat boiled SLOWLY in a ceramic pot. Sounds bland, but if the meat it good it really is delicous. I dip the meat in some tamari (not 100% paleo, I know!), and enjoy the soup. You can also toss in some bones to get your marrow on. Also, I've never tried it, but I'm very curious about sous vide. If you're into cooking, maybe you could give that a whirl.