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Probably the best meat you're not eating


Veal filet
Vegar Abelsnes Photography/Photodisc/Getty Images

The popularity of veal has been growing steadily across the United States and Canada. This great meat, favored throughout Europe for centuries has finally begun to find its way to the table and the grill of many more people, and it's about time. Veal is, of course very tender, and it has a fantastic flavor that can't be matched. If you've tried veal then you already know this. What you might not know is that veal is very lean, one of the leanest meats you can buy.

Selecting Veal: Not all veal is created equal or feed the same. There are two kinds of veal, milk or formula feed veal and grass or range feed veal. Typically the range feed veal gets more exercise and tends to be a little tougher, but not so much that you would notice. Your butcher or at least the packaging should tell you which kind of veal you are looking at. Milk feed veal should be a pale pink color with creamy white fat, while range feed veal should be red with yellowish fat. What you want to avoid veal that is too pale. When it comes to veal, smaller isn't better. Veal is labeled similar to beef with "Good" replacing "Select" when it comes to USDA grading.

Choosing a Cut: Just like beef, not all cuts are equally tender or flavorful. When it comes to grilling you want to look for shoulder, rib and loin cuts, just as you would with beef. These cuts are tender enough to withstand the intense heat of the grill and should be cooked hot and fast in a dry heat. Shoulder is typically the least expensive of these cuts so it makes a good bargain. Of course veal is going to be more expensive than beef no matter how you look at it.

Cooking Veal: Most cuts of veal want to be cooking in a hot, dry heat. This makes grilling perfect for veal. While you might be more familiar with Italian and French veal recipes that rely on sautéing, the grill will add flavor and get the veal cooked before it dries out. Of course, like with beef, timing is everything. The secret is to not let the veal dry out. Since veal is so lean it can not tolerate overcooking, so aim for medium-rare and keep an instant read thermometer handy.

Seasoning Veal: Veal has a delicate flavor that you do not want to overpower. However, because veal is so lean you want to do some fat replacement on it. A marinade based on olive oil and a few light seasonings will work great. You may also choose to simply brush a light coating of oil over the meat and lightly season with salt and pepper. This simple solution is perfect for veal since the flavor is already great.

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