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Beef Stakes

"Beef makes up a quarter of my main menu," says Art Kessler, Assistant Director of Foodservices at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. "In the comfort food area of the cafeteria, it's about 30 percent."

The flavor factor


For each rub, combine the ingredients and sprinkle over beef. Lightly rub into meat. Each rub will cover approximately four 12-oz. steaks or one 3-lb. roast.

1 tsp. red pepper
1 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. coarse black pepper
1 tsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1-1/2 tsps. dried oregano
1-1/2 tsps. dried thyme

2 tsps. chile powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. onion salt
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. ground oregano

1-1/2 tsps. dried oregano
1-1/2 tsps. dried basil
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt

Combine 4 lbs. of beef and 2 cups of marinade in sealed container or zipperlocking, plastic bag. Refrigerate shoulder and round steaks up to 8 hours to fully develop flavor and tenderness.Top blade, ribeye, strip, tenderloin and Tbone steaks can be marinated for flavor in 30 minutes. For an even greater taste boost, reserve and refrigerate 1/2 cup sauce before marinating; then use it to baste the beef while grilling.

2/3 cups olive oil
2/3 cup lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

2 cups beef broth
4 Tbsps. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsps. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
2 tsps. dried Italian seasoning

2/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup Dijon-style mustard
4 Tbsps. vegetable oil
4 Tbsps. lemon juice
2 tsps. dried basil

2 (12 oz.) cans frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup light molasses or honey
4 tsps. ground ginger

Source: Certified Angus Beef, LLC

Operators in all sectors of onsite foodservice echo the observation that demand for beef is high—whether it's as a result of customers on protein-heavy eating plans such as the Atkins and South Beach diets; diners in search of filling and comforting foods; or those reveling in the "beef is back" trend.

But menuing beef involves more that just ordering it from a supplier. There's more to think about these days—such as weighing current market prices, investigating food safety concerns (might irradiated beef work at your operation?), checking out the newly available cuts (you mean there are new parts to a steer?—see sidebar), and positioning menu items to most cost-effectively handle high-protein dieters' demands.

Balancing act
A major issue at present is beef prices. Many operators have locked-in costs for ground beef, but whole muscle meats are often not under contractual protection. Unsure as to when prices will drop, many are taking a wait-it-out approach.

"We're monitoring the situation, but we haven't made any menu changes yet," notes Kessler. "We're hesitant to take off any of our customers' favorites, such as the carved roast beef, Thai lemon beef, or ribeye steak sandwiches. We'll just have to see how overall food costs run, and for next semester's menu cycle, maybe we can offset the beef prices with something in another area."

At Motorola's Chaumburg, IL, operations, Manager of Hospitality Services Carol Bracken-Tilley says her group is "not allowing menu prices to go up. Instead, we're looking at creative ways to deal with the cost increases." Examples include pulling back on offering straight five-ounce steaks on the exhibition line and switching to two-ounce portions of a pesto-crusted flank steak on fresh salad instead. Substituting tofu and pulled chicken and pork for beef at the Asian noodle bar is another option her chef is exploring. "When we offer piadini, instead of leaving it up to the customers to determine what will go on the large flat bread, we're going to get into more flavor profiling," she adds. "We'll offer specific options, such as Chicken Caesar or an Asianflavored choice."

Gregory Brandes, chef de cuisine at MedCentral Health System in Mansfield, OH, notes no menu price increases are in the wings at his hospital, either. "We're just going to stick it out," he says, noting that across-the-board use of beef subsitutions is not viewed as a plauisble option.

"We're going with some lower-cost beef cuts, such as flank steak and brisket, and doing things like Sizzling Salads display cooking, where there might be mandarin beef presented on mixed greens."

New options
At Via Christi Regional Medical Center/St. Francis Campus in Wichita, customers are used to seeing beef menued at least six days a week, according to Leader/Executive Chef Scott Hillman.

To keep up with the demand and balance pricing, Hillman is lookingat some new, cost-efficient cuts that were not widely marketed before (see sidebar for more information).

"We're interested in the teres major cut that comes from the shoulder clod because it's like a filet mignon—only less expensive," he says.

"They can be cut into medallions for the sautè station, or they can be presented like little mignons wrapped in bacon. We're also using top butt sirloin for steaks."

Hillman keeps down costs on ribeyes by bringing in whole steaks and cutting smaller, individual portions onsite. He also cuts and marinates his own flank steak for fajitas. To further pique customer interest, he has begun creating in-house rubs and marinades for both beef and chicken with Mexican, Southwestern, Caribbean and Asian flavors.

Atkins-friendly menus
One trend keeping beef—along with other protein options—in high demand is the plethora of low-carbohydrate diets currently in circulation. But in turn, they present a dilemma for operators who must determine how to appropriately price "double-meat/hold-the-carbs" orders.

"The number of customers on highprotein diets seems to be a small percentage, but they're very vocal," notes Christine Rankin, foodservices manager for Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Missouri.

"There are enough of them, though, that we realize we're going to have to Atkins-ize our menu; re-engineer it so that burger combinations, for instance, can come either with a bag of chips or cottage cheese or fruit." For now, customers opting for a burger without a bun pay 20 cents less.

At San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield, CA, Manager Rock Patterson reports the low-carb trend "has hit us very strong." As a result, beef-only grab-and-go options are booming.

"We have a supplier just down the street who prepares tritip seasoned with a barbecue rub," Patterson says. "It's cut into one-ounce slices and we sell it in four-ounce individual servings, as a dinner pack for four to go, or whole at $3.50 per pound. It's probably our biggest seller."

Next steps for food safety
Although irradiation of beef is being hailed by many in the industry as a boon to food safety, few noncommercial operators are willing to be the first to champion it at their own sites. It's just still too much of a hot-button issue.

Cindy Zawieja, associate director of foodservices at Texas A&M University, notes that her operation would be an ideal candidate for testing irradiated ground beef—but she's not ready for it yet.

"The Institute of Food Science and Engineering Department is in the process of partnering with the Electron Beam Food Research Facility here on campus, and since we process all our own burgers in our warehouse facility, we might be able to supply patties to them," she explains.

"But should we irradiate our own here to use on campus? The timing isn't right yet; we're trying to feel out the temperament of the students, and have to be sensitive to fears in the marketplace. Once it becomes standard operating procedure, hopefully in elementary and secondary schools, students will become used to the practice. But we don't want to move in that direction right now."


When it comes to the latest developments in beef, you'd expect to hear about new preparation techniques, tenderizing discoveries, or flavoring secrets. But honest-to-goodness new cuts? How could that be possible? According to the beef industry, several tender and flavorful muscles within the underutilized shoulder are now being extracted and turned into "new" cuts of meat, never before marketed. These allow for whole-muscle steaks and roasts with as much or more flavor—but lower costs—than rib and loin cuts.

Petite Tender (Teres Major)


  • Portion size: 8 to 12 oz.
  • Grade: low choice or better
  • Preparation: grill, pan-broil or sautè
  • Uses: serve whole, cut across the grain into 3/4-inch to 1-inch-thick medallions, or slice for ingredient use; substitute for beef tenderloin (filet mignon)
  • Second-most tender muscle in the beef carcass
  • Mechanical tenderization not required
  • Best when cooked to medium-rare doneness

Flat Iron Steak, Top Blade


  • Portion size: 6 to 14 oz.
  • Thickness: 1/2-inch to 7/8-inch (internal gristle removed)
  • Grade: select or better
  • Preparation: grill or pan-broil like a strip or ribeye steak; slice into strips for marinating
  • Uses: serve as a steak or grill and slice thinly for salads, sandwiches, fajitas and steak tacos
  • Second-most tender muscle in the beef carcass
  • Mechanical tenderization not required
  • Best when cooked to medium-rare doneness

Ranch Cut Steak, Shoulder Center


  • Portion size: 4 to 10 oz.
  • Thickness: 1/2-inch to 7/8-inch
  • Grade: low choice or better
  • Preparation: grill or slice into strips for stir-fries or skewers
  • Uses: serve as a breakfast or lunch steak, in sandwiches and salads or as part of a combo plate; marinate for added flavor
  • Mechanical tenderization recommended (choice, aged steaks may not need tenderizing)
  • Best when cooked to medium-rare doneness

Source: National Cattlemen's Beef Association

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