Beef fat makes a triumphant return to a balanced diet
The original name of this column was going to be: Low-Fat and Loving It. That's because, back in the early 1990s, fat was our dietary devil. At that time, I never thought that fats would ever be considered even a small part of a healthy food plan.
Fortunately, my wise Daily Herald food editor convinced me to keep from limiting my column's scope and named it: Lean and Lovin' It.
For the first years, this column was all about fat. At that time, not one single fat was considered healthy, except for the fat in no-cholesterol margarine. That supposedly safe, no-cholesterol fat was trans (partially hydrogenated) fat. Today trans fat, even in tiny amounts, is considered heart-unhealthy.
During those earlier years we learned to hate cholesterol so much we (including me) threw out egg yolks because they were high in cholesterol. We learned how to use cholesterol-free egg whites.
Fat and cholesterol were easy targets. Sugar, amazingly, got a pass.
We're still getting mixed messages about dietary cholesterol and whether we should be concerned about it. We're also getting mixed messages about saturated fats consumed as part of a daily food plan. There is now the real possibility that our fear of saturated fats was severely overblown.
We've also learned that there is more than one saturated fat. Some saturated fats, like certain ones in coconut oil, may be healthy.
A similar shift has occurred with beef.
Read the following quote and guess from where it came. Uh-uh, don't skip ahead just yet, here's the quote:
"When compared with other types of beef, grass-fed beef may have some heart-health benefits."
It sounds like it came from a website selling beef, doesn't it? But wait, there's more.
What are those "heart-healthy benefits"? That same website suggests that grass-fed, grass-finished beef may have: "Less total fat. More heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. More conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fat that's thought to reduce heart disease and cancer risks and more antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin E."
Beef as a health-producing food? It sure seems so. Now for the surprise; all those quotes are from the Mayo Clinic's website.
That quote, and several others like it, offered me tacit approval to start testing beef tallow (fat). I didn't just test any beef fat though, only beef fat from grass-fed, grass-finished beef. I started about a year ago when grass-fed beef tallow showed up on my local health food store's shelf.
Do you know that beef tallow combined with vegetable oil was the oil in which, initially, McDonald's fried its famous, great-tasting french fries? To be "healthier," McDonald's dropped the tallow and went with just vegetable oil blends.
That led me to make sliced, oven-roasted potatoes using beef fat. My first try wasn't as good as I'd hoped because I used only beef tallow. Too strong a flavor.
My next experiment was a blend of olive oil and beef tallow. The aroma coming from the roasting potatoes was amazing and truly mouthwatering. I seasoned my potatoes at the end with finely ground salt.
Yummmmmmm. McDonald's knew what it was doing from the beginning.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at don@ theleanwizard.com.