Grass-fed beef is of course healthier alternative to grain-fed one. But it often takes quite an effort to cut and even chew it :)
So, I wonder what's your best recipe / lifehack to make it really, really tender to make it melt in a mouth? Ideally, not a very time consuming one...
Are you joking John? I cant tell if you are being sarcastic or not. The grass fed beef I buy is incredibly tender. The eye fillet takes 4 minutes on each side on the BBQ and you can cut it with a butter knife. The chuck steak I cook in a casserole and it literally falls apart.
Mostly, tender meat depends on what your butcher did to it before you got it! The meat needs to be hung on the carcass for between 2 weeks and 1 month. However the carcass loses water and hence weight and it ties up money in meat whilst this is happening. So many butchers / meat producers skimp on this step. So firstly try a different source. If that is not an option, buy the slow cooking cuts; legs, bellies, cheeks...A slow braise and you are guaranteed tender meat. Or if you really want a steak, you could try steak tenderiser (normally papaya enzymes), never tried it myself, or if the steak tenderiser appears to have lots of additives try marinating it in mashed up papaya (carefully I have heard its quite powerful). On a final note, in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Meat cookery book, he documents ageing a rib of beef, on the bone, at home. He hung it up, wrapped in muslin, for about a month, in a cool place. At the end it was covered in mould, which he trimmed off. He declared it the tastiest and tenderist piece of beef he had ever had!
Chewing is good for your teeth and jaws. I would argue that meat that is soft enough to melt in your mouth is not paleo, unless it's pure fat, or tongue, or raw liver.
Having said that, in my country grass-fed is the norm, and grain-finished is rare and expensive (that's what happens when you don't have massive government subsidies on corn). Maybe my standards are lower than yours, but I don't find I'm troubled by tough meat often if I pay attention in purchase and preparation.
Toughness is basically a function of these things:
Of these things, you can control somewhat at purchase: choose a good supplier who has proper handling practises, choose a supplier who ages their beef, choose tender cuts. You can also do some aging in cool dry place or maybe your refrigerator yourself.
If meat is tough, then you can:
Right now I have a couple of porterhouse steaks in the fridge, about 3/4 inch thick. They were probably aged 1-2 weeks by my local supermarket's supplier and they are dry-aging here for a few more days. By US standards they are hopelessly unmarbled, but I expect that done my way (sprinkled with flaked salt and pepper, seared 3-4 minutes on each side and rested for 5 mins) they will be quite tender at near rare.
Get Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking out of your public library and read the chapter on meat. It has a good user-friendly breakdown.
edit: I realized after the fact that you requested something NOT time consuming: Marinade in some sort of acidic marinade to break down the fibers! And example of what we do with Pork Shoulder (which generally tends to be a very tough cut of meat): Cut shoulder into pieces(about the size of something you could skewer and grill). Then, Marinade in some White Vinegar, Bay leaf, Onions, and water to top it all up and distribute the vinegar to every piece. We let this sit overnight or longer. Then skewer and grill over coal until it's ready to eat!
original answer: I would recommend low and slow. If it's stewing meat, add plenty of fat, and cook it on as low a heat as possible for as long as possible. You do not want a rolling boil, just a gentle simmer. I'd say 3-4 hours, depending on how much stew you're making, but use your own judgement after that point.
You can also braise in the oven, and again, same principle as above, low and slow. Keep temps at about 200-250, and braise it for HOURS. (Assuming this is a pot-roast type cut)
On this topic, but a bit off-topic: I picked up two 4-5 lbs grass-fed briskets yesterday, and my plan is to braise one for 6-8 hours, and smoke the other at about 250 for about the same amount of time. But these are tough cuts of meat! If I get around to it this weekend, I'll let you know!
i wish i could remember which PHer posted this gem originally, but put beef on a plate, uncovered in the fridge for a couple of days prior to cooking; just flip it over twice a day. i wish i had something i could use to hang meat in my fridge; its that amazing.
I'm quite thrilled with my Jaccard Meat Tenderizer http://www.americangrassfedbeef.com/jaccard-meat-tenderizer.asp it works really well and it's fun to use
Found this on another site but haven't tried it.
The quick answer for me is long slow low heat cooking in an acidic solution. A crock pot on low with a little vinegar or citrus or tomato juice works is the way I usually do this. The long slow low cooking lets the muscle fibers relax again after the initial "bunch up" and the acid helps break down the muscle fibers to make them less cord like and therefore less tough. Smoking does the same thing and adds flavor, but takes equipment I don't keep on hand.