Part of the beauty of beef as a food source is just how varied it can be. Whether it’s a shoulder roast, cubed steak, sirloin filets or even small square shaped kabobs, there are a plethora of beef cuts you can choose from to use as the main ingredient for a meal or to spice a recipe up.
One of the lesser known cuts are beef cheeks and while they have been rising in popularity in home kitchens over the last few years, they are still a fairly niche and under-appreciated beef cut, despite the fact they are delicious and can go perfectly with a few recipes.
To get started cooking and preparing this type of beef, here is everything you need to know about beef cheeks so you can start mixing them into your dishes to create a new but still familiar flavor.
What Exactly Are Beef Cheeks?
As the name might give away, beef cheeks come from the facial cheek of the animal.
Because it is a muscle which has been used constantly since cows use them to chew cud and grass for as long as 8 hours a day, cheeks have quite a bit of sinew which butchers need to trim off for it to be a clean muscle.
This movement of the cheek muscles means they have a lot of connective tissue which is also why the cheeks require slow and gentle cooking to make them as tender as possible.
While they are not a very common cut, the taste of beef cheeks should not go unnoticed as they provide a rich taste which has been described to melt in the mouth, leading many to call it the ‘king of alternate beef cuts’ for just how appetizing the taste is.
What Do Beef Cheeks Look Like?
Grass fed beef cheeks will often be recognised by their vibrant ruby or scarlet red color while grain fed cheeks will have a much more pinkish appearance.
Beef cheeks can also be easily recognised as unlike other cuts of beef, they are dotted with tiny connective tissues all around them which, once cooked in a slow cooker, gives off a very unique and soft melting flavor when eaten.
How To Cook Beef Cheeks
Cheeks are much more suited to being cooked in a slow cooker rather than the oven or pan since they need to be softened until they are very tender, which can only be done when cooking them for an extended period of time with the right heat adjustments.
They are often put in the slow cooker for anywhere between 8 to 12 hours, depending on how soft and moist you want them.
Many have commented that a great pairing with beef cheeks is a little red wine to really allow the delicious flavor to burst out, along with some minor herbs to add some extra tang depending on the flavor you desire most.
While beef cheeks will take at least 8 hours in a regular crock pot, you can also use the stew setting of a pressure cooker that will still give you the melt in mouth results you are looking for.
Additionally, if you don’t own a pressure cooker or crock pot, you can certainly cook the beef cheeks in the oven though the flavor may not be as vibrant.
To do this, place the seared beef cheek meat, braising liquids and any other ingredients of your choice into a casserole dish and pop it in the oven at 320 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 and a half hours.
A good tip to keep in mind before you cook is if you are going to pick up some beef cheeks from a butcher, while they will almost always have them in stock especially now that they are rising in popularity, it can be worth letting a butcher know two to three days in advance.
This is not only so the butcher can get rid of every bit of sinew, but also so they can make sure they have enough cheeks since each animal only has two and so they are often considered more of a specialty cut.
Beef Cheek Recipes
Here are just a few tasty recipes you can incorporate beef cheeks into to create a delicious meal for you and everyone who has the pleasure to try them.
Just like beef tongue tacos, beef cheek tacos are made in the same way, simply cook the cheek in a crockpot for approximately 8 hours, mixed in with some onion, garlic, bay leaf, salt (or any from your list of favorite spices) and when it’s nice and moist cut it into slightly smaller pieces so it can comfortably fit into the tacos that can be served with some cilantro and salsa.
Beef cheek sliders are another popular recipe that can really help bring out the maximum amount of flavor. Preheat the oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit and to the side fill up a bowl with 2 carrots, 2 garlic cloves, 2 fresh bay leaves, 1 onion and 2 tbs of olive oil.
Start heating some oil in a large flameproof casserole over a medium to high heat and in batches, cook the beef for 5 – 6 minutes until browned. Once the beef looks done, start boiling the ingredients mixed in the bowl for a few minutes.
Now the oven should be warmed up, let the beef cook for 2 more hours until it is extremely tender, and when it’s done, take it out and put it between some bun bases along with the fresh ingredients to make a superb beef cheek slider.
Where To Buy Beef Cheeks
You can check out the bestsellers list of CrowdCow to see if they carry Beef Cheeks for sale. They deliver meat in safe, chilled boxes straight to your doorstep.
While one of the more underrated beef cuts, beef cheeks are bursting with flavor. Give it enough time in the oven or the slow cooker, and you’ll have an amazing meal for your guests.
Want to learn more? Check out how to reverse sear filet mignon.