The Cut Of Veal That's Perfect For Beginners

Veal can stir a bit of fear in home cooks, but find the right cut and you can let those concerns fall by the wayside. There are two things that go hand-in-hand that make veal a less popular choice for dinner: its unfamiliarity, and its price. While veal is just meat from a younger cow, it's generally more expensive than comparable cuts of beef, and even pricier when you compare it to pork or chicken. That high price translate to a lack of knowledge and experience. Does veal cook differently than beef? What kind of dishes does it go in? The last thing you want to do is splurge on a nice veal shank for some osso buco, only to ruin it because you didn't know how to cook it right.

The upside to veal? It hits a unique sweet spot between darker red meat like beef and leaner proteins like chicken. While it's not as fatty as beef, it is still a lot more juicy and flavorful than chicken, giving you a perfect balance of taste, texture, and versatility. Though some abstain from veal, because it's a product of the lack of development in a young cow's muscles,  there's no denying what a tender beef product it is. Well-cooked veal will give way to a knife so easily that even comparisons to warm butter won't do. So you probably want to cook some veal, but if you're still worried, there is a good cut to practice on.

For your first time with veal try a chop

If you're intimidated by veal, a chop is the place to start. Veal chops are bone-in cuts from the loin or rib of the calf, and they can be cooked in a variety of ways without much fear of ruining them. What makes veal chops great is their mix of fat and lean meat. They have enough fat to stay juicy, even under faster, high-heat cooking methods like grilling and pan frying, but they lack the connective tissue and tougher meat of shanks and ribs that necessitates slow cooking. Ideal temperatures for cooking veal are similar to beef and pork, just keep them on the medium rare side, as their leaner profile means they will dry out faster than the beef from grown cattle. 

Veal chops are also a good beginner cut because their versatile nature makes it easy to sub them into recipes. Have a favorite dish that uses bone-in pork chops? That's a perfect place to try a veal chop. Many Italian-American classics you know that normally use chicken, like picatta, originated as veal dishes over in Italy. While most of those recipes use more thinly sliced cutlets, the sauces and flavors in a marsala or saltimbocca will still work great with a pan-seared veal chop, and veal will bring so much more of its own flavor than chicken breast ever will. Veal chops may be the first veal you ever cook, but it certainly won't be the last.