Among the meats you might find in the grocery aisle, you are unlikely to stumble upon veal. Veal is a bit controversial for a variety of reasons, though it certainly has a following and a unique taste.
Veal comes from non dairy cows who are generally young. The result is a unique tasting meat.
Veal has a soft and delicate flavor compared to popular meats like beef. Veal also tends to be tender because of the way the calf for a veal is raised.
How is veal different from beef?
Flavor wise, beef offers a stronger flavor than veal. The closest comparable cut in amongst beef types is the sirloin or tenderloin in overall taste and cut.
Most people describe a cut of veal as very mild, meaning that the meat doesn’t have an especially strong flavoring.
Mild flavoring contrasts with gamey, which you’ll often taste from deer and other wild game who feed from natural forests and eat acorns and other wood items off the ground.
The texture of veal
Veal is smoother and more “silky” than beef and other meats. Well prepared veal can be cut with a fork and doesn’t need a knife.
Beef more often tends to need a knife and isn’t as tender.
Why do beef and veal taste different?
The key reason is age and the method in which they are raised. Veal comes from a younger cow with underdeveloped (not adult) muscles. The muscles are softer because they were used less to walk or run around in fields. The adult cows older, more developed muscles as well as a diet of grains or grass result in meat that can be stronger tasting, though harder to cut compared to a calf’s veal.
In some controversial cases, a young non dairy calf might be kept still in an enclosure and fed for the purpose of slaughtering later. In recent decades, practices have changed to allow veal to have some more movement and freedom while also trying to bring the same delicate and soft flavor that comes from muscles not being used as much.
By contrast, beef cows are either free range or in pens, but are often allowed to move and run. More recently, public sentiment toward veal has turned it more into a family farm industry with smaller farms caring more about the health of individual animals and the perception of the tender meat.
How do I use veal?
Like other meats, veal makes a good steak or cutlet. Many cooks, especially in Europe, coat veal with breading. In fact, one very popular dish in Italy is Veal parmigiana, which is veal with tomato, cheese, and sauce.
Veal also makes great stew meat. While many meats use sirloin or beef chunks which can end up chewy, veal is ideal because it’s naturally soft and blends right in with the broth and vegetables. Veal also absorbs the flavor of the stew like other meats. If you don’t like the mild flavor of veal, stew is a good way to go to liven it up a little.
When eaten by itself without breading, veal also offers healthy meat for people seeking a good balance of taste and diet consciousness.
Like beef, veal often needs some spices and potentially a marinade to get more flavor out. As some people who don’t like diets often say, the less flavorful a meat starts, the healthier it is for you. Many of the same spices that most households use can be thrown on veal, including salt, pepper, thyme, basil, lemon and many others.
Is veal good for you?
Veal provides an excellent balance between calories and vitamins, even in a small serving size. The USDA’s ‘standard serving size’ of 3 punches of veal provides less than 10% of your daily calories while also providing more than 10% of your daily need for vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins and minerals within a piece of veal include iron, protein, niacin and more. All of these are necessary for energy and the rebuilding of muscles and brain cells. You’ll also get a good dose of zinc, which helps your immune system.
Veal also has less heart blocking fat and chloresterol than beef or chicken, making it more ideal for people with heart issues or a potential family history of heart problems.
Where do I find veal?
Veal is more often found a butcher shops or family farms. Larger farms tend to not deal with veal because of the attention required to raise them more ethically. Some people deem the older methods of raising a calf to be torture because the animal is isolated and unable to move.
If you are animal conscious, consider finding a reputably local farm that offers images or some proof that the veal was raised in a humane manner.
Is veal expensive?
Better, leaner meat tends to be more expensive than beef and chicken. Part of the reason for this is the relative difficulty in raising veal, and because leaner, healthier meats to tend to cost more.
Veal contrasts being more expensive with requiring less meat. Eating 80% lean ground beef requires more meat to product the same amount of energy, as some of the meat is just fat and isn’t especially helpful unless you intend to bulk up. While the USDA recommendation is probably lower than you expect at 3 ounches, it’s a good example of how little you actually need for a proper diet.
Is veal easy to prepare?
Veal is relatively easy to prepare. The only issue most cooks face while making veal is that overcooking veal will reduce much of the tenderness of the meat. This is much like making a well done steak. A well done steak is actually more difficult to cut than a medium or lighter steak because the fibers of the meat are made tougher by excess heat.
Veal is a bit of a controversial meat, but recent standards changes and public knowledge have resulted in better treatment of calves. Veal has a light flavor, and is different from beef in that it cuts easier.
You can make a great steak or a stew with veal – the possibilities are really limitless like with other meats. The lack of strong flavor also makes veal a great candidate for sauces and marinades.