Out to Pasture: Talking Beef with a Cattle Rancher
Go Behind the Scenes at Mariposa Ranch with a True to Life Cowboy
Seth Nitschke is the Head Cowboy at Mariposa Ranch—a grass-fed cattle farm tucked away in Central California
We managed to wrangle Seth into an interview so that we could pick his brain on beef, grilling, and life on the ranch.
Saddle up, Nexgrillers. We’re headed out to pasture.
NG: So, Seth. Let’s talk a bit about your background as a cattle rancher. How’d you get started in the profession?
SN: One of the great things about farming and ranching is you work with your family. That’s how most of us learn. From our dads and our grandparents and aunts and uncles.
NG: Do your kids work with you on the ranch?
SN: They gotta’ earn their keep, right? [laughs] Particularly when school’s out, Christmas Break, or on the weekends, the kids like to come out and work with us.
NG: You spent some time on a ranch over in Australia. Is there a noticeable difference between American and Australian beef?
SN: Grass-fed is the norm over in Australia, which results in fattier beef with better flavor, in my opinion. The best way I can describe it is like a good cabernet. Bold flavor up front with a smooth, clean finish.
…if you cook it well done, there’s nothing I or anyone else can do to help you. All that work I did, now that’s on you.
NG: Your cattle are grass-fed as well. What methods that you picked up in Australia have been incorporated at your ranch.
SN: Well, for one, we don’t use any “cides” in order to preserve our healthy grassland biome. That’s the best way to ensure we have a healthy and vibrant topsoil. Healthy soil grows better grass and produces better beef.
We’re also a grass-fed and finished ranch, meaning our cattle are out to pasture 100% of the time. A lot of “grass-fed” beef is actually finished on grain.
NG: How often do you and your family grill?
SN: Usually at least twice a week. Even more during the summertime. We try to eat and cook at home as much as we can.
NG: Gas, charcoal, or open fire?
SN: We’ll do charcoal sometimes, but being up here in the Sierra Nevadas, we’ve got a whole lot of oak trees up this way, so we like to grill with natural oak pretty regular.
NG: As someone whose life is centered around beef, do you have any grilling tips you can share with us?
SN: As a matter of fact, I sure do.
Let Your Beef Warm to Room Temperature Before Grilling
First things first, especially for steaks, don’t go fridge to fire. Take that stuff out of the ‘frigerator, put a paper towel over it, and give it an hour or so before you put it on the grill.
Related Reading: A Starter’s Guide to Meat Temperatures
Rest Your Beef, Even While Grilling
Second thing, if you’re gonna’ go for a good sear, that’s great, but get a good hot sear and then move your meat over to a cooler portion of the grill. Once you’ve done that once or twice, it doesn’t hurt to take them off altogether and let them rest for a good 5 minutes. What that does is give the muscle time to relax, so it helps a lot with tenderness. Then you can go back to the grill and finish them out.
Feel Free to Flip
Another one, and this is just my personal preference. I’m what you call a sizzle-turn kind of guy. I know there’s plenty of folks who say you should only turn a steak twice. I think that’s lazy. Go ahead and let it sizzle for a while and turn it. I don’t think you can turn it too much. Now, some people are gonna’ disagree with that.
Don’t Stab Your Poor Beef
Another one is to always go for the tongs. Some people want to flip their beef with a fork and stab it to turn it over. Yeah, that’s a bad idea. You want to make sure you aren’t stabbing that poor piece of meat too much cause you’re gonna’ get all the juice leaked out of it.
Cook Your Steak How You Like It
Last but not least, cook your steak to your liking. But if you cook it well done, there’s nothing I or anyone else can do to help you. All that work I did, now that’s on you [laughs].
I prefer my steaks rare. But that’s just my personal preference, I suppose.
NG: Do you have a favorite, go-to cut of beef?
SN: Oh, man. It’s sure hard to beat a good tri-tip. New York steaks and ribeyes would be a close second.
We’ve been experimenting a lot lately with the underused cuts. Like Coulotte and hanger steaks—we’ll marinate those and throw them on the grill. It’s a slightly different experience, but those are nice.
If we’re having a lot of people over, a good one is old-fashioned shish kabobs. We’ll cut those up out of top sirloin. It’s a cheaper cut, but you can make it stretch and feed a lot of people that way.
“It’s true. When you go grass-fed, it’s kind of hard to go back.”
NG: Do you eat your own beef? Or go to a butcher shop like the rest of us?
SN: We eat almost exclusively our own beef. Most of that’s because it’s available and convenient for us.
Let me put it like this. If I go to a restaurant and order a steak, my wife kind of rolls her eyes at me. But I’ve gotta try it out, right!?
We just love the flavor of what we produce. It’s true. When you go grass-fed, it’s kind of hard to go back.
NG: How much of each cow do you use? Are there specific cuts you’re harvesting?
SN: We try to be as nose to tail as possible. You know, we produce one animal and that one animal produces 15-20 different cuts.
Obviously, there are the popular ones, but there’s also a whole lot of other stuff going on in there too, with chuck roasts and short ribs, and top sirloins.
More than anything, that pushes us to eat a variety of beef cuts rather than just hamburgers and ribeye steaks.
Last night, for example, we had London broil.
Two nights before that, we had short ribs.
Three nights ago, we had flat iron steaks.
Last week, we had chuck roast.
My point is, there’s a lot of variety just in that one animal, so we’ve always been of the opinion that it’s not the cut of meat that’s important—it’s what you do with it. That’s made all the difference.
Many thanks go to Seth, his family, and Mariposa Ranch for opening their doors to us.
Visit mariposaranchmeats.com to shop 100% grass-fed, grass-finished beef, or to discover more about where your favorite grill foods come from.
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