gluten free, grain free, paleo, nutrient dense, slow cooker option \
Beef cheeks have become my favourite cut of meat even though I’ve only had them a handful of times. There’s unfortunately a misconception that the cheeks are a fatty cut, but this is not so. The “fatty” texture that’s in the cheeks after the fat has been trimmed is actually gelatin – the cheeks are extremely high in this beneficial substance that contains high levels of amino acids such as glycine, glutamine and proline. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and they have a very important role in the body, such as helping to form tissues, neurotransmitters and the collagen in our joints, skin and nails. These specific three amino acids tend to be lacking in modern diets since most people are now not eating “nose to tail” as our ancestors did. It’s surely a contributor to increasing rates of osteoarthritis and other chronic conditions involving degradation of connective tissue. So, the lesson here is – eat the whole animal so none of it goes to waste and keep your body in tip top shape at the same time. If we eat muscle meats like steak without a second thought, why not eat the cheeks? They are both just different forms of flesh after all.
Winter started only a few short weeks ago here in Sydney, where I live, and beef cheeks haven’t been easy to come by. One day I must have gone to 10 different stores to look for them, including butchers and supermarkets. I felt like a crazy person asking the butchers for them – some of them seemed to have no idea what beef cheeks are! One shop assistant even said they are very fatty, but I didn’t correct her.
I was lucky enough to finally find the beef cheeks in Aldi as a “special buy” for a great price, so I stocked up. But, of course, I checked again more recently and they don’t have any. It really makes you wonder what’s being done with the beef cheeks – I guess they’re either being exported or ground in to mince, which makes me sad to think what a waste of such a nice cut. I’m jealous of my friends in the northern hemisphere who can access beef cheeks almost year-round it would seem – here in Australia, they are considered a “winter” food only, so we have to wait all year for them, and even then they are hard to find.
So, with that little nutrition and sustainability lesson done, let’s get to the recipe for Pressure Cooker Korean Beef Cheeks with Mushrooms. The recipe title is a mouthful, and the dish itself is also a delicious mouthful that you’ll find hard to resist. It’s full of flavour, with the zing of ginger, sweetness from the apple sauce and pear and of course, the all important savoury umami courtesy of tamari and a little fish sauce. Happily, it’s easy to pull together with inexpensive ingredients.
OK enough ranting, here’s a picture of Barney the cat lusting after the beef cheeks as I was photographing this recipe. He knows what’s good. Right below that is the recipe!
Please note: I haven’t made this in a slow cooker, but I am confident this recipe can be made that way if that’s the equipment you have. I suggest adding 3 extra cups of water, cook on low for 8 hours (leave the cheeks whole after trimming the fat) and then reduce the sauce if necessary at the end on the stovetop (after removing the meat). You may also want to try cooking it in the oven, but I have not tested it using the oven. The beef cheek recipes I’ve seen online suggest cooking for 3-4 hours on a low temperature, such as 140C.
Pressure Cooker Korean Beef Cheeks with Mushrooms
- 5 cm 2 inch piece of ginger
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 pear
- 2 medium brown/yellow onions
- 150 mL water
- 1/2 cup tamari sauce or coconut aminos for strict Paleo
- 1/2 cup apple sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar coconut vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1.5 kg 3 pounds beef cheeks
- 10 white mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Half bunch coriander cilantro
- 1 green onion stalk
- Peel the garlic and ginger. Grate the ginger.
- Peel the pear and the onions.
- Place all the sauce ingredients in the food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
- Trim the beef cheeks of as much fat as possible.
- Pour the sauce mixture in to the bowl of the pressure cooker and then place the beef cheeks on top and submerge them a little - you want to ensure that the sauce is always in contact with the bottom of the bowl.
- For an electric pressure cooker, close the lid and seal the vent. Use the manual option to set to high pressure for 75 minutes and then set it to start.
- For a stovetop pressure cooker, lock the lid in place. Over high heat, bring to high pressure. Reduce the heat just enough to maintain high pressure, and cook for 70 minutes.
- Towards the end of the cooking time, slice the mushrooms and then brown them in a pan with some oil. Slice the green onion in to thin slices, wash the coriander and pick the leaves to use as a garnish.
- Once the beef cheeks have finished cooking, allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes and then release any remaining pressure (for a stovetop pressure cooker, you can do this by running it under cold water. Do not do this for an electric cooker!)
- Remove the beef cheeks and set aside. If necessary cut in to smaller pieces depending on how many serves you would like.
- To serve, place beef cheeks in serving bowls with mashed potato. Pour the gravy around the beef cheeks and potato, place mushrooms and garnishes on top.