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Veal Types and Cooking Basics

Ah...the delightful dishes we associate with veal. From fancy home cooking to delectable restaurant cuisines from Italy, France, Sweden and Germany, veal meat has earned recognition among some of the best cooks in the world. Due to its high cost, veal is often reserved for special occasions. Unique veal dishes such as grilled veal chops or veal scaloppini can be purchased in many restaurants that serve international cuisine.

Veal is often referred to as "baby beef" because it is cut from young calves or a young beef animal. Male dairy calves provide the most veal meat today because dairy farmers have little need of them. Farmers must breed their dairy cows so the cows will produce milk; however, only a few of the born males are kept for breeding purposes. The other males may be raised until about 16 to 18 weeks old, and then used for veal meat. The calves will generally be raised to weigh about 450 pounds.

Veal meat can also be taken from calves that are only up to three weeks old, weighing about 150 pounds. This is called "Bob" veal. The statement "special fed" means the veal has been taken from calves that were fed only milk and formula. The special diet given to these calves contains iron, amino acids, fats, carbs and a variety of essential vitamins and minerals.


Types of Veal Cuts

Retail cuts of veal include breast, rib, leg or round, sirloin, loin, foreshank and shoulder. Packaging labels are placed on the meat in retail stores to identify the type of cut. The most popular types of veal on the market today include stew veal, blade steak, loin chops, rib chops, shanks, breast, rib roast, round steak and arm steak. A package label might read "veal round steak" or "veal loin chop."

Shoulder arm roast is cut from the shoulder and contains underside rib bones, arm bone and cross-sections of the bones from the face side. This cut includes muscles from the brisket, forearm and shoulder. A shoulder arm steak is similar to the arm roast but is a thinner cut. Two other shoulder cuts include the blade roast and blade steak, which contain the blade bone and backbone. Breast from veal is cut from the rear area of the foresaddle and has lower ribs with some fat. Breast riblets are narrow and long, containing rib bones with a covering of some fat and connective tissue.

A veal leg round steak comes from the center of the leg, while the leg round roast is cut with the round leg bone exposed. Leg sirloin roast and leg sirloin steak both contain parts of the backbone and hip bone. Veal loin chops include top loin and tenderloin muscles, fingerbone and backbone. Rib chops have featherbone and sometimes rib bone, depending on the meat's thickness. A rib roast has no tenderloin, and generally uses ribs six to twelve with featherbones, part of the chine bone and rib eye muscle.

There are also veal stew cuts, veal cubed steaks, cutlets and ground veal.


Interesting Facts about Veal

How popular is veal? The USDA's Economic Research Service reported that Americans eat approximately .41 pounds of veal per individual annually, as of 2004.

Veal is often classified as a red meat; however, a veal carcass often has lean meat of a grayish pink color and calf carcasses are a grayish red color.

Veal calves are often housed in barns that are environmentally controlled with natural and artificial lighting as well as abundant fresh air circulation. Each calf is placed in an individual stall, giving it plenty of room for standing, grooming, stretching and resting. The calves are separated from the grown cows at around three days old and then raised with individual care. The calves are monitored for any health deficiencies and then some are fed antibiotics, iron, etc. if needed. All health products used for veal must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Veal carcasses are graded according to quality and proportion. The five grades are as follows: utility, standard, good, choice and prime. A purple mark shaped like a shield is stamped onto the carcass to indicate the meat has been graded.


Cooking Veal

Raw veal does not have to be rinsed before cooking because any present bacteria will be killed while cooking. Always thaw veal within its packaging to prevent it from getting wet. You can also thaw in the microwave on a low defrost setting, or cook for a longer time frame if still frozen.

Veal can be seasoned with a variety of seasonings such as salt and pepper, fresh green herbs, celery salt, basil, chives, cloves, parsley, oregano, sage, thyme or rosemary. Buy specially made seasonings for veal or create your own unique blend. You can also marinate veal with various sauces to create a tender, flavorful dish. Veal stew or cubes can be marinated for one or two days. Steaks, chops and roasts can be marinated up to five days. The marinade should be boiled before using as a sauce. Always marinate meats in the refrigerator.

Always cook veal completely at the recommended temperature to ensure all harmful bacteria has been killed. Never cook veal meat in stages. The recommended minimum temperature for veal meat is 160 degrees F; however, temperatures will vary according to the type of veal and weight of the meat being cooked. Veal can be cooked with moist or dry heat. Dry heating methods (broiling, roasting, grilling or stir frying) may be used for veal tender cuts such as patties, cutlets, leg and loin chops. Moist heat cooking (simmering or braising in liquid) is recommended for less tender cuts such as veal stew, breast, shanks or round steak.


Veal Recipes

If you've never cooked veal before or if you just want to try a new recipe, here are a couple of simple veal recipes to get started.



               1 lb thinly sliced veal cutlets

               1/4 lb hot or mild capicola

               1/4 lb provolone or mozzarella cheese

               1 1/2 c. bread crumbs

               1/2 c. flour

               2-3 eggs, beaten

               2 tbsp. olive oil, butter or both



1.       Lightly salt cutlets.

2.       Dredge veal cutlets in flour.

3.       Dip cutlets into eggs and coat with bread crumbs.

4.       Fry on medium in butter/olive oil for three minutes and turn.

5.       After turning once, layer capicola and then cheese until veal is covered. Add olive oil/butter as needed.

6.       Cook until cheese is melted.

7.       Serve with a glass of Chardonnay or Chianti.



               8 veal chops, cut 1/2" thick and pounded lightly

               4 tbsp. butter

               2 c. thinly sliced onions

               1 1/4 tsp. salt

               1/2 tsp. black pepper

               2 cloves garlic, minced

               2 tsp. paprika

               3/4 c. boiling water

               1/2 c. sour cream

Trim the fat from the veal chops. Melt butter in a frying pan over medium heat and saute the onions 10 minutes. Add the veal chops and brown on both sides. Season with salt, pepper, garlic and paprika. Cover and cook over low heat 30 minutes, adding small amounts of boiling water from time to time as the frying pan becomes dry. Stir in sour cream just before serving. Suggestion: Serve with parsley potatoes.


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