Culinary Arts

10 Types of Meat: Their Benefits, Concerns, and How to Cook Each

Written by MasterClass

Jun 24, 2019 • 5 min read

Human consumption of meat goes way, way back, long before anyone was keeping count—or before pescetarian-except-for-bacon-at-brunch was a thing.


What Is Meat?

In Old English, the word meat (“mete”) was a general blanket term for food. These days, the definition of meat most commonly refers to the edible flesh of an animal, though you could also use it when describing the edible part of a plant, like coconut meat or nut meat. The meat industry is one of the largest in the world, and according to the USDA, the United States is the largest producer of beef.

Three Main Meat Categories: Is Fish Meat?

Though pescetarianism has emerged as one of the more popular dietary choices, eating fish can technically be considered eating meat.

  1. Red Meat: All livestock is considered red meat. This includes beef, pork, goat, and lamb.
  2. Poultry: Commonly referred to as white meat, poultry includes chicken and turkey.
  3. Seafood: That includes fish, as well as crustaceans, like crab and lobster, and molluscs, like clams, oysters, scallops, and mussels.

Is Eating Meat Healthy?

As with most things, meat becomes unhealthy when you eat too much of it. Red meat has been shown to be especially risky when it comes to things like heart disease and cancer, but animal protein has many benefits when ingested in small quantities. Its primary benefit is, of course, protein, along with its stores of essential amino acids and collagen. Most meats contain high levels of vitamin B12, B6, K, as well as zinc and iron. Depending on the animal and how it was raised, fat content varies, but is relatively low. Happy, fit animals will yield leaner and more tender muscle tissue.

There are other factors that contribute to whether different kinds of meat are healthy for consumption or pose a health risk. Overly processed meat products can be full of unhealthy chemicals and preservatives. Grass-fed beef is always healthier than grain-fed beef. Each type of meat and animal product has an internal temperature it should meat by the end of cooking to meet food safety standards, as consuming raw meat can be very dangerous.

10 Different Types of Meat: Nutritional Benefits, Concerns, Ways to Eat Each

  1. Pork: High in vitamin B1 as well as omega-6 fatty acids, pork is one of the world’s most popular types of meat. From Italian sausage to barbecued pork ribs to bacon, pork is easy to prepare and incredibly flavorful. For an easy weeknight dinner, quick brine pork chops before you sear them off in a cast-iron skillet. Serve with apple mostarda and grits.
  2. Beef: From a prehistoric looking T-bone steak to your average ballpark hot dogs and beef jerky, beef is a delicacy best enjoyed sparingly. It shares a main fatty acid with none other than olive oil—oleic acid. Ground beef makes for quick and easy burgers: combine the meat with egg, onions, salt, and spices or flavorings of your choice (think Worcestershire sauce and powdered garlic) and form the mixture into patties. Grill for a few minutes on either side and pair with your favorite burger toppings.
  3. Lamb: Lamb is categorized as meat from a young sheep under a year old. While lamb tends to be on the more expensive side of the different meats, it’s also thought to be one of the healthiest, with good levels of nutrients. Sear a rack of lamb in a cast-iron skillet before basting in garlic butter and finishing in a 375°F oven for 5 minutes.
  4. Goat: A slightly tough muscular composition makes goat a popular addition to stews and braises, where a low and slow cooking technique can best break down the fats and infuse the meat with flavor.
  5. Chicken: Chicken meat is high and protein and low in fat, which varies in white and dark meat. Boneless, skinless chicken breast meat is one of the only types of meat that doesn't contain saturated fat. A roasted chicken is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Brush the chicken with clarified butter and season all sides with salt, then roast at 475°F for 20–25 minutes. Reduce heat to 400°F and continue to roast another 30-45 minutes, until thighs and center of the chicken breast registers 160°F and the juices run clear. Let rest at least 20 minutes before carving.
  6. Turkey: King of the holiday table and the deli meat aisle, turkey is a mild white meat with a reputation for being tricky to prepare without drying out. It’s a prime candidate for the brining-roasting one-two punch.
  7. Duck: Duck meat generally refers to the breast and legs of the bird, though the liver is also enjoyed as foie gras. Ducks have a layer of fat between the outer skin and meat (primarily to insulate in water environments), giving it extra rendering power for soaking the meat with flavor as it cooks. Braised duck legs, in anything from red wine to an aromatic stock, will infuse the meat with even more flavor and fall-off-the-bone texture. Throw it in the fridge to cool, and crisp it up in the oven once the skin has set.
  8. Rabbit: Nutrient-dense rabbit is especially popular in France and the United Kingdom. It’s meat is high in B12 and selenium, and is relatively low in calories compared to its protein levels. Rabbit is traditionally stewed or fried.
  9. Seafood: Seafood is a massive and popular category, including everything from fish to crustaceans to shellfish. The nutritional value of seafood is incredibly vast and depends on the species, but it is generally thought to be the best form of protein for those looking to maintain a healthy diet, thanks to its high levels of omega 3s. Steam shellfish and add to pasta, or grill cleaned fish whole over the grill and serve with an herb salad and preserved lemon.
  10. Game Meats: This category includes everything from pheasant to venison to wild boar—meats that are not typically found in a grocery store, though you may find them in some specialty meat markets. Generally these meats are quite lean, since they are caught in the wild and eat varied, natural diets. Because they’re not farmed, game meats are among the more expensive options. Their tougher muscle structures benefit especially well from braising.

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