Beef is versatile and forgiving, and even if this is your first time in the kitchen, you can prepare a meal that will wow your friends and family.

Consider a sirloin tip roast or rolled roast, available at any market. These roasts like slow, even heat. (This is one of the first lessons my mom taught me about how to cook beef.) To help seal in the juices, sear the roast on all sides over high heat and then place in a crockpot. Or, if you don’t have a crockpot, you can place the roast in a pan in your oven and bake at low heat, 325 degrees. (For a 4 to 6 pound roast, allow 30 to 35 minutes per pound.) Both methods will prepare a roast that will melt in your mouth!

If a roast is more than you want to tackle, try ground beef. Ground beef can be formed into hamburgers, meatloaf, or as part of another dish like lasagna.

There is no right or wrong way to make hamburgers or meatloaf. Just decide what it is you like and toss it in your mix! For hamburgers, start with lean ground beef (the leaner the better, less fat that way). Add an egg, some seasonings like pepper or garlic, maybe some chopped onions, and mix well. Form the mixture into patties, and then you can place on a grill, fry in your skillet, or place on a foreman-type grill. Cook until the meat is completely done inside (use your knife to cut a little slice in the middle to make sure there is no pink left.)

Meatloaf allows you to be more creative. Mix in 1-2 eggs, some breadcrumbs or other filler (try oatmeal or crushed cornflakes!), and whatever seasonings you prefer. You might try horseradish, barbeque sauce, ketchup, garlic, shredded carrots or other vegetables, you get the picture!

Form the mixture into a large loaf and place on a rack or in a breadpan. Bake at 325 degrees, and if using 1-2 pounds ground beef, your meatloaf should be ready in 1 to 1 1/2 hours. If you use a meat thermometer, you want the inside temperature to reach 160 degrees.

If you plan to use ground beef in lasagna or other “one-pan” dish, make sure you cook the ground beef first. Just place the raw ground beef in a medium-warm skillet. Using a spatula, cut through the ground beef “chunks” until they are small, and until there is no more red left. Then add to your one-pan dish.

What if you want to tackle the daddy of them all, steak? Steaks come in a variety of cuts including sirloin, t-bone and round steak. Round steak is less tender than sirloin and t-bone, but is also usually less expensive at the market.

Most butchers recommend tenderizing round steak. A tenderized round steak is called cube steak. To cook a cube steak, simply place in a medium-warm skillet and cook on both sides until no pink remains. You can also use a foreman-type grill for delicious results.

T-bone and sirloin steaks are excellent on the grill, and are simple to prepare. Choose a 3/4 to 1 inch steak, and place the beef about 2 to 4 inches from the coals or flame. When the steaks are brown on one side, turn. For a medium steak, allow a total of about 10 minutes for a t-bone steak and about 12 minutes total for a sirloin.

As you can see, even a novice can learn how to cook beef!

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