standard Testing out Canada Beef’s The Roundup app with a smoked short rib stew

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The communications company who represents Canada Beef asked me to participate in their Can You Make the Cut? Challenge. I received money and groceries for writing this post.

Do I like cooking with beef? Absolutely. Would I be interested in checking out a new smartphone app from Canada Beef? Sure, sounds like fun.

That’s how I got started on a pretty thorough examination of The Roundup app (for iOS and Android), a new consumer education product from Canada Beef.

The first thing I really dug into was the cuts by colour function. In a world where the average supermarket meat department employee (not to mention consumers) divides the cow into roasts, steaks and ground beef, it’s cool to see this fairly comprehensive guide to the cow’s muscle cuts. Southern-style BBQ smoking is my current obsession (more on that in a bit) so I’m on the hunt for good low-and-slow cuts. Brisket is the traditional choice, but since I’m not the only one who’d like a little patch of Texas in the backyard, it has become pricier and more difficult to find than it was a couple years ago. By using the “alternate cuts” function and poking around a bit I came across the chuck short ribs as an excellent alternative.

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Thankfully, the Roundup app has a real-world photo of each cut (rather than just a drawing) so I was able to show the woman at the grocery store butcher counter what I was after when my descriptions and hand motions failed to get the point across. Cut from the cow’s shoulder area, on the head side of rib sub-primal, this short rib section has an impressive appearance. Think lots of fatty marbling, a brontosaurus-sized bone and plenty of the visible grain that indicates lots of “beefy” flavour.

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Meat secured and back home, I opened the app up to see what it has to offer in the recipe department. Once you’ve found the cut you want, a useful “How to Cook” button then filters users to appropriate recipes. These short collections will probably appeal to beginner home cooks by striking a balance between the standards (like the trad beef stew I tackled) and dishes that are a bit more challenging. Ingredients are presented clearly so it’s easy to make sure you have everything needed on hand.

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Given that this was presented as a challenge, I naturally felt the competitive urge to take things one step further. The app has a great, straightforward traditional beef stew recipe, but I recently added a smoker to the backyard setup and I’ve been on a food-smoking kick recently. So, I cut the short rib into single-bone sections, rubbing each with salt and pepper and smoked them over maple.

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On their own, the short ribs were excellent. Once integrated into the stew base the shredded meat was even better. For an extra indulgent touch I served the stew over an extra-creamy take on mac ‘n’ cheese.

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I’ll be interested to see how the idea of specific-ingredient cooking apps play out. Will other organisations like the folks who market pork, dairy or pulses get involved? I imagine there are many home cooks who appreciate having so many questions — what do I need to buy? how do I cook it? what are some good substitutions? — answered in one place.

They’ve produced versions of the app for both iOS and Android. Download them, take them for a test drive and let me know what you think.

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