Grilling Veal

Veal filet

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The popularity of veal has been growing steadily across the United States and Canada. This great meat, favored throughout Europe for centuries, has finally begun to find its way to the table—and the grill—of many more people, and it is about time. Veal is very tender, and it has a fantastic flavor that can't be matched. It is also very lean, one of the leanest meats you can buy. That doesn't mean it isn't great on the grill; as long as you choose the right cut and cook it properly, grilling is an ideal method for making veal delicious.

Selecting Veal

Not all veal is created equal or fed the same. There are two kinds of veal: milk- or formula-fed veal and grass or range-fed veal. Typically, the range-fed veal gets more exercise and tends to be a little tougher, but not so much that you would notice. Your butcher or, at least the packaging, should tell you which kind of veal you are looking at.

Milk-fed veal should be a pale pink color with creamy white fat, while range-fed veal should be red with yellowish fat. What you want to avoid is veal that is too pale. When it comes to veal, smaller isn't better—a generously sized chop is definitely grill-worthy. Veal is labeled similarly to beef with "Good" replacing "Select" when it comes to USDA definitions.

Choosing a Cut

Just like beef, not all cuts are equally tender or flavorful. When it comes to grilling you want to look for chops—either shoulder, rib or loin cuts, just as you would with beef. These cuts are tender enough to withstand the intense heat of the grill and should be cooked hot and fast in a dry heat. The shoulder is typically the least expensive of these cuts so it makes a good bargain. Veal is going to be more expensive than beef no matter which cut you get.

Grilling Veal 

Most cuts of veal are best cooked in a hot, dry heat. This makes grilling a perfect cooking method for veal. While you might be more familiar with Italian and French veal recipes that rely on sautéing, the grill will add flavor and get the veal cooked before it dries out. Like with beef, timing is everything—the secret is to not let the veal dry out. Since veal is so lean it cannot tolerate overcooking, so aim for medium-rare and keep an instant-read thermometer handy.

Seasoning Veal

Veal has a delicate flavor that you do not want to overpower. Since veal is so lean, you want to do some fat replacement on it. A marinade with an olive oil base along with a few light seasonings will work great. You may also choose to simply brush a light coating of oil over the meat and lightly season with salt and pepper. This simple solution is perfect for veal since the flavor is already great.