Meat as a condiment

steak mealSomething I read quite often these days is “We really just eat meat as a condiment.” I know, in theory, that this means meat is not the center of every meal, but what I want to know is, what does that look like? If you perceive yourself as “not eating a lot of meat,” how many ounces are we talking about? Four ounces per serving? Two ounces in a six-serving casserole? Six ounces instead of ten, and lots of vegetables on the side? A shaving of prosciutto sprinkled on like parsley?

Tell me – or better yet, show me – what you consider to be “not very much meat.” Actual weights and number of servings would be much appreciated. What kinds of meat work best for this manner of omnivory?

Published by Emily

I'm an instructional designer and gardener based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Free moments find me in my garden or the forest, hugging trees and all that jazz.

13 thoughts on “Meat as a condiment

  1. This is one I don’t get, either. Except for the casserole, stir fry and/or pasta dishes where you put in just a little meat (or maybe soup, etc.), how do you serve meat as a condiment? I find it much easier to just not eat meat at all, and occasionally (maybe every week or two) have a dish that involves meat, not as a condiment, but as a course (which is usually between 4-8 oz for us). So I’m curious, too–what do meals with meat as a condiment look like (assuming I’m not going to eat only stir fries for the rest of my life)?

  2. I thought the idea behind “meat as a condiment” was to cut your normal serving of meat in half. If you normally have a 6 oz chicken breast, you’d only eat 3 oz of it. I could be mistaken.

  3. I’m allergic to all but chicken so a meal for us would be green beans or peas, mashed potatoes, salad and sliced cucumbers or baked chicken, salad, corn and sliced tomatoes etc.

  4. We have “meat as a condiment” often, even though I would not call it that. Shredded chicken or roast beef on salad, a small amount of shredded chicken in the black beans and rice, the egg in egg-drop soup, a little shredded carnitas in our tortilla soup, cubed or shredded ham in the split pea soup, fried rice or stir fry with a strip or two of bacon, or bits of pork/beef, or even the trace amounts of chicken in our chicken noodle soup. Do sandwiches count when there is more lettuce, tomato, and cheese than meat? We stretch our meat to get as many meals out of it as we can. We do eat regular “meat meals” too, but they are rare (often only once a week). We do have the advantage of having lived overseas and learned to cook with less meat from necessity. Many cultures do “meat as condiment” well (ie. sushi rolls, curries over rice, stir-fry, menudo, burritos, pansit, paella). It is not very “American” though.

    The point is that our diet does not see meat as a “main course” except in special cases (break out the grill!)

  5. As TechSamaritan says, it’s easier if you don’t think in terms of the traditional British (and American?) meat-and-three-veg meal. Use ideas from other cultures – we eat a lot of middle eastern mezes and Spanish tapas meals – the Greek keftedes (meatballs) I put on my blog recently, , are a good example of this. We ate four or five small meatballs each (about 3-4 oz, I think … having trouble converting from grams!), with a bean paste, some vegetable fritters, olives … and so on. In summer there would be more salad with this. At one meal the other day I remember commenting ‘You see, you don’t need much meat, just the flavour of it’. This was when we were eating pasta with tomato sauce which had about 50 grams (2 oz) of lardons (bacon pieces) in it, between two of us. We had all the flavour, but not too much actual meat. Hope this helps … I could go on, but look at my blog and my recipe blog: for other ideas. Bon appetit!
    I think your garden plans are great, by the way!

  6. When I think of meat truly as a condiment, I think in Chaiselongue’s terms: a couple ounces of bacon or other highly-flavored meat that infuse a dish with that flavor. Throwing the bone from a smoked pork chop or a smoked ham hock into bean soup is another good example. those meals are not vegetarian, though they are nearly meatless. (And I’ve also found that using smoked salt does a nice job of replacing the ham hock.)

    We typically put 1/2 to 3/4 lb of ground meat (beef, sausage) into a skillet meal that makes three servings. I’m trying to stretch that even further by adding a can of beans in addition to the meat – that will give us another serving out of that meal. But that seems like more meat than a “condiment” to me.

  7. Ditto TechSamaritan..meat as condiment in soups, stir-frys, salads.They are basically vegetarian meals that make use of meal leftover. Then there are meat meals where perhaps you have 4-6 oz of meat and just a veg or just a salad. With thoses “condiment” meals I like to make a custard or pudding for later. We get hungry quickly without the “fat” of meat, I think. Recently I heard that by having an appetizer of whole wheat bread and good olive oil, we could cut appetites, increase benefits for arteries (keep out plaque!), and slow down the digestive process. Am trying that!

  8. Momster-

    Ditto on the fat thing! I just realized Sunday why Indian vegetarian food is so much more filling than the beans and rice I usually make at home: 1/3 CUP of olive oil! I like the custard idea – pumpkin pie would fill that gap, too.


  9. We freeze meat in meal portions and recently cut down the amount of ground beef in one meal from 3/4 to 2/3 lbs, which works out to 5 oz each. Ham – 4 oz each (1/4 lb). But that is meat as a serving. I make lots of soups, stews, casseroles. 1 lb of ground meat makes a lot of cabbage rolls and several quarts of meat sauce for spaghetti.

    A favorite dodge of mine lately is enchiladas. I use homemade or Ann Arbor Tortilla factory corn tortillas and various sauces (red sauce with ancho chiles, green sauce with tomatillos, mole with chocolate, etc.). Then I shred cooked meat (pot roast or baked chicken) and roll this with a slender wand of jack cheese in the tortilla, roll tightly and cover with sauce. Freeze in meal portions (that’s two enchiladas each, to be eaten with rice, beans, and salad).

    I just made 2 dozen green chicken enchiladas with white meat of one chicken plus one pound of monterey jack.

  10. We eat a lot of Middle Eastern, Indian, and Chinese food. These all use what would basically be ONE healthy American portion of meat for an entire dish that serves 4 -6 depending. We live in the Southwest so ironically we don’t eat that much Mexican food. Kinda burned out I guess.

    Since the chickens have begun laying I’ve even changed from using meat to using eggs just to get rid of them.

  11. I put about 1oz of bacon (one slice) into a big pot of split soup. The dry weight of the split peas is 1lb, much more when cooked of course. I slice up the bacon first, and then cook it in the pan, and then add in the rest of the ingredients. It’s more of a seasoning than a condiment then, I guess. Oh, I also like to put bacon in with some fried potatoes. Just a little bit goes a long way! Still, more of a seasoning than a condiment there, because I’m trying to make the potatoes taste like bacon. Bacon bits are a pretty common condiment, though. You can put them on potatoes, salad, soups, just about anything really.

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