Pakistani version of roast beef is a four day process. But really all the ‘work’ takes about an hour and a half, split up over 4 days. I tried two versions, one with store bought hunters beef masala, and the other with my own spice blend to compare which one turned out better…
What is Hunters Beef?
Commonly made in northern Pakistan, Hunters Beef is a Pakistani version of salted, cured meat. It is essentially our version of corned beef, or pastrami. I might be making this up, but since hunting game is common in northern Pakistan, I believe that is how this recipe got its name. Known for its pink colour and melt-in-your mouth taste that is achieved by days of marinating and slow cooking.
How to make Hunters Beef?
The process is actually quite simple. It starts with a very basic spice mix, with a few special ingredients to help cure and preserve the meat as it marinates. A good quality hunk of boneless beef is marinated for about four days, then boiled (I prefer to use the instant pot to speed up the process a bit), baked and broiled till the outside is a caramelized golden brown, and the inside is a juicy pinky red – like pastrami.
The meat is cooked by boiling and baking it. Making it a bit healthier compared to frying.
Once cooked, and cooled, it will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Hunters beef is normally eaten for breakfast or as a snack with evening tea. But it really can be eaten anytime. I love some on a slice of toast with some horseradish mayo & arugula!
Tips for Making the Best Hunters Beef:
The technique and a few key ingredients make all the difference in making the perfect Hunters Beef. I learnt this recipe from my friends father who makes hunters beef regularly and was kind enough to show me his techniques, so you know it’s got to be good! Desi uncles are serious about their meat!
I’ve tried to capture all the tips and tricks I learnt in the video below (and I totally made a few mistakes along the way, so I will show you how to not make the same mistakes I did!) Practice makes perfect, and even if you don’t get it exactly right the first time, it will still taste great, I promise!
The best part about making your own Hunters Beef is that you can really control the quality and taste of the meat. I like using an approximately 2lbs piece of boneless top sirloin or round with good marbling for this recipe. Make sure to cut off most of the larger pieces of fat around the outside before marinating.
You also need to prepare the meat for the marinate by piercing the flesh with a fork or the tip of a sharp knife (be careful not to go all the way through). This will allow the marination to penetrate the hunk of beef and really helps develop the flavour.
You can’t rush hunters beef. The marinade needs time to soak into the centre of the meat. Give it the full four days to marinade before cooking the beef. You will not regret it!
The Spice Mix for Hunters Beef
You can use the store bought spice mix (I like the shaan masala brand version of Hunters Beef masala). Or you can make your own marinade with a few ingredients, most you should already have in your pantry:
- Lemon Juice
- black peppercorns
- cinnamon stick
- black cardamomn pods
- bay leavf
- papaya powder
- brown sugar
- ginger garlic paste
- kalmi shora – potassium nitrate or saltpetre is a preservative that also achieves that pink colour in the meat as it reacts with the hemoglobin in the meat. It also helps preserve the meat while it marinates. If you can’t find kalmi shora or any other curing salt, you can skip it. The colour of the meat will not be that distinctive redish pink when cooked, it will be more of a greyish brown, but it will still taste the same.
Marinate for at Least 3-4 Days!
Toss the meat in the marinate and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days in an air tight container – I suggest a ziploc bag or glass dish with a lid.
Avoid using a metal dish to marinate the meat, especially aluminum as it will react with the marinate and could become poisonous!
Make sure to give the meat a turn every day, and a few extra piercings with a fork to really make sure the marinate gets to soak all the way in.
Cook Slowly and Cool Completely
Once it has marinated for four days, toss the remaining marinade and cook the beef.
You can cook on a stove top – simmer the hunters beef on the stove top, covered in water, for a few hours until fork tender.
Or in the instant pot – boil in the instant pot with a cup of water for 45 minutes on high pressure. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes and then quick release the pressure. Toss any remaining liquid.
Once cooked, it is ready to eat, but I like to add an extra bake in the oven to get the outside looking golden brown: Wrap the meat in foil, shiny side in to retain heat, and bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and broil for another 5-6 minutes so the outside is golden brown and caramelized. Allow to cool completely before cutting into the hunters beef.
When you cut into the hunters beef, the inside will have that distinctive reddish pink colour all the way through.
If you have any grey spots in the centre of the meat, it means the marinate did not get all the way through. Next time, try piercing it a few more times so the marinate and kalmi shora can really soak in there. Either way it will still taste just fine.
It really is not a complicated thing, just takes a bit of time and patience. It is the perfect meal prep food too as it can last weeks in the fridge. Or can be frozen for upto three months. I will definitely be putting hunters beef in the regular rotation.
How to eat Hunters Beef?
You mean other than shove slices straight in your mouth?
My favourite is to make a sandwich with slices of hunters beef and horseradish mayo. But it also goes great as a topping for pho, or add it to your salad. Really the possibilities are endless! 🙂
So which Masala was Better for Hunters Beef – store bought or homemade?
Personally I loved my own homemade masala mix. But I think that is because I prefer a very subtle masala flavour. The store bought masala mix was quite strong in terms of the spice flavour (not spice, just very flavoured if you know what I mean). So it is a personal preference. If you want that really desi flavour go for the store bought mix. If you want a more subtle flavour go for homemade.
I really hope you try it! And let me know how it goes!
Hunters Beef (Paleo, Keto)
- 2 lbs top sirloin or round boneless beef keep in one large piece, trim off any excess fat around the outside
- 2 large lemons, juiced or use 3-4 limes
- 1/2 box Hunters Beef Masala (I like shaan masala or see notes below to make your own hunters beef spice mix)
- 1 tsp kalmi shora /potassium nitrate / saltpetre You can skip this if you cannot find it, but it will change the colour of the final product. It will not affect the flavour though.
- water, as needed
Prepare the Meat for Marination
- Wash and trim the excess fat off your meat. Use a sharp knife or fork to lightly pierce into the flesh all over. Be careful not to poke all the way through to the other side. This will help the marinate to penetrate into the centre of the meat and help get that beautiful pink colour inside when it cooks.
- Add meat to a glass plastic bowl with a tight fitting lid (or use a ziplock bag).* Add the lemon juice and masala mix, mix well to coat. Cover and refridgerate for 3 to 4 days.
- Every day, turn the meat over and pierce with a fork again a few times to allow the marinate to distribute again.
- On the last day of marinating, a few hours before you intend to cook the meat, pierce again with a fork a few times and sprinkle with 1 tsp kalmi shora all over. Rub with your hands to make sure it is well coated. Cover and set aside for 2-3 hours. This is what will give it that distinctive pink colour on the inside.
Boil the Hunters Beef
- Stove Top Method:
- Discard the marinade and place the meat in a large pot Fill with enough water to cover the meat by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 3-4 hours until it is fork tender. Discard any remaining liquid. If there is a lot of fat on top you can save this for the next step.
- Instant Pot Method:
- Discard the marinade and place the meat into the instant pot with 1 cup of water. Cover and seal. Cook on high pressure for 45 minutes. Allow to naturally release pressure for 10 minutes then quick release the pressure. Discard any remaining liquid if there is a lot of fat on top, save this for the next step.
Bake the Hunters Beef
- Preheat oven to 350F. Wrap the beef in foil – shiny side inside to help retain the heat. If you had saved any fat you can spread this all over the meat before wrapping in foil to help the browning process.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the foil and broil for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown and starting to caramelize on top.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before slicing.
- 3-4 Black peppercorns
- 1inch cinnamon stick
- 3-4 black cardamom pods
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cloves (laung)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp papaya powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar