Frequently Asked Questions guide for people who buy meat. Everything you ever wanted to know about Butchering, cuts of beef, meat preparation, and more. This is part one of the Butcher and Meat FAQ. If you have any questions you’d like answered for part two use the contact page to send us your comments. We’d be happy to answer. There’s no such thing as a stupid question, the only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask!
Butcher and Meat FAQ Part One
What is a butcher?
A butcher is someone who has trained in the art of selecting, buying, ageing, preparing and cutting meat.
What is Delmonico steak?
Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York popularised Rib Eye Steak as their signature dish in the late 19th century and it has carried their name since.
How do I buy steak?
A.Look for recommendations from friends, family and the review websites locally. Find a good butcher and tell him what you are looking for. Explain your budget, your preferences and the numbers you are feeding, so your butcher can give you the benefit of his experience and you will get the best steak possible based on your criteria.
How do I prep a steak?
A. For most steaks, allow to come to room temperature for 30 minutes or longer. If you cook a steak straight from the fridge, it will lower the temperature of the oil and you will get a miserable, grey steak and there will be no Maillard reaction.
What is the Maillard reaction?
A. The Maillard reaction is when fresh meat is cooked in a pan in very hot cooking oil
(140 to 165 C) and the reducing sugars and amino acids react and brown the meat and give it its desirable flavour.
What is Rib-Eye Steak?
A. Rib-Eye Steak (also known as Scotch Fillet, entrecote or spencer steak) is cut from the rib section of a beef animal. The rib section runs from the 6th to the 12th rib. The Rib Eye is mainly made up of the longissimus dorsi muscle and also includes the spinalus and complexus muscles.
What is the best way to cook a steak?
A. There is no best way, there are just personal preferences. Most chefs advocate searing on a hot pan followed by a spell in the oven to finish. Some say season before cooking, others say season afterwards.
Three things every chef agrees with:
- Bring the steak up to room temperature first
- Make sure the pan is hot before you put the steak on. Use a high-quality cooking oil for steak like tallow.
- Allow 5 to 10 minutes resting after the steak finishes cooking.
What is the best type of steak?
A. Every steak has its attractions and of course, there is the price to be considered. Again this comes down to personal preference. We will have an in-depth look at steaks in the next post.
What is a Porterhouse?
A. Porterhouse is the name given to the T-Bone steaks with the biggest amount of fillet/tenderloin, usually the first 2-3 steaks. They are great for a couple, the lady usually opting for the fillet, and the gentleman having the striploin/sirloin. But, not to be sexist, I have seen women devouring a Porterhouse while her male companion had fish, so we won’t stereotype any gender here.
What is a Chateaubriand?
A. Chateaubriand is a large steak from the thickest part of the fillet/tenderloin of beef. It is usually served for two people.
What is the most expensive cut of beef?
Is Wagyu beef as good as they say it is?
A. Like most other things, there is some hype involved, and not all Wagyu is the same. There are pure-bred wagyu and there are cross-bred Wagyu.
Then there are the different marbling scales to consider before we get into the Japanese Wagyu versus Other Wagyu argument. As we keep saying, it all comes down to personal preference, but you should definitely taste Wagyu at some point in your life, it is amazing.
What are the cheapest cuts of beef?
A. The cheaper cuts are usually the ones that need slow cooking.
Cuts like shin, neck, shoulder, brisket are all good value and with the right cooking method, will make delicious meals.
What cut would you recommend for making a stew or casserole?
A. Shin or shoulder are ideal for stews and casseroles. The connective tissue in these cuts breaks down during the cooking and gives the dish a flavour that you won’t get from fillet steak.
Do all cheap beef cuts need to be slow-cooked?
A. Generally yes, cheap cuts of meat need to be slow-cooked. The premium cuts, the ones you fry or grill, make up a much smaller percentage of the whole carcase than the cheaper cuts. The economics of butchering dictate that you will pay a lot more for those cuts. But cheaper doesn’t mean any low quality, it just means better value for cuts you need to cook longer.
Is there a way to tenderise cheap steak?
A. You can buy meat tenderising mallets and tenderisers with multiple blades, but really you are bashing or shredding the meat. If you want tender steak, talk to your local butcher who can offer you good value based on his expert knowledge and will let you know when he has a special offer.
How can I make a packet of beef mince go further?
A. By adding vegetables i.e. finely chopped mushrooms, by adding breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs in burgers or meatloaf. Lentils, cooked rice, oats and mashed potato also work well.
Is it worth buying beef in bulk and stocking up the freezer?
A. If you have the space for a large freezer it can be. You need to be aware that if you buy a side of beef about one-third of it will be bone and fat, that the premium cuts are not as plentiful as the cheaper cuts and that you will get a lot of mince/ground beef and stewing/casserole meat. So if you are buying a side of beef for the first time, you might be disappointed with how little fillet steak is on a side. The fillet/tenderloin is only 1.6% of the total weight. Talk to your local butcher and he will recommend the best value for you and he will also pack it in quantities that suit you.
I’m throwing a dinner party but don’t want to break the bank. What beef dish would you recommend?
A. Beef bourguignon, beef stroganoff, pot roast can all be made with great value cuts with the added advantage that if your dinner guests are late, the dish won’t be ruined by waiting for half an hour or so.
What is the difference between Lamb and Mutton?
A. Lamb is up to a year old, Hogget is up to 2 years old and Mutton is over 2 years old.
What are the best cuts of Lamb?
A. Our preference is for the Lamb Shoulder, either as a roasting joint or in chops/steaks. The depth of flavour in the shoulder meat cannot be matched by any other Lamb cut. And it’s usually cheaper than the leg. Try a shoulder on the bone from your butcher and you will be impressed with the taste and tenderness.
Why is lamb so popular around Easter?
A. Lamb is popular at Easter time because the lambs born in the previous winter are now available and Spring Lamb has a beautiful mild flavour and is melt-in-the-mouth tender.
What cut would you suggest for an Easter Sunday roast?
A. Lamb Shoulder is the sweetest, tastiest, lamb joint you can get. Cook it boneless or on the bone, but try a shoulder at least once, you will be very impressed.
Should I buy a leg of lamb with or without the bone in?
Leg of Lamb is much easier to carve without the bone, but bone-in it is a much better product. Get your butcher to remove the aitch bone. This will make carving a lot easier. When the lamb is cooked and rested, you will see a semi-circle of lean meat at the opposite end to the shank. Start slicing from there. Slice up to the bone and keep taking slices until it tapers away. Then, with a sharp knife, cut alongside both sides of the bone to a depth of half an inch. Turn the lamb over and slice towards the bone and the slices should come away very easily.
I have six people to feed. How big a leg of lamb should I buy?
A. You could probably feed six from a half leg, but the full leg will give you a second meal and maybe a sandwich or two.
What is the difference between a leg and a shank?
A. A leg is a full leg from the hip down. A shank is a piece from either the knee or the elbow down. By the way, a lamb has four legs when it is walking in a field, but only two in a butcher’s shop. Why? Because two of those legs are shoulders
How should lamb be cooked: rare, medium or well-done and is it safe to eat lamb that is still pink inside?
A. This is a matter of personal preference, some love to eat lamb rare, while others have to have it well done. A good compromise is to have your butcher butterfly the leg, and while it is cooking, the thinner parts will be well done and the thicker muscles will be rare, so there is something for everyone. It is perfectly safe to eat lamb that is pink inside. Use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature is between 63 C (rare) and 77C (well done).
What is your top tip for roasting lamb?
Rub with rape seed oil (canola), chop some garlic and rosemary, and sprinkle all over before putting in the oven. When you are making gravy from the meat juices, add a half teaspoon of redcurrant jelly. You will be amazed at the sweet lift this will give your gravy.
Which other cuts would make good alternatives to a leg of lamb?
A. Shoulder lamb is a class act, rack and loin are all good alternatives. Legs tend to be expensive at Easter because there is such a demand for them.
What flavours go well with lamb?
A. Rosemary, garlic, basil, mint, cumin, and harissa all go well with lamb, but be careful not to overpower that beautiful lamb taste. Use spices and herbs sparingly on Spring Lamb.
What is the best pork for roasting?
A. We definitely prefer pork shoulder ( see previous post) but loin and leg are great cuts too. Buy your pork with the skin on and the fat and skin will become delicious crackling. Pork without fat is a pale imitation.
What meat goes into sausages?
A. If we are talking about pork sausages, shoulder and belly are the best cuts. The shoulder has the perfect balance of fat, lean and connective tissue to give the flavour, moisture, and texture that make a great sausage. Pork sausages have to have a percentage of fat that gives them the flavour and succulence. You are better off buying sausages from a butcher who makes sausages to his own recipe because they will be made fresh every couple of days and are not overloaded with chemicals, fillers and preservatives.