Baby Needs a Butcher

Many millennials may complain that in their 14 odd years of institutionalized education there is some knowledge that school could not, or did not teach them. Walking out into the world as budding adults, adolescents are met in the face by taxes, bills, budgets and groceries. 

In the face of an amply stocked supermarket, the average college-age consumer cannot resist the gravitational pull to the familiar frozen meal fridges from which they got an Amy’s Famous Bowl the day before. 

“All I really ever get from the store are the things I used to see my mum buying,” said Sarah Day, 21. Although she does cook often, Day only ever buys the same few things to make the same few meals she knows how. Although that means that she is well fed, Day still wants variety, and she’s not alone. 

Out of ten students in a small to medium sized campus in Upstate New York, eight say they wish they knew a better way to go around the store, especially when it comes to buying meat. 

A well-marbled ribeye. Photo by Edson Saldaña on Unsplash.

What is frustrating is that unless one has a large proficiency in cooking, they probably do not know their way around an animal or which parts the best cuts of meat are from. The experience, however, does not have to be intimidating.

On the topic of chicken there is not much to be said. The general rule is that the fresher the chicken, the fresher the flavor. Chicken breasts with the skin on are one of the most cost-effective ways to get your fix.

According to professional chef Hugo Kim, 29, “The best way to become familiar with your meat is to start a relationship with your local butcher.”

A butcher can be that asset to help you take your taco toppings from grainy ground beef to fall-off-the-bone short rib.

A good way to prepare for a visit to the butcher is to form an understanding of the parts on the animals from which the good cuts are cleaved.

Picture of a butcher working. Photo by Kyle Mackie on Unsplash.

The more expensive cuts of beef are usually from the short loin or the rib: this includes popular cuts like the ribeye, T-bone and N.Y. strip steak. These cuts are all quite expensive, because of where they are on the body of the animal. The meat on the loin and rib is not very muscular, making it soft and has a good amount of fat marbling running in-between the muscle strings. 

This rings true for both pork and beef. Some other options which could cook just as well as a steak for more than half the price most of the time are your skirt and flank steaks that come from underbelly of the cow. This is good for the connoisseur on a budget. 

“At home we have a very simple marinade for the skirt steak that just consists of soy sauce and garlic basically,” said Korean-native Kim.

This is a small example of the kind of information you and your butcher can share with each other because invariably, every dinner party or meal prep you might have will not call for skirt or flank steaks. Rest assured, every cut of meat has a purpose. Some for braising, some that love the grill, some that just need a warm place for a couple of hours and some that you do not even have to cook at all. 

A good life requires a conscientious approach, and that should in principle start with what goes into the body. Let your butcher guide you through cuts of meat, as a partner to every adventure you have in the kitchen. You will learn a lot more than you might think.

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