Meaty advice for choosing a prime cut
So, meat. If you are a carnivore or simply like a good steak, a protein work-out hero or a part time vegetarian we all look for something different in our meat cuts. It’s a hot topic right now with the price of the base product forever on the increase!
There is one thing for sure, you get what you pay for! We’ve learned a lot about meat on our travels and more recently as we’ve watched butchers at work and seen the mart sales first hand. It’s a substantial industry that runs on a global scale to deliver that prime cut to your door. It’s life and it is alive, a veritable food chain of farmers, buyers, transport, butchers and eaters. What is the best steak, the best pork? Where can you get it, who buys it? Where is it reared?
We’ve seen first hand the marvels of the Kobe Wagu beef and eaten Argentine Steaks cut with a spoon. The variety of meat is amazing, the range of beef from a single animal – cow, herbivore – it’s incredible the variation in grade. The cultivation of the animal, it’s home and pasturing has a lot to do with the final product. The breed and its diet, how happy the animal is and how calmly it is dispatched into our food chain. But it’s also how well the meat is then handled by a butcher, how it is stored, hung, cut and even presented.
So what do we look for in our meat for BBQ? FAT. It may seem counter intuitive but the tasty bit of the meat comes from the fat content. When we are choosing steak for example, a rib eye or a sirloin, we look for a fat distribution amongst the flesh. Flecks of white and yellow fat rippling their way along the muscle gives flavour, keeps the meat moist and tender and luscious. We look at the colour of the fat (white/yellow), we look at marbling, we look for gristle, we look at the colour of the meat itself, what age is the cattle at slaughter. If given the opportunity, we’ll smell the meat! Has the meat been dry aged? Has it been wet aged? The questions are important to a carnivore looking for a prize!
On a brisket, the most prized are USDA – imported from the US from large animals compared to the UK breeds and grain fed usually, sometimes on massive feeding lots. But the intramuscular fat they generate holds the prize for moistness when you are cooking low and slow and desperately trying to keep the tenderness! On ribs too and pork shoulder, you need a layer of fat to stop these fragile meaty muscles getting damaged. Fat is the lubricant, the protector and the oil in the mechanism of bbq. But we also need meat flavour and that is the ‘beefiness’ or ‘porkiness’ which may come from diet, age, cut of meat and breed more than anything.
We don’t like to pay for fat! Fat cost money when we want meat! So where is the balance? Where do you get choice like that!? It comes down to having a relationship with your butcher. There are less and less real butcheries in the UK these days. Their prices are usually more expensive than supermarkets, but on the whole the quality of their product is by some measure more exciting.
I never get very inspired by walking down a supermarket aisle these days. Mince, chicken, beef stewing steak, lamb chops, burgers. But when you step into the realm of the butcher’s shop and know a little about the animals, then you can get some righteously tasty treats. We’re talking hanger steak, pork belly, pigs cheeks, featherblade or lamb sweetbreads. Relatively cheap cuts of meat that are worth the journey, worth the conversation and worth the effort to cook.
It is our mission to eventually share great cuts of meat with you on our site, and is something we are working towards. In the meantime, why not check out our award winning Pitboss sausage range.