As a meat lover, you’ve probably gotten used to purchasing pre-cut pieces of meat off the shelves in a supermarket. However, do you know the differences between the meats? Do you know how to tell the difference between the good cuts and the bad? If the answer to either question is a no, then you should head for the butcher. With their knowledge and expertise, you can be sure that you’re getting the best cut possible.
Here’s what you need to know when buying your meat from the butcher:
Signs of a Good Piece of Meat
For many people (and that might include you), the most significant factor to a good piece of meat is fat marbling, which tells the individual how much fat there is in a slice of meat. Although it does contribute to the meat being juicy and tasty, it isn’t the only factor you should look out for. In fact, other factors like meat integrity and freshness will also contribute to the final product’s quality.
What do we mean by meat integrity? Well, think of it this way. If you’ve ever handled meat, you may have noticed that some are floppy, while others are a little less so. The better piece of meat here is the one that isn’t as floppy, meaning that the meat was cut or stored well.
As for freshness, keep an eye on the colour of the meat. It should be saturated with red without too much pooling of red liquid around it and soft all-round—no hard spots. Sometimes, you may catch little brown spots on the flesh, but that’s perfectly fine. That’s just the meat becoming oxidized as it is exposed to the air. As long as the meat looks and smells fresh, the meat is suitable for consumption.
Listen to Your Butcher’s Advice
You may have been purchasing meats for many years, but if your butcher says no to anything, there’s a good reason for it. For example, the butcher will know how each cut of meat should be handled properly, and if you tell them you want to use a particular piece for a specific dish, they’ll make suggestions. Sometimes, the meat you have in mind may not be suitable or isn’t the best choice for the meal. In that case, it is best to listen to the butcher if you want to enjoy the best cut possible for the recipe you plan to cook.
At times, you may be tempted to ask your butcher for extra “favours,” such as asking him or her to cut a particular piece of meat a certain way, and that’s fine. However, keep in mind that the butcher may or may not agree to it, depending on what you’re asking.
For example, if you request your butcher to cut a slice of meat into cubes only a few minutes before closing time, they’ll most likely say no. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with asking, but if you need something cut in a particular way, do phone up ahead of time to see if it is possible. The faster that they know what you want, the likelier you’re going to get it.
In the end, how well you know your meats and how well you communicate your needs to your butcher will determine what you will get. This is why it is important to educate yourself about the factors that determine a good quality piece of meat and learn about your local butcher’s etiquette.
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