For carnivores raised on the supermarket shopping experience, buying fresh meat over the counter from a butcher’s shop can be confusing, if not downright intimidating. While ordering beef from a local butcher lacks the grab-and-go convenience of the grocery store, the quality of the meat is such that there is an entire USDA class– “Prime”–reserved for high-end beef found only in steakhouses, fine dining establishments, and butcher shops. So, for those foodies sweating it out in the kitchen trying to cook fancy restaurant-quality meals at home, we recommend starting at the source with naturally raised beef from your local butcher shop. Keep reading for our tips to get exactly what you want from your next trip to the butcher.
1. Know Your Fats
For culinary purposes, animals contain two types of fats: intermuscular fat and intramuscular fat. Intermuscular fat is the tough, chewy, gelatinous blob of fat found at the edges and in between muscles that usually gets trimmed off your steak before it hits the plate.
Intramuscular fat, to the contrary, are the patterned white flecks of fat weaved throughout the muscle fiber that melts during the cooking process, intensifying beef’s juiciness and flavor. The presence of these streaks is called “marbling,” and the distribution of fat across the meat is used to determine its quality.
2. Hold onto Your Marbles
Marbling is qualified as fine, medium, or coarse according to the thinness and uniformity of the flecks of fat. Cuts of beef with the thinnest, most uniform distribution are graded “fine.” “Medium” marbled cuts have slightly larger and less evenly distributed fat content and “coarse” cuts have large, uneven flecks of intramuscular fat.
While “finer” marbled cuts carry a higher price tag, the advantage is only significant when cooking quickly over high heat, meaning that the quality of marbling is mainly a concern when shopping for high temperature cuts, like steak.
3. Roll the Bones
Paying cash money for bones you aren’t going to eat might sound like a bad investment, but it’s a lot smarter (and tastier) than using store-bought beef stock. Cheaper, too. Beef stock is easy to make in bulk and freeze so you’re never more than a quick thaw away from a homecooked meal. Making your own stock from soup/neck bones also lets you control the salt content, making it ideal for those on a low-sodium diet.
4. Call for Help
If you’re looking for a specific cut, making a special recipe, need cooking tips, or can’t find what you’re looking for in the counter–ask! Most butchers are more than happy to trim off intermuscular fat, offer recommendations, and answer questions.
5. Bundle Up
The main advantage of purchasing beef from your local butcher is that it’s a one-stop shopping trip. Most shops offer bundle deals where you can save money buying in bulk and stock your freezer with a several months’ supply of steakhouse-quality beef that you can’t get at the grocery store.
Get a head start on grilling season with beef from our farm to your table. Visit us or call today to order.