I won’t shop, cook or cut meat quite the same from now on. I had the pleasure of attending a Butcher Class at Urban Farmer recently. They went above and beyond to teach, answer questions and arm attendees with the information and know-how they’d need to select the best cuts of meat, and best utilize less popular, yet more economical cuts.
Head Butcher and Urban Farmer Sous Chef, Vincent Delagrange, lead the class. He’s been professionally cutting meat since 2011. He knows his stuff. He whizzed through the prepared Beef 101 slides, covering the basics, like “What is a steak?” (2″ thick or under with a quick cooking method) and “what makes it tender?” (It’s inversely related to the amount of work a muscle has to during the life of the animal). Fat is flavor, and the fattier the beef, the beefier the flavor. This is an equation I can study.
Here’s what I learned:
Delagrange also touched on U.S.D.A. grading, explaining that most meat we see in a butcher shop of the meat counter is Prime (highest designation, less than 2% of cattle) or Choice (less marbling, but widely available), occasionally Select (lean and less available, potentially tough).
And then there’s is Wagyu. It’s the Cadillac of cows, people. It has a high percentage of marbling which far exceeds that of USDA Prime. Yes, please. And get this: “Kobe” beef isn’t really Kobe beef unless it is from Tajima breed cows raised in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan, and you’re eating it in Japan. They don’t export it. So all those times you THINK you’ve purchased or been served Kobe beef…you were duped. How about that?!
Delegrange was happy to answer all kinds of questions the group had about shopping for beef too. Like “What day is best to shop for meat?” Answer: find out which day of the week your local butcher or grocer gets their shipments. And that’s the day! Likely Friday morning is good. For large chains, Delegrange suggests checking their ads. The first day sales take effect you’re sure to find the freshest product. And for markdowns…try Sunday evening, or Monday. What I was surprised to hear was those markdowns haven’t been sitting there for days…only a couple of hours. So scoop them up, check the freshness or sell-by date and save!
I learned that you can identify high quality meat by look and touch. There should be exterior fat (remember, fat=flavor!). Press on the side of that fat. You’ll want it spongey, or to bounce back, not firm. And you’re looking for a good balance or ratio of interior or marbelized fat to exterior fat.
Delegrange also suggests secondary cuts to satisfy your beef craving and your budget. Swap Ribeye for Chuckeye, Tenderloin for Sirloin and Strip Steak for Coulotte. The idea is to buy a piece of meat that can be grilled and sliced to serve a larger number of people. The guy has four kids at home. I trust his advice! He also favors the flat iron, tri tip, Babette and ribeye cap.
We were given a handful of great recipes from Delegrange, plus some helpful handouts to help decider between corn-fed, grass-fed and dry-aged beef for the purposes of shopping and ordering at our favorite restaurants. And BONUS: there were swag bags with “Beefy” t shirts (which I admittedly had my eye on at the hostess stand) plus some seeds to start our garden this season.
If you’d like to sign up for one of these comprehensive classes, their next butcher class is Saturday, June 17th from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. This one is a showdown between the Carolina’s versus Texas BBQ. Event details here: