If you bypass a butcher to just grab a couple of steaks or a chicken from the store, you might not be making the most of your meat-buying dollars.
Having a butcher you can depend on is the next best thing to buying a part of an animal from a local farm or meat CSA (and requires a lot less freezer space).
Why would you want to search out and befriend a butcher? Here are 10 reasons I love hanging out with people like Barb at Barb’s Butchery:
- If you have a dish at a restaurant with an interesting cut of meat, they can replicate it. Recently, I was reviewing a restaurant for Organic Hudson Valley Magazine and had a pork shank, something I wasn’t familiar with. I mentioned it to Barb and she was intrigued enough to start cutting some shanks from the pig she was breaking down.
- You know where your meat is coming from. They have relationships with farmers, so you’ll know how it was raised, finished and butchered.
- They can guide you to lesser known cuts (often known as butcher’s cuts) that are often less expensive and more flavorful. While cuts like short ribs and skirt steaks have gained popularity, flat-iron steaks are still flying under the radar and well worth checking out.
- They can give you recipes and ideas. This is really useful if you want to try out some of the lesser-know parts of an animal. Often, if you have a recipe in mind, they can give you alternative meat ideas that might save you some money.
- They can teach you a lot of stuff. I learned how to test for doneness by just poking the meat. Here’s a link to the video I made; it’s much easier to see it in action.
- They can custom cut anything for you (although I always feel guilty about asking to have a chicken cut up—it’s so easy and I should practice my knife skills).
- They can grind it for you (important if you’re making something like steak tartare or have a special hamburger or meatloaf mix in mind).
- They can tell you about new stuff they’re working on and save you some. Barb recently made some Saucisse de Toulouse that were terrific!
- They may be making great sandwiches. Sometimes they’re posted and sometimes you just have to be in the know, but look for great brisket, Cubans, or Italian combos to be on the menu.
- You’re supporting a local business (and probably more than one, if they’re buying local meat).
Did I miss anything? What do you like about shopping at a butcher?