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Expert tips: how to make the most out of different cuts of meat

We ask two Borough Market butchers how to make the most out of various cuts of meat. Plus: the best cheap cuts to use, why everyone should be cooking with shoulder, and the benefits of eating venison.

National Butchers’ Week, 23rd–29th March 2015, encourages shoppers to buy from their local butchers. After all, your friendly butcher can help you get the most out of the meat you buy, and they’ll encourage you to experiment with new recipes.


To celebrate National Butchers’ Week, we asked two Borough Market butchers for tips about buying and cooking different cuts…

Jan McCourt, Northfield Farm

When I first started selling meat on my farm, customers were slightly embarrassed because they didn’t understand the difference between various cuts of meat. Educating people about that has been fascinating for me!

The most important thing to understand about animals is how the muscle works. Meat is a muscle: the more work a muscle does, the tougher it gets, the longer it takes to cook, and the more flavour it has. So flavour and tenderness have an inverse relationship. That’s the key to understanding everything about meat.

The brisket, which is underneath the chest at the front of an animal, is one of the parts of a cow that does a lot of work. It’s the least expensive bit, but also the most flavoursome – it’s the same with shin of the pig, which is between the trotters and the beginning of the leg; or the lamb shank, which falls apart when cooked for a long time.

Jan’s top tip: Give your meat time. Time has been put into the husbandry, butchery and preparation of the cut, so give it some time in the cooking as well. You will get wonderful results.

Jared Green, Cumbrian Speciality Meats

I think people should try less popular cuts of meat, such as shoulder – my favourite cut of meat from any animal. It has so much flavour and is incredibly versatile. You can buy the whole shoulder, or cuts of it such as the flat iron and the feather bade.

You have to cook the flat iron (or ‘butlers’ steak’) medium-rare in a hot pan to enjoy it at its best, but you treat the feather blade completely differently. It’s great for braising and tastes wonderful when cooked really slowly, say for four to five hours. If you cook it slowly as a whole steak it will be amazingly tender and flavoursome.

Top tip: If you don’t see the cut you want, just ask the butcher. If they don’t have it that day they will be happy to get it in for you.

Three more top tips from Jan and Jared

1. With larger joints of meat, take the meat out of the fridge for a couple of hours before cooking to bring it up to room temperature.

2. If you are cooking a large bird, cook it upside down with the crown facing down for most of the cooking time. As it cooks a lot of the fat that is seated in between the legs will be absorbed into the breast meat, keeping it moist.

3. Think of your favourite lamb cut recipes, then try exactly the same with venison. A lot of people don’t realise it, but we actually have a deer problem in this country. They are prolific breeders and have no natural predators in the wild, so there are far too many of them! We should all be eating more venison.

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