Who's your butcher?
Updated: May 26, 2019
Having a friendly butcher can be a lifesaver, not only for special meals, but also on your wallet too! But it's much more our local butchers and green grocers are often a strong part of the community and can be a great way to meet and chat to new people which in turn can help reduce the feeling of isolation. My local butcher has three lovely little chairs in the front of his shop so people can sit and chat if they want too - perfect!
I've lost count of the amount of times I've walked into my local butcher for mince and was inspired and bought something different!
“Your local butcher is almost a community hub in it's own right”
I'm afraid if you are vegetarian or vegan then this blog is almost certainly not for you. I
like meat, I love the various flavors, textures and the versatility of the product. I can
say that I am by no way adverse to non meat meals and I love things like macaroni cheese,
stuffed eggy peppers to name but a few recipes, plus I have written a complete plant based weight loss plan in my past packed full of incredible meat free recipes. But there is something magical about a really good piece of meat and we must not forget that red meat is a great source of protein, iron and B12 - all of which are essential elements to keeping healthy. Butchers have so much more than meat, often they sell products that compliment their offering - ours sells the most beautiful duck eggs and fresh local veg. Once you have found your local butcher it will be like your hairdresser, you won't change until they retire!
So, I thought I'd ask my butcher Richard Dade of The Butcher's House a few questions so that you can get a feel of what your local butcher could offer you. I must say Richard, his wife Sonia and team are amazing and full of great ideas that it always makes for a fun experience! If you live in Norfolk then pop in and see them, but be prepared to come out smiling after hearing some amazing stories and seeing Kieran (the apprentice) in his chain mail!
Why is beef hung?- Beef is hung to allow the totally natural process of muscle and fat breakdown . Imagine a tightly clenched fist, then slowly relax it , that’s what happening to hung beef in a Butchers shop . While this process is going on in our fridges, the moisture from the carcass is being absorbed into the fibres, then drying, but leaving its flavour intact. The longer the hanging , the more the beefy /gamey taste can develop . It will give you that flavour you had when your Nan cooked a roast when you where a child.
What's the difference between chuck and braising steak? - Chuck steak is a primal cut of beef situated under the blade bone , and runs from the bottom of the neck through to the fore rib roasting joint. It has fantastic marbling, and fat layers that give amazing flavour to a dish. Braising steak is a leaner set of muscles from over the carcass which, although lean will make for fantastic casserole dishes but perhaps without that certain structure that gives that perfect luxury gravy. Minced chuck steak is great for chilli dishes, cottage pies and steak burgers - makes this my particular favourite cut of beef both in the shop, and in my own kitchen, and I know it's one of Sarah's too!
Is butchers meat fresher than from a supermarket? - Naturally hung Butchers beef is not necessarily younger or older than supermarket beef. Supermarket meat is typically cut on a production line, boned and vacuum packed within three days . It can be labelled and kept like this for the “28 day matured” some declare . My comment would be that 28 days as a cut of boneless beef, laying in a vacuum bag,is not quite the same . True Butchers know the carcass, and judge the perfect timing to present for sale each particular cut of the carcass.
Why does beef go dark? - Beef goes dark from a Butchers because during its hanging it has been put in the most natural of environments - cold circulating air that's packed full of oxygen! Oxygen is the natural breakdown agent, carbon dioxide is the preservative . Shrink wrapped meat (often from a supermarket) in a sterile environment and trapped in a bag full of CO2 will keep it looking fresh as it’s transported far and wide.
Which joint would you say gives the tastiest flavour but is the most cost effective too? - I would definitely say that brisket has the greater appeal to the public as an economical, easy slow cook joint of beef . However there are others, and not all are from the forequarter. Some amazing cheaper cuts come from the hindquarters, you just need to be brave and ask the butcher for advice. As a rule of thumb, the more expensive the cut from your butcher, the quicker you can cook it and therefore the cheaper the cut, the longer and slower you will need to cook it, which is why cheaper cuts are great to use in slow cookers.