Tag Archives: butcher

Dry Ageing

By Mario Fiorucci, Co-Founder of The Healthy Butcher

It’s time to dispel some misunderstandings about what “aged meat” is and is not.  To do this, let’s simply group all meat available for purchase into three categories:

(1) not aged;
(2) Wet Aged; and
(3) Dry Aged.

We’ll start with the latter since it is, in my opinion, the most important.

Dry Ageing is the process of hanging meat, usually the whole carcass or large portions as depicted in the photograph, in a temperature and humidity controlled environment for a period of time.  During this hanging time, two important processes are at work.  First, the natural enzymes begin to break down the fibres of the muscle, and in turn tenderize the meat.  Second, the water or moisture in the meat evaporates – which is why we refer to the process as “dry ageing”.  The loss of water will have the effect of concentrating the flavour of the meat; upwards of 20% of weight can be lost during dry ageing which adds to the final price tag.  Paradoxically, the loss of water actually makes for moister meat when cooked.  When wet meat, or meat that is not dry aged, is cooked the water in the meat expands as the temperature rises during cooking, thereby stretching the fibres of the meat and leaching out between them.  Further, if you plan on freezing your meat then it is wise to only freeze dry aged meat – less water in the meat means less frost bite.  Up until the 1960s, dry ageing meat was the standard.  Of course, there is a huge cost to dry ageing – both because there is a significant loss of weight (and meat is sold by weight) and cost of storing the meat in refrigerated environments.

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Sustainable Steaks

To see the butcher slap the steak before he laid it on the block, and give his knife a sharpening, was to forget breakfast instantly. It was agreeable too – it really was – to see him cut it off so smooth and juicy. There was nothing savage in the act, although the knife was large and keen; it was a piece of art, high art; there was delicacy of touch, clearness of tone, skillful handling of the subject, fine shading. It was the triumph of mind over matter; quite.

– Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit (1812-1870)

Introduction

Finally, barbeque season has arrived. This issue and the next of Live to Eat will be a two-part series focusing on one of our favourite summertime pastimes – grilling. This month’s issue will no doubt be amongst the most popular of all issues – our guide to steaks. A guide with a twist of course! We’re fairly confident our list will be the world’s first steak guide to exclude the three most popular and most expensive steaks – tenderloin, striploin, and rib steaks. Next month we will attempt to achieve the “Perfect Grilled Steak”. We will explain what happens in the process of grilling, should you use high heat or low heat, to sear or not to sear, to marinade or not to marinade… all answered next issue.

Prior to reading our rankings below, we strongly urge you to refresh your memory on the anatomy of beef – read our one-page “Breaking Down the Beef” guide, available by clicking here.

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Breaking Down the Elk

We’ll start by going back to basics – understanding cuts of Elk. These are the cuts of Elk we offer.

The Healthy Butcher’s Elk Cut Chart

HB-Cut_Chart_Poster-Elk_Named_CutLines-Transparent-FINAL

 

References and Learning:

Learn more about cuts of Beef:
“Breaking Down the Beef”

Learn more about cuts of Pork:
“Breaking Down the Pork”

Learn more about cuts of Lamb:
“Breaking Down the Lamb”

Learn more about cuts of Chicken:
“Breaking Down the Chicken”

Learn more about cuts of Duck:
“Breaking Down the Duck”

Learn more about various cooking methods and appropriate methods for each cut:

RealFoodToronto.com Cooking Library

Breaking Down the Duck

We’ll start by going back to basics – understanding cuts of Duck. These are the cuts of Muscovy Duck we offer.

The Healthy Butcher’s Duck Cut Chart

HB-Cut_Chart_Poster-Duck_Named_CutLines-Transparent-FINAL

 

References and Learning:

Learn more about cuts of Beef:
“Breaking Down the Beef”

Learn more about cuts of Pork:
“Breaking Down the Pork”

Learn more about cuts of Lamb:
“Breaking Down the Lamb”

Learn more about cuts of Chicken:
“Breaking Down the Chicken”

Learn more about cuts of Elk:
“Breaking Down the Elk”

Learn more about various cooking methods and appropriate methods for each cut:

RealFoodToronto.com Cooking Library

Breaking Down the Chicken

We’ll start by going back to basics – understanding cuts of Chicken. These are the cuts of Chicken we offer.

The Healthy Butcher’s Chicken Cut Chart

HB-Cut_Chart_Poster-Chicken_Named_CutLines-Transparent-FINAL

 

References and Learning:

Learn more about cuts of Beef:
“Breaking Down the Beef”

Learn more about cuts of Pork:
“Breaking Down the Pork”

Learn more about cuts of Lamb:
“Breaking Down the Lamb”

Learn more about cuts of Duck:
“Breaking Down the Duck”

Learn more about cuts of Elk:
“Breaking Down the Elk”

Learn more about various cooking methods and appropriate methods for each cut:

RealFoodToronto.com Cooking Library

Breaking Down the Lamb

By Mario Fiorucci, Co-Founder of The Healthy Butcher
This article was originally published in Tonic Magazine April 2011

April is lamb month as far as I’m concerned.

We sell more lamb during the week of Easter than we do pretty much the rest of the year.  That said, did you know that lamb is the only universally accepted red meat?  Hindus are forbidden to eat beef, Muslims & Jews eschew pork, but no culture or religion outlaws lamb.  Lamb has been a part of our carnivorous lives since 9000 B.C.! During these early days, much of the world chose Shepherding as a career path, and the meat they knew best was lamb.

Lamb is a sheep less than 1 year old. The term “Spring Lamb” refers to a lamb between 3 and 5 months old.  Over 1 year, a lamb is referred to as a yearling.  Over 2 years of age, lamb is called mutton; meat from mutton is darker, tougher, and has a stronger flavour than lamb.

The Healthy Butcher’s Lamb Cut Chart

HB-Cut_Chart_Poster-Lamb_Named_CutLines-Transparent-FINALDespite the lamb frenzy that occurs at Easter, the best time to purchase local lamb is between mid-summer and fall, when lambs have grazed on open pasture for several months.  In the autumn you can buy genuine Ontario “Spring Lamb”, that is, a lamb born in the early spring, fed on mother’s milk and organic pasture all summer, and slaughtered in the fall, which produces the sweetest and most succulent of meat.  The taste of good lamb is earthy and rich with a faint sweetness. Lamb is fairly fatty, and, unlike pork, the fat is not entirely edible – it is more like tallow. This contributes to the high price of lamb, because by the time the lamb is trimmed of its fat, bone and other non-edible parts, the resulting meat is only about 40% of its weight.

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Breaking Down the Pork

The pig is truly a wonderful animal and as omnivores, we should revel in its magic.

From an organic – or more precise, sustainable agriculture – standpoint, very few animals can come close to the pig in providing nearly 100% utilization – “everything but the oink” as they say.  From a characteristic standpoint, the pig is extremely intelligent, exhibits advanced social behaviour, and has an anatomy that so closely resembles that of humans that pig organs are the favoured animal for xenotransplants, that is, transplants from animal to human.  And from a taste standpoint, not many meats can compete with the richness in flavour offered by an organically raised cut of pork.  Unfortunately, the news is not all cheery – commercial pork production has reached such a horrific state that it rivals industrial veal production in the award for humans’ most disgraceful exploitation.

Most consumers don’t know what real pork tastes like, and instead are happy to buy cheap pork and expensive marinades.  “It’s a double whammy for the supermarkets: their pork may be cheap but is so boring that you have to load your trolley with expensive, value-added products (such as sauces and fancy marinades) to compensate,” says Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in his stellar book The River Cottage Meat Book.  But lets not get ahead of ourselves… we will limit this newsletter to the discussion of pigs as The Healthy Butcher knows them to exist and avoid a lengthy discussion on commercial meat production – perhaps the topic of another newsletter.

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Breaking Down the Beef

We’ll start  by going back to basics – understanding cuts of meat.

This is a topic that we’ve taken as our primary responsibility to educate consumers for two reasons: (1) To promote sustainable agriculture… consumers need to understand that all meat is good meat, not just Striploins and Tenderloins, except that different cuts require different methods of cooking; and (2) To understand that eating organic does not equate to eating expensive… in fact, we are firm believers that you can buy organic meat and spend the same or less than you would buying conventional meat just by being selective in the cuts you choose — without any loss of quality or flavour (the economics of eating organic being the subject of a future newsletter).

This article features the many facets of Breaking Down the Beef. Together, beef and pork make up 54kg of annual per capita consumption in Canada.  We reissue the beef article because beef is the best starting point to understand cuts due to its larger size.  Once you understand beef, pork and for that matter, any four-legged animal, is a cinch.

Without further ado – let’s break down a side of beef.

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