On the subject of Butchery

A list of terms that covers everything from steak cuts and cooking techniques to the science of what makes red meat red, and why its important support whole animal butchery.

 

 

Baby Back Ribs/Back Ribs: 

The pork ribs that lay closest to the loin on either lateral side of the spine, and if not removed would be the bones connected to a pork rack chop. A full set contains 13 ribs, from along with the intercostal muscles. Although many people know these by name to be the best ribs, country ribs from closer to the shoulder have more meat attached and St. Louis style ribs which include some of the back and side ribs are what competition pit masters favour for their meat to fat ratio and size. 

Blue Steak:

This is both a cooking technique and a doneness temperature for steaks. The steak itself is cooked while still cold but under extremely high heat, for a short period of time. The result is a dark cooked and crusted exterior with a raw interior.

Boston Butt:

This cut comes from the shoulder of the pig, above the picnic and not from the rump or hind. The name of this piece comes from its origins as a specialty in New England, hence Boston. 

Braising:

A cooking technique where heavy working, but flavourful muscles are slowly cooked under low temperatures, while submerged in a liquid. This method of cooking makes for a moist and tender product because of the liquid its cooked in which can then also be reduced down to a sauce. 

Brawn:

Pork meat pieces, usually from the head, set in thick gelatin and thinly sliced.

Butterfly:

A knife technique where a piece of meat is carefully cut down the center and split in two. This is often done to pieces of meat like a chicken breast, so that they can then be stuffed, but is a practical way of making them thinner and faster to cook. 

Casings:

This refers to the outer casing that sausage is put into. At Pasture Butchery we only use natural casings made from the cleaned and salted intestines of pigs, cows and sheep, but in commercial production casings are often made of collagen. A typical Italian sausage is made from pig casings, breakfast sausage is made with sheep and deli meats like mortadella are made from cow casings. 

Caul Fat:

Caul fat, also known as lace fat, omentum, crépine or fat netting, is the thin fat membrane which surrounds the internal organs of some animals and looks like a net. It is used as a casing for sausages, terrines, roulades, pâtés, and various other meat dishes

Center Cut:

This term generally refers to steaks cut from the center of one of the loin cuts, such as the rib-eye, sirloin, or tenderloin. This distinction is made because the muscle tends to have the best marbling and is the most uniform in the center.

Chateaubriand:

In French butchery the beef tenderloin was divided into five portions of approximately equal length. The second piece from the end that connects to the hip is the chateaubriand, and this is the most desirable piece of the tenderloin because of its even circular width. When making beef wellington this is the cut you want.

Chine:

This is the spine, or vertebrae of an animal and runs down its back. The chine bone connects to the rib and feather bones which incase the loin. The chine is almost always removed from meat before being sold, but will sometimes be left on and is visible in rib steaks, or T-Bones.

Chorizo:

A highly seasoned, spicy sausage whose red color comes from spices like paprika. Spanish varieties are cured, dried, and ready to eat and Mexican varieties are fresh and require cooking before eating. 

Chuck:

Often seen in connection with burgers, slow roasts and braises the chuck is the whole front section of a four legged animal, but is almost always used to describe beef. The separation of the chuck occurs between the 5th and 6th rib bones and is the most versatile, but difficult section of a cow to butcher. The reason its so versatile is that you get the best cuts for ground beef, but also the brisket, flat iron, shank, short ribs, denver/chuck tail, chuck roast, and marrow bones.

Chuck Roast:

Technically this can refer to any cut from the chuck section of a cow, that has been tied and prepared for a roast. Typically this will be the round, barrel shaped boneless muscle that is an extension of the ribeye. This cut has fantastic depth of flavour and balance between muscle to fat. 

Chuck Steak:

Any steak from the chuck section of a cow, but typically from the shoulder. Examples include denver/chuck tail, flat iron, and blade steak.

Collagen:

Collagen is the most bountiful protein found in the body and provides structure to much of your bones, skin, tendons, and ligaments. Consuming it has health benefits including strengthening hair, nails, and bones, but is also beneficial to heart health and for reducing joint pain. The underlying quality of all good meat based stocks is greatly improved by collagen, because it provides texture and body, which is why its good to add pork trotters and chicken feet to your stocks if you can, because they are extremely rich in it.

Connective Tissue:

The collagenous tissue between and within muscles that helps bind muscles together. When the tissue attaches muscle to bone, it is called tendons. When the tissue attaches bone to bone, it is called ligaments.

Corned Beef:

Corning refers to pickling beef in a seasoned brine or curing beef in salt. The term “corn” comes from the Old English word used describe any small hard particles. Today, briskets or eye of rounds are used to make corned beef, but originally all cuts where treated this way as a method of food preservation for the military and navy.

Country Ham:

A dry-cured ham made by rubbing the raw meat with salt, spices, herbs and then cold-smoking it before leaving it dry. The drying takes place over a period of 6 to 18 months. Country ham is uncooked and eaten in thin slices like prosciutto, or is soaked in water several times and cooked. 

Crackling:

This is the most coveted part of a porchetta, or roasted pork - crackling is crunchy pig skin created by frying, or roasting pork skin. In order to achieve good crackling the skin must be air dried overnight before roasting, and then scored with a very sharp knife just deep enough to penetrate the skin, which allows the fat beneath the surface to bubble out, but not deep enough to enter the meat.  

Curing:

The process of preserving meat by methods such as salting, drying, or smoking. The curing process kills bacteria and unwanted pathogens by removing the meats moisture and creating an inhabitable environment for them to reproduce. Curing also increases the depth of flavour in a piece of meat and breaks down the muscle fibers making it easier to chew.

Curing Salt/Prague Powder:

Curing salts are used in the preservation of meat products, by inhibiting the growth of dangerous bacteria, like botulism. See "Nitrates" for more information.

Cutlet:

A very thin, boneless slice of meat, often cut to be as wide as possible.

Dark Cutter:

A term for the colour of the lean muscle in an animal's carcass after slaughter if it has a dark appearance, usually caused by stress to the animal prior to slaughter. This condition is referred to as “dark, dry, dry” or “DFD” and is something to take note and keep track of if it appears with any regularity.

Dark Meat:

A term usually used to describe the legs, or thighs and drums of a chicken. The reason this distinction is made is because the dark meat on a bird has more flavour, more fat, and is visibly darker in colour. Because dark meat has more fat it is harder to overcook and is the juicier part of the chicken.

Demi-Glace:

This term refers to highly reduced meat stock that is high in gelatin, solid at room temperature and used to make dark, rich sauces. Its usually flavoured with aromatics like shallots, garlic, red wine and fresh herbs.

Dewlap:

The loose skin under the chin and neck of an animal.

Dry Aging:

This describes a piece of meat that has been left in open air, in a refrigerated environment, to allow much of the water content to evaporate. This process intensifies flavour and breaks down the fibers making it more tender. In grass fed, or pastured animals this will often bring incredibly strong notes of the terroir out, as opposed to dry aging in traditionally corn-fed animals, which will bring out that corn flavour.

Emulsify:

Emulsification is the process of combining two liquids or substances that naturally separate, such as oil and water. The result is usually a product that is creamy and rich. Examples of this include mayonnaise, bologna and hotdogs. 

Enhanced:

A term describing a meat product that has been pumped with added water, flavourings, preservatives, or salt. Labels of enhanced products made also use the terms: “basted,” “pre-basted,” “injected,” or “marinated.”

Eviscerate:

The removal of an animal's internal organs during the slaughtering process.

Eye of Round:

A long, uniformly rounded muscle, with a thick fat-cap from the hind leg of a cow. A very hardworking and therefore tough muscle, but with poor all around flavour, the best use for it is making beef jerky.

Farce:

A ground meat mixture, usually containing spices and seasoning. A farce is usually used to describe the meat blend inside things such as sausages, hotdogs, and meatloaves. 

Fatback/Backfat:

A thick layer of firm pork fat from the animals back. It is rendered to make lard and added when making sausages and terrines for added texture, flavour, and moisture. It is also cured and seen as "lardo".

Feather Bones:

The feather bones run along the back of pigs, cows and sheep, and connect to the chine bone. The feather bones are named because of their appearance to a birds feathers and are usually removed from a cut before its presented for retail.

Fell:

The fell is a thin covering of outer fat on a roast. It is usually removed for small cuts, like chops, but kept in place for roasts and legs because it helps retain the shape and moisture while cooking.

Flank Steak:

Flank can sometimes be a confusing term, because it does refer to a specific steak, but it is also sometimes applied to a group of three muscles, all of which come from the cows abdomen. Flank is a long, flat muscle, rounded at the ends, almost devoid of fat and with a highly pronounced grain. Flank is popular in South American dishes and is often marinated, then grilled. When cooking flank it is especially important to cut across the grain with eating it, to make the chew easier. 

Flat Iron Steak:

This cut comes from just under the shoulder blade, or scapula in the cows shoulder. This is a relatively new cut for many consumers, and is sometimes seen as a top blade roast, patio steak, butlers' steak or oyster blade steak. The cut itself is one of the most difficult to perform for a butcher as it requires the delicate removal of a thick tendon from the center of the meat, however when done properly the result is a steak that has excellent marbling, deep flavour and be cooked anywhere from blue to well done. 

Filet Mignon:

A thick steak sliced from the mid-region of the beef tenderloin and may include the psoas major, psoas minor, sartorius muscles as well as connecting tissue and fat.

Forequarter:

The neck, shoulder, front legs, breast, and ribs of four legged animals like cows, pigs and sheep.

Frenched:

The process of removing all the meat, fat and connective tissue from a bone to expose it, usually done for aesthetic purposes, like a rack of lamb.

Fricassee:

A traditional French dish of poultry, rabbit, or some other white meat in a sauce, by way of braising. 

Gelatin:

A clear, colourless, and flavorless form of collagen. It is commonly used as a gelling, or thickening agent in food, such as terrines, stocks and sauces. Common sources for production include pig skin, cow hides, animal bones, and in particular animal feet. In the kitchen, gelatin is a common by-product from the production of meat stocks.

Giblets:

The liver, heart, gizzard, and neck of a chicken or other fowl.

Gizzard:

An organ found in the digestive tract of poultry, like chickens, turkeys and geese. This specialized stomach organ is constructed of thick, muscular walls and is used for grinding up food, often with the aid of pebbles ingested by the bird.

Guanciale:

A dry-cured pork jowl from Italy, with a similar taste to pancetta but very silky because of the fats around the cheek where it comes from.

Halal:

Halal food is that which adheres to Islamic law, as defined in the Koran. The Islamic form of slaughtering animals involves killing through a cut to the jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe. Animals must be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter and all blood is drained from the carcass. Halal slaughter of animals was conceived on the historical principle that it was one of the more humane methods available. Yet now the RSPCA says that when compared to methods that involve stunning the animal beforehand, it can cause unnecessary suffering, pain and distress.

Hanger Steak:

This steak, also known as the butcher's steak or hanging tender, is a cut of beef prized for its deep flavor, pronounced texture and tenderness. The hanger is rather small cut and is taken from the plate, which is the upper belly of the animal and has a thick piece of connective tissue which is removed before being sold. 

Hind Quarter:

The hind quarter refers to the back legs and hips of four legged animals such as cows, pigs and sheep.

Intermuscular Fat/Seam Fat:

The fat located around, or surrounding the muscles of an animal.

Intramuscular Fat/Marbling:

Small, visible streaks of fat inside the muscle of the animal and scored through the beef grading system (A/AA/AAA/Prime). Marbling improves meat moisture content and flavor.

Kosher:

When used in reference to meat, means meat that is butchered and processed according to the Jewish religious law of kashrut (כַּשְׁרוּת). 

Lardo:

A type of Italian cured pork made from strips of pork back fat, which have been salted and heavily seasoned with herbs.

Leaf Lard:

Leaf lard is the fat from the interior of the pigs body, around its kidneys and loin and is prized by bakers and soap makers for its clean neutral taste and high smoke point. Its is often seen in old world pastry recipes for both savoury and sweet pies, but is equally as good for frying and roasting. 

London Broil:

A poorly defined cut of beef that could come from either the flank, sirloin tip, bottom round, or top round, with the common trait being that it is lean and comes from near the hind quarter of the cow.

Loukániko:

A common Greek word for pork sausage. In English, the term refers to a Greek sausage seasoned with orange rind, fennel, and other dried herbs.

Marrowbone:

This term is usually in reference to the middle section of a beef femur or humerus cut length wise known as a canoe, or across the middle, known as cross cut, which are done to expose the marrow. The marrow may be cooked in the bone or extracted and cooked separately. Its usually recommended that prior to cooking the marrow bone is soaked in milk overnight to draw out some of the blood.

Mechanically Separated Meat:

A paste-like meat product produced by forcing bones with attached edible meat under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue. 

Middle Meats:

Cuts from the loin and rib sections of the animal, which tend to be the most desirable because they are the most tender.

Mutton:

The exact definition of mutton varies from country to country, but it generally defines an older sheep. Mutton, because of its age, tends to have much more flavour than lamb, but can be tougher and so has a negative connotation to some people. 

Myoglobin:

Myoglobin is a protein found most presently in red/dark meat, which is made up of muscles with fibers that are called slow-twitch. These muscles are used for extended periods of activity, such as standing or walking, and need a consistent energy source. Myoglobin stores oxygen in muscle cells, which use the oxygen to extract the energy needed for constant activity. Myoglobin is a richly pigmented protein and the more of it there is in the cells, the redder or darker the meat.

New York Strip:

A beef steak cut from short loin, which sits next to the tenderloin and is the large side of a T-Bone. This cut is particularly tender because it does very little work and is therefore one of the most expensive cuts on a cow.

Nitrates:

Nitrates (or nitrites) are natural chemicals that are found in the soil, air and water. They are also used as a food additive to stop the growth of bacteria and to enhance the flavour and colour of foods. They naturally occur in things like celery, beets and spinach, but are often associated with things like bacon and deli meats as a preservative and to retain the meats colour. Studies have shown that consuming too many foods with nitrates is not good for you, but in moderation they are safe and necessary to maintain food safety.

Noisette:

A small round piece of meat, especially loin or fillet of lamb, veal, or pork.

Offal:

Animal organs or extremities that can be used for cooking, such as liver, heart and tongue. These cuts are very traditional in many cultures around the world, and are starting to be seen a little more in North America. Using offal is a huge obstacle to zero waste whole animal butchery here in Canada with the majority of it being used in dog food, or simply thrown away, which is unfortunate because offal is very nutrient rich, high in iron and also the most inexpensive parts of an animal.

Oleic Acid:

Oleic acid is a mono-unsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in animal and vegetable sources and is often associated with the health benefits of consuming olive oil which is rich in them. Oleic acid has been shown to improve heart conditions by lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation. Pasture raised animals tend to be higher in oleic acids than their grain fed alternatives. In addition to the health benefits studies have shown that the effect of these fatty acids on the brain correlates with how much we enjoy the taste and mouth feel of a food.

Oyster:

On a cow the oyster steak is a small circular muscle in the hip joint, which is tender and deep with flavour. On poultry the oyster is a rounded muscle in the thigh joint, which sits close to the chickens back and is also very flavourful. You’re unlikely to ever see these cuts on a menu because of how small they are and how little of the carcass they make up.

Pâté:

A mixture ground or pureed meat and fat, often made with liver, nuts and dried fruits and served on a charcuterie board.

Pluck:

An old world term for the heart, liver, lungs, and trachea of a slaughtered animal.

Pot Roast:

A dish prepared by slow-cooking large cuts of meat in a covered pot, usually in an oven with some liquid to allow it to steam and stay moist.

Poultry:

Meat from domesticated birds, such as chickens and turkeys.

Prime Rib:  

Typically the second most expensive beef cut, next to the tenderloin. This cut comes from the seven ribs closest to the cows shoulder, and when boned out becomes a ribeye.

Red Meat:

Red meat is classified as red in colour when raw and coming from land animals such as cows, pigs, sheep, goats, and even some game birds like squab and pheasant due to the high levels of oxygen in their muscles stored by the protein myoglobin, which gives it the red colouring.

Render:

The process of breaking down the fat from an animal by using heat.

Spatchcocking:

This technique refers to the flattening of a chicken, turkey or other meat bird. In this process the back bones are completely cut out, the bird is pressed down flat and the breast bones also removed. The purpose for this is a much faster and more even cook, as well as an easier time carving because some of the bones have been removed. 

Suet:

Suet is the raw, hard fat of beef, lamb or mutton found around the loins and kidneys. Its is mild in flavour and often seen in old world baking recipes for pie doughs, but is also good for drying and roasting. 

Terroir:

Terroir is a French term used to describe the environmental factors that affect a foods characteristics, including unique environment contexts, farming practices and a food’s specific growth habitat. An example of this would be if a sheep was grazing on grasslands that were near a body of salt water, then the meat of the animal could take on a flavour profile specific to the environment where it was raised and could actually taste a bit salty on its own.

Trussing:

The word truss refers to tying up a piece of meat with butcher's twine, and is usually used to discuss the way a chicken is prepared before roasting. 

Water Content:

Water content describes the amount of water present in the meat, or the muscles. Higher quality butchers typically want to remove water to intensify flavour, improve the texture and tenderness. By example, in commercial bacons, water is usually added as part of the brining process, but then that water is also something the consumer pays for, but in more traditionally made bacons, the meat is rubbed with a combination of salts and sugars, which draw out the water and make for a much higher quality product with a deeper flavour and improved texture.

Wet Aging:

As opposed to dry aging, wet aging means that the aging process happens at refrigerated temperatures, in a vacuum-sealed bag. No oxygen is in the bag for the aging period. The beef ages in its natural liquids. The enzymes in this liquid allow the meat to tenderize and concentrate flavours like dry aging, but without losing weight. Wet aging needs to be carefully monitored because the liquid produced in the bag can turn rancid and in general this method produces inferior results and its easy for the meat to turn sour. Sometimes this term is used to market, or sell products that have been left to sit for too long in a sealed bag.

White Meat:

In contrast to red meat, white meat is made up of muscles with fibers that are called fast-twitch. Fast-twitch muscles are used for quick bursts of activity, such as fleeing from danger. These muscles get energy from glycogen, which is also stored in the muscles. White meat is translucent, or glossy when raw and examples of this are rabbit and chicken. 

Whole Animal Butchery:

Whole animal is not only the literal phrase for buying and breaking down an entire animal, but it is often used to reference an ethos with regards to farming, business, food waste and the morality connecting them. Using a whole animal is very difficult and most retail meat purveyors tend to buy their cuts in boxes, which means that they are outsourcing prepacked product with little oversight on the quality or level of animal welfare with what they are selling you; an example of this would be a box of chicken breasts, or a case of striploins. The effect this has on the market is one where the need to raise an increased number of animals with less land, while driving down costs means that commercial farming continues to use an excessive quantity of resources beyond what is sustainable and healthy for our land. By working with whole animals both the butcher and the consumer can decide to directly support smaller farms who are raising their animals and taking care of their land conscientiously and it also makes us aware of how limited some products are (e.g., there are only two racks of ribs on a pig, and there are only so many striploin steaks). An important mentality in whole animal, small scale farming is to tend towards less meat, but to eat much higher quality and sustainably produced meat when you do. What this means to a consumer is that they should also try alternative cuts to the most popular and expensive ones. These alternative cuts are often referred to as "butcher's cuts", because they are ones not typically seen in a grocery store, are less expensive and if prepared well are extremely flavourful. Examples of butcher's cuts to ask for are: hanger steak, flat iron, picanha, country ribs, denver/chuck tail, and bavette among many others.