Tuesday, April 13, 2010

9 Meat Cuts You Shoud Be Eating

With the recession, customers want cheaper meat. And with the head-to-tail movement, chefs aren’t just cooking prime rib and terderloin, but the neck and shanks of cows, pigs, and ducks everywhere. Whether it’s the recession or the head to tail movement, normally discarded cuts of meat are making a comeback. And it’s about time! How could we and our diners have gone so long without tender beef cheeks on our menus?

Bath Chaps

Originating in the British City of Bath, Bath chaps are taken from the cheek or jaw of a pig and then cured, much in the way that bacon is. Traditionally, it's coated with breadcrumbs and served as a cold meat, tasting much like ham. Chaps, as they are often refereed to, are a very fatty cut so would add delicious depth to less rich foods like seasonal fruits and vegetables. However, in order to not clog the arteries of your patrons, refrain from pairing it with a triple crème or, god forbid, bacon.

photo by Rachel Black

Beef Cheeks

Despite coming from the same part of the animal as Bath chaps, beef cheeks are much leaner cut on a cow and are characteristically rich, dense-fleshed meat with a fine grain. When braised, they become wonderfully tender; consisting of the muscles that cows use to chew, the muscles are well worked when alive.

photo by Stu_Spivack


Moving down the animal body, chefs looking to stay at the forefront of butcher cuts are moving past the face and onto the neck. Poultry napes do best fried and cooked quickly while larger-animal-necks are similar to shanks and taste most delicious when cooked low and slow. Lamb neck, for example breaks down when braised for a day.

Pig Trotters

As you might be able to gather from the name, pig trotters are what they sound like: Pig’s feet. Keeping with the traditions of soul or Southern cooking, pigs feet are used to remain consistent with the rhetoric of wasting no part of an animal. French, however, also cook a dish called “Pieds de Couchon” which literally translates to feet of pig. Because this cut is literally the hoof of the pig, it’s important to wash thoroughly before cooking. Trotters can be cooked several ways; most commonly, chefs boil them on low heat for several hours in flavored broth or bake them in a bath of butter and breadcrumbs. Either way, trotters are delicious and pair nicely with traditional southern foods like collard greens and black-eyes peas.

photo from goosmurf

Skirt Steak

This cut has been used for awhile as the traditional meat in fajitas, which literally means “belt” in Spanish, but recently it’s had a renaissance in American cuisine. Skirt steak comes from the middle belly section and tends to be long, thin, coarsely textured, and generally more flavorful than most steaks. Because of their course texture, skirt steaks absorbs marinades and sauces better than most cuts and a robust marinade will not easily over power a skirt’s strong flavor.

photo from Stu_Spivack

Beef and Lamb Shank

Taken from the front lower leg of a steer or lamb, this cut it very tough due to the amount of connective tissue. Usually braised or slow cooked, it’s common in soups and stews where it enhances overall flavor. With home-style cooking still all the rage, shin is a great addition to your stews!

Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder, similar to shank, is great when slow cooked or braised. Pork shoulder is not just the shoulder of the pig but also the whole leg. Because of its fat marbling, it is a very forgiving cut of meat and won’t dry out easily. As a muscle, however, it is best when cooked long, over low heat. One of the most popular and traditional ways of preparing pork shoulder is pulled pork, where the shoulder is braised and then put in the oven for a good portion of an afternoon or morning. The pork will literally fall apart and melt in your patrons’ mouths. Salivating yet?

photo from Marshall Astor - Food Pornographer

Tri Tip

California cut. Newport steak. Sirloin tip. Sirloin butt. Culotte. Bottom sirloin. You get the idea: Tri-tip steak goes by a lot of names. But there are only two of these triangular shaped steaks per cow — one per butt check, if you will. Because it’s at the butt of the animal, it’s not a kosher cut of meat. However, this strongly flavored steak is great for roasting, broiling, or a combination of stove and oven cooking. One thing to beware of is that this steak will get very tough when cooked past medium-rare.

photo from The Infamous Gdub


Oxtail is traditionally the tail of an ox, a castrated steer, and completes the nose to tail movement. Oxtail, like many of the cuts in this article is a tougher, well marbled meat. What makes it different, however, is how close it is to the bone — the meat encircles vertebrae and includes a lot of iron-rich marrow. Because they are so fatty, chefs often cook oxtail ahead, skim the fat off, and reheat to be served.