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Nov 12, 2010 08:17 AM

Butcher and Meat Market Terms

If this is not the right board for this topic, I apologize. On more than one occasion, after having watched an episode of a cooking show (usually Good Eats) I will decide to make the recipe for dinner. So, armed with my new found knowledge and wanting to impress the butcher with my grasp of the different cuts of meat, I will ask for some cut of beef or pork using the exact terms that Alton Brown had used on the episode. I am then looked at as if they have no idea what I am talking about. Have you ever tried actually asking a butcher for a PSMO? I have, and I've gotten a blank stare. I also tried asking for a 7 blade steak and have gotten the same reaction. Just to let you know, I can understand this reaction from a young guy doing this, but the guy I'm talking about tells me has been doing this for 20+ years! So I ask you all, are the terms AB uses wrong or does this butcher not know what he is talking about?

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  1. Meat terminology is often confusing and varies depending on where you are. It's just not very standardized. As such, when you want something specific (that you saw on TV), you'd be smart to know a few different terms for it or ways to identify it.

    As for the terms in question, I think PSMO is a fairly well known term with respect to tenderloins, but it's hard to say. Did you ask for a peeled side muscle on tenderloin and the butcher still didn't know what you mean? If nothing else, you can usually tell if it's side-muscle on by price per pound. Was your butcher still able to help you out when (if) you described what you wanted? That would be a better test of a butcher than whether he was familiar with a specific term, IMO.

    To my knowledge, '7 blade steak' would be a confusing term to a butcher. A 7 bone steak is one cut, and a top blade steak is another, and an under blade steak is yet another. 7 blade steak doesn't make any sense. So Alton Brown could have used a misleading term. Or it could be a regional thing I've never heard of. Googling '7 blade steak' doesn't turn up much anyway, so are you sure you quoted Alton Brown correctly?

    1 Reply
    1. re: cowboyardee

      Sorry, the mistake was in my recollection as I typed. I did ask for a 7 bone steak.

    2. As cowboyardee mentioned up above, meat terminology is often regional and so what one place considers a "swiss steak" another region of the country may call it a "round bone steak".

      That said, despite regional quirks in nomenclature, depending on where you buy your meat (a dedicated butcher shop or a chain supermarket), many of the "butchers" you find behind the counter are simply glorified "meat-packaging worker bees" -- more adept at cutting up pieces of beef and packaging them for the counter than true butchers who know and understand an animal from head to tail ...


        This recent thread may be a resource for you. The book mentioned is expensive. You might be able to find one on eBay or request it on an inter-library loan, and make copies of the sections that most interest you.

        1. Indeed, there is regional variation to deal with--for instance, in beef, the top loin steak and New York Strip steak are, as best I can tell, identical cuts but named differently in different areas.

          But one of my pet peeves in recent years has been the promiscuous use of the term "ribs" in various beef and especially pork cuts at my local supermarket. It seems that virtually any part of an animal, when cut into flat sheets or strips, gets called some kind of rib, even if the parts have nothing to do with the rib portion of the animal. Fatty pork shoulder cut into strips is "country ribs." Lean pork loin cut into sheets is "boneless baby back ribs." I saw something cut from beef round a while ago that was called some kind of rib (luckily, that one might have been a one-off bit of insanity--haven't seen it since).

          1 Reply
          1. re: Bada Bing

            Since butt means shoulder, it's clear that geography was not the strong suit of whoever decided the terminology for these cuts! You would think that by now, the meat industry - in America at least, if not worldwide - would have come to a consensus on uniform definitions.

          2. Aside from out west most butchers don't know what a tri-tip is.