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Learning about various cuts of the cow

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mrshowe Nov 21, 2012 05:41 AM

I am knowledgeable around the kitchen at a basic level; however, I would like to learn a bit more about several aspects of cooking. Right now I am focused on learning more about the various cuts of the cow. Can anyone suggest a good book or video or share how they learned about this subject?

I don't necessarily need to learn every aspect there is to know, rather, I want to have a firm grasp on basics and know what I am doing when I go to the butcher to buy some meat.

Thank you for any suggestions!

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  1. z
    ZoeLouise RE: mrshowe Nov 21, 2012 06:10 AM

    I like the River Cottage Meat Book. Written by a Brit and not just about beef, but all sorts of meat. And offal.
    But the best advice I can give to you is to talk to your butcher. If you're lucky and it's the man himself behind the counter, tell him what you want to cook and he'll give you the meat your want. Plus instructions.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ZoeLouise
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      Harters RE: ZoeLouise Nov 22, 2012 08:25 AM

      Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's "River Cottage Meat Book" is my standard reference work on the subject. Lots of useful information, say, about cooking times and a good selection of recipes.

      Of course, where you are in the world might make his naming of cuts of meat useful or useless, depending on how similar British names are to what they might be called where you are.

    2. d
      Dave_in_PA RE: mrshowe Nov 21, 2012 06:40 AM

      MANY years ago there was a book "Cutting Up in the Kitchen" by Merle Ellis. He was a butcher and actually also had a TV show about how different cuts of meat are used, when to use what, how to buy a large cut and extract the tender portion for one recipe and how to use the rest, etc.

      There are used copies for sale on Amazon.

      1. coll RE: mrshowe Nov 21, 2012 07:09 AM

        One thing you should know, is that cow is not the preferred form of beef until you're very frugal. Steer is what most beef is. Cows are more for dairy, and are only slaughtered after they go dry. So ask your butcher about beef, rather than "cow".

        9 Replies
        1. re: coll
          z
          ZoeLouise RE: coll Nov 22, 2012 12:28 AM

          But a cow which hasn't had a calf yet makes for excellent meat - in my opinion as good as it gets. The meat from an oxen would be next in line, before the steer.

          1. re: ZoeLouise
            coll RE: ZoeLouise Nov 22, 2012 03:07 AM

            Yeah I'm thinking that's technically veal?

            1. re: coll
              z
              ZoeLouise RE: coll Nov 22, 2012 05:48 AM

              Nope, red meat, mature animal.

          2. re: coll
            sunshine842 RE: coll Nov 22, 2012 12:34 AM

            but a bovine animal is called a cow...and the cuts are the same, regardless of age or gender of the animal.

            (cuts vary from country to country-- but not by gender or age *within* that country)

            1. re: sunshine842
              coll RE: sunshine842 Nov 22, 2012 03:07 AM

              I used to sell meat (among other things) and I sold to certain all you can eat places that always specified "cow". My meat buyer explained to me, usually a spent dairy cow. The price was about $1 a lb at the time, versus let's say $3. I've always heard cattle called bulls, cows or steers, at least in the food industry.

              I really only mentioned because OP was asking how to talk to a butcher and sound like she knew what she was talking about. A butcher would probably correct her, I'm guessing.

              1. re: coll
                sunshine842 RE: coll Nov 22, 2012 03:26 AM

                (ETA) You're right that biologically, only an adult female who has born offspring is a cow...
                but the animal is called a cow in everyday English, regardless of age or gender-- and in the US, it's pretty unusual to have a retired dairy animal end up being sold for steaks **at retail**, although it's an everyday occurrence in Europe -- most of the US feedlot are slaughtered at 18 months-2 years old. (http://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/...) Veal, incidentally, is from animals less than 3 months old, and primarily young males. (same source).

                www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com will answer a LOT about the OPs questions.

                www.beef.org is the industry website -- and the homepage has links to all of the industry-related websites that they host -- it's an impressively-long list with LOTS of information and resources.

                1. re: sunshine842
                  coll RE: sunshine842 Nov 22, 2012 04:03 AM

                  I'll ask my friends in North Dakota who had a dairy farm to get their take, but as far as butchers and meat cattle, cow is one thing and beef is another. Of course if you drive down the road and see a herd, you will call them cows....especially since the males are kept more secure! Just talking butcher wise.

                  Veal goes up to six months acually, there are 4 or 5 categories starting with bob which then goes through milk fed up to grain fed. You would have to specify if asking a butcher (or trust him to give you the appropriate type).

                  Thanks for the links, I will check them out later once I get the turkey in the oven! but the most important thing I would say is to find a good butcher and then not to mess with them; they can get a little wild at times, I guess from the nature of their job. But if you just ask them, they will be glad to share. It's a dying art, and quite fascinating once you delve into it.

                  I'd better continue this discussion after dinner.......

            2. re: coll
              w
              wavywok RE: coll Nov 26, 2012 06:00 PM

              Coll
              Is not that matter of preference (not that I have ever knowingly been given a choice, being fairly frugal I would have to consider what ever the answer)?
              Cow older- more flavorful not as tender>> slow cooking
              Steer generally younger- tender but not as flavorful>> more fat can sustain faster/hotter cooking

              1. re: wavywok
                coll RE: wavywok Nov 27, 2012 03:37 AM

                That sounds plausible. I know it works with chickens! I've never knowingly bought cow, only sold it to All You Can Eat joints, but yes I bet you have to be careful when cooking it. Then again I've gotten some great deals on beef in the last year, sirloin and such, and they are very chewy when grilled, despite marinading, so maybe that's the explanation! Don't know that they have to put it on the label.

            3. z
              Zalbar RE: mrshowe Nov 22, 2012 08:04 AM

              Download one of these and peruse to you heart's content.

              http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/mea...

              7 Replies
              1. re: Zalbar
                Lillipop RE: Zalbar Nov 22, 2012 06:28 PM

                I am SO glad you put the link to the charts there. That is how I learned about the sections..cuts....tender ...lean....marbalized etc.in seventh grade Home Economics class ( a million years ago) on a big old wall sized chart that we had to memorize....know which method of cooking went with which cut etc. I still Google a chart if I am unsure. I recently had to see what they were now calling a "flat iron" cut and I had also never heard of "chuck-eye" until 2008...so the names of the beef cuts do vary:)

                1. re: Lillipop
                  b
                  Brandon Nelson RE: Lillipop Nov 23, 2012 12:09 AM

                  We still call a "flat iron steak" a, well, "flat iron steak". It is cut from the broad end of the shoulder clod sub primal.

                  Chuck eye, or chuck delmonico is the end of the chuck roll that, before cut, rested against the first cut rib/rib eye.

                  1. re: Brandon Nelson
                    Lillipop RE: Brandon Nelson Nov 23, 2012 03:07 AM

                    Brandon are you a butcher? It is so hard to find a store that actually has a butcher in this day and age. Was flat iron also known as "petite" steak? As far as the chuck eye my son was raving about them...I tried them and of course shortly after I discovered them so tender like butter the rest of the population did too and the price sky rocketed:)

                    1. re: Lillipop
                      b
                      Brandon Nelson RE: Lillipop Nov 24, 2012 08:43 PM

                      Yes Lillipop I am a butcher.

                      "Petite steak" or "petite filet" is the teres major. It is second only to tenderloin (filet mignon) when it comes to tenderness.

                      You should also look for "cross rib steaks", they are another very nice cut from the shoulder clod.

                      1. re: Brandon Nelson
                        Lillipop RE: Brandon Nelson Nov 24, 2012 11:43 PM

                        You young man will always have a career:)!!!!! Good for you!

                        1. re: Lillipop
                          coll RE: Lillipop Nov 25, 2012 12:02 AM

                          Teres major is the best, if you see it stock up! So good for such a good price.

                          1. re: Lillipop
                            b
                            Brandon Nelson RE: Lillipop Nov 25, 2012 08:26 PM

                            It is a good job to have. I enjoy the work.

                2. scubadoo97 RE: mrshowe Nov 23, 2012 07:55 AM

                  This a fantastic site to explore

                  http://bovine.unl.edu/eng/index.jsp

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