How to Cook Meat, by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, 2000

Meet Meat

“There is a lot of good meat out there, and there are lot of neat, fun, and tasty ways to cook it. So, walking up to the meat counter should be an occasion for excitement. But even for an experienced cook, it can often be a prelude to bewilderment instead.

And why not? At any given time, there are about a hundred and fifty separate cuts of red meat on display in the meat section of an average large supermarket. Not only that, but the same cut may have a different name depending on the state, the city, or even the particular shop where you’re buying it. Some differences are geographic. Until recently, for instance, butchers in Kansas City called the boneless top loin steak a Texas strip, while those in Texas (and much of the rest of the country) referred to it as a New York strip, and in New York, they called it a Kansas City strip. Other cuts of meat, like Boston butt and picnic shoulder, derive their names from butchering practices of the distant past.

There are also plenty of local names that were coined simply because they’re more enticing than the more “clinical” names. In much of the South, for instance, the beef chuck neck pot roast is known as a bell roast because it comes from the part of the neck where the cow’s bell used to hang. All in all, meat industry experts estimate that there are over a thousand different names used for the three hundred or so standard cuts of red meat in this country.

So, the real question is, how do we make sense of all this? … When an animal is butchered, it is first separated into a number of large sections called the ‘primal cuts.’ These are then broken down into smaller sections known as ‘sub-primals,’ and the subprimals are divided into retail cuts — steaks, chops, roasts, and all the rest. But of course you won’t see these primal cuts in the supermarket.” [Editorial note: You will at the Union Square Market Basket.]
-Chris Schlesinger

-Excerpt and images courtesy of the Internet Archive, “How to Cook Meat,” by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, 2000

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