When it comes to food, most people prefer to play it safe. They like the foods that they are familiar with and prefer to stay within their comfort zone. But going into a butcher shop could be just what you need to expand your culinary horizons. They can recommend unique cuts of meat for your specific needs, along with recommendations for how to prepare it. Here are seven of the lesser-known meat cuts you should try from your local meat market.
It is fitting to start with the hanger cut because some circles also know it as the “butcher’s steak.” It earned this moniker because some butchers used to keep this cut a secret for themselves. It comes from the dangling lower belly area between the tenderloin and the rib. Hanger steak is a frequent ingredient in traditional Mexican food and is also popular in England and France.
The reason that butchers were able to keep this cut a secret for so long is that many people thought that the meat was rough or fatty. In reality, hanger steak is the most tender cut you can carve from the cow. In addition, the butcher’s steak also has a very rich and meaty taste.
Flank steak comes from the literal flank of the cow, near the lower chest area. One of the biggest benefits of flank steak is that it is boneless and economical. It is also very lean, making it a great option for many meals. All you need to do is throw it on the grill for a few moments, and it is ready to go.
This cut of steak has a very rough texture with a beefy flavor. Flank steak is very popular in Colombia, where the locals know it as “sobrebarriga.” But perhaps the most common use of flank steak is in London broil. London broil is a method of preparation in which you marinate the meat several hours before quickly searing it on a grill or broiler. Flank steak is also popular with mushrooms or onions.
The next lesser-known meat cut you should try is the Culotte, which comes from the sirloin. Some call it the “top sirloin cap” because it comes from the back of the cow in the triangular muscle sitting over the top of the sirloin. The texture of the meat is close to sirloin, but the taste is much more intense than traditional sirloin. This cut is most popular in the nation of Brazil, where they know it as Picanha and slice it into thin strips after searing and grilling it to medium.
What makes the flavor of the Culotte so delicious is where it resides in the cow. Its location is outside of the carcass, surrounded by fat. The aging process then amplifies its flavor as the meat absorbs the moisture and flavor of the fat. To get the most flavor from the cut, many experts recommend using a smoking method, if possible, or using indirect heat to grill it. Then, cut the meat into thin slices before serving.
The flat iron steak, also known as chicken steak, comes from the shoulder of the cow, where the meat contains a huge amount of marbling. Flat iron steak gets its unique name due to its resemblance to an old-fashioned clothes iron. Relatively speaking, flat iron steak is a new cut of meat. It tends to be a novelty because it only became formally recognized in 2002.
The biggest problem that fans of this cut of meat have is actually finding it. Many meat markets and butcher shops don’t carry it, so one must specifically source it. The reason they can’t find it is because restaurants buy it up before consumers can get it from the butcher. The reason this cut is so desirable is that it is incredibly tender, flavorful, and versatile—you can use it in a wide variety of dishes.
If you do manage to find it, many experts recommend cooking it no more than medium temperature because it is the second-most tender cut on the cow. It has a uniform shape and thickness, which makes it ideal for grilling. A butcher would recommend cutting the meat against the grain to preserve the flavor and stop the juices from escaping until you are ready to savor them.
Skirt steak is unusual because it can come from two different muscles inside the abdomen and chest. The two muscles that the skirt steak comes from are the transversus abdominis muscle for the inside skirt and the diaphragm muscle for the outside skirt.
The outside skirt steak cut is one of the toughest pieces of meat from the cow. But that doesn’t mean that it also isn’t one of the most flavorful cuts, making it perfect for grilling. The inside skirt steak typically requires much more trimming and is covered in hard fat.
The Bavette, sometimes referred to as flap meat, comes from the flank and is typically one of the most inexpensive cuts of beef available. It has a wide variety of uses, including Mexican-style meals and Asian stir-fry. When preparing this type of meat, it is best to use dry heat and cook it on high until it reaches medium-rare or medium temperature. Then, slice it into thin strips across the grain.
The final cut of meat many people don’t know about is the tri-tip. This cut is a small, triangle-shaped piece that comes from right in front of the hindquarters. It is very similar in texture to brisket but is much lower in fat than its more well-known counterpart. This means that it will also cook much more quickly. It’s another versatile meat cut that one can use in a roast, sliced into steaks, or even as strips.
For more information on meat that is off the beaten path, stop on into Vincent’s Meat Market on Arthur Avenue. Our butcher shop beef is the best in The Bronx, and we can help teach you the proper preparation and cooking methods to help your meal reach its full potential.