Meat

Meat

By
Mark Hix
Contains
14 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781844003921
Photographer
Jason Lowe

We cook almost all of our meat on the bone. Not only is the flavour generally much better, the portions look more generous and the meat shrinks less during cooking. At the Oyster & Chop House, we present customers with a selection of the raw meat cuts on a long wooden board, so they can have a look at them before they choose what to order. This invariably raises a few eyebrows and gets the taste buds tingling. In fact, it’s now become something of a feature at the restaurant.

Here I’ve tried to cover the complete range of cuts we use for grilling and slow-cooking – all of them on the bone except the hanger steak. This is a cut I’d recommend you try. It does call for more chewing than familiar steaks like sirloin or fillet, but it has the most memorable flavour. Even as I was writing, I was still thinking up new possibilities for cuts on the bone together with my butchers – the rib edge steak was a last-minute addition.

Cooking meat on the bone at home has the same rewards as it does in the restaurant. The idea of this fully illustrated guide is to enable you to see exactly how the cuts should look – perhaps even take the book along when you go shopping. It’s often difficult to explain to your butcher exactly what it is you’re after if it’s not displayed on the counter and it can be a bit awkward, especially if there’s a lengthy queue. So here you go, just hand the book over, point at the cut you’re after and ask for as many as you need. Hopefully you’ll have an obliging butcher ...

Beef

There is always a lot of confusion about buying beef. How long should it be hung for? What breed should I buy? Hanging won’t necessarily tenderise meat. If the animal is relaxed when it is slaughtered then you will generally have more tender meat, but not if it is stressed. The norm for beef is 28 days hanging. Some butchers go beyond this, but their carcasses will need a lot more trimming of oxidised meat.

Various different breeds appear on our menus, from tiny miniature Dexters to Galloways, Devon Ruby Reds, White Park and Aberdeen Angus. The breed doesn’t necessarily determine the eating quality, although many cattle are cross-bred specifically for the table, which can determine factors such as fat marbling in the meat, fat cover and the size of the beast.

Beef cuts for grilling

Fillet on-the-bone (250-350 g): Fillet steak is a popular item on many restaurant menus, yet more often than not, it is the most disappointing cut, both in terms of flavour and value for money.

Typically, fillets are stripped off the carcass soon after the animal is slaughtered, to avoid weight loss during hanging as they have such a high market price tag. The fillets are then generally vacuum packed for storage and never have the opportunity to gain any flavour from maturing.

One of our butchers, Peter Allen, introduced me to fillet on-the-bone a few years back and it’s been on the Oyster & Chop House menu day in, day out, ever since we opened.

The main advantage of fillet on-the-bone is the flavour. As it stays on the carcass with the sirloin during hanging, the flavour has time to mature. And, because it is attached to the bone, the cut has a more generous look about it. We leave the flavourful outer bark on the meat too. Most restaurants would fully trim it, so there is little left except the pure eye of meat, but I don’t like the customer to miss out.

Sirloin on-the-bone (300-350 g): Rather like fillet on-the-bone, this prime steak has a good presence on the plate and an excellent flavour. The fat covering further enhances the taste, but you may prefer to remove a little of it before cooking for a leaner appearance.

Porterhouse (800 g-1 kg for 2 or 3): In Italy this is the Tuscan signature dish known as Bistecca alla Fiorentina, which traditionally uses the Chianna breed of cattle. It should be cut from the rear end of the short loin, so that the centre-cut fillet sits on the bone alongside the sirloin. This is a classic dish for two or three people to share. The origin of the name is unclear, but suggests a link to the old public ale houses, which served the dark ale ‘porter’ and were frequented by market porters. As we are so close to Smithfield, it sits on the menu very comfortably, though the term Porterhouse is more common in American steak houses than here.

When cooking, I would suggest a little less heat on the fillet side as it will cook much more quickly than the sirloin. If possible, position the fillet at the edge of your grill or hang it over one side of the griddle pan once it’s been sealed all over, then you should end up with both sides cooked evenly.

Wing rib (300-350 g): Also known as club steak, this has a fairly loose definition and is generally cut from the wing rib, which lies between the rib and the sirloin, although sometimes it is cut from the sirloin as the yield of steaks from the wing rib is rather limited. The advantage of this steak for me, is that you do tend to get more of the flavour of the rib together with the higher inner muscle fat content, which lends a sweeter flavour once cooked.

Rib steak (300-350 g or 800 g-1 kg for 2): This is the classic cote de boeuf, which you will often see on French restaurant menus. It can be cut either for one or two people, although cutting a single serving steak can be a problem with a larger beast because of the size of the bone. A straightforward cut between the bones will be too large for one serving, so you’ll need to persuade your butcher to cut down the centre of the bone with his band saw to give you a good sized single portion.

The beauty of a rib steak is the heavier marbling and inner fat, which melts during cooking to give that unique sweetness to the meat.

Rump on-the-bone (600-800 g for 2 or 3): Rump steak can be a tricky cut as it comprises several muscles, which have varying degrees of tenderness. If you’re not looking to do too much chewing, then you might be disappointed with this cut, but if you like a steak with texture and character, you’ll appreciate the excellent flavour.

You could persuade your butcher to remove the outer muscles and just cut through the bone including the inner muscle, but for me a cut like rump on-the-bone for two or three people makes interesting eating, rather like the Porterhouse.

Hanger steak (180-220 g): This is one of my favourite steaks but it’s no longer common in the UK and unfortunately seems to be a forgotten cut. In the past, butchers certainly knew how good it was, as they would often keep it for themselves to take home as a perk, hence it’s original name ‘butcher’s steak’. In France it is known as onglet and is a popular cut in brasseries. I’ve adopted the American term hanger in the restaurant as it prompts the customer to ask what it is.

Hanger is not the most tender of steaks, but it’s the most flavoursome cut on the beast. In fact, it takes on some of the flavour of the kidney, which it is situated just below in the diaphragm.

The complete hanger, cut straight from the carcass, has a connective sinew running along the centre, which you can cut either side of. Occasionally it’s possible to get a couple of good-sized steaks from each piece, but in all, there are only two to four hanger servings per animal.

I would recommend giving the hanger a quick bash with a steak hammer or meat cleaver before cooking, not to flatten it, but just to break down some of the muscles that tighten up during cooking.

You only really want to cook this steak medium rare or rare, and be sure to give it a good rest in a warm, but not hot, place before serving. I would also suggest slicing the steak before serving – not so much for presentation but for ease of eating. This may all sound like hard work compared to other grilling steaks, but it’s well worth the effort for a relatively cheap cut of meat.

This is the only beef cut that I serve off the bone, but I make up for that by accompanying it with a piece of stuffed and baked bone marrow shaft.

Rib edge steak (350–400 g): I’m always looking for new cuts on the bone and Peter Allen, our innovative butcher, has recently come up with this one. It’s positioned on the flat chine bone on the rib. Usually the meat is stripped off the bone and diced when the popular rib eye cut is taken. You can either grill or roast it in a hot oven, then either slice the meat and lay it back on the bone or serve it still attached.

Beef cuts for slow-cooking

Oxtail: A truly great cut for long, gentle cooking. Pieces of oxtail become meltingly tender on stewing, producing flavourful, gelatinous juices which thicken and enrich the cooking liquor. Your butcher will probably sell oxtail ready cut into pieces, but if not I’d recommend asking him to do so for you. Before cooking, trim off any excess fat from the meat, otherwise it will make the sauce greasy and you’ll find it tricky to skim off all the fat from the surface after cooking.

Short ribs: For a potential by-product, this is one of the most delicious braising cuts you can get your hands on. Braised slowly in liquor, short ribs are similar in texture and flavour to braised oxtail.

This cut is also known as Jacob’s ladder, as the ribs do look rather like a ladder when they are left as a whole rack with the strips of meat intact between the rib bones. It is basically the bones and meat above the rib roast. Many butchers simply trim the meat between the bones and turn it into mince. But kept on the bone, in roughly 10 cm lengths, and slowly braised – either as a rack or cut into pieces like spare ribs – it really does make a good all-round slow-cooking cut.

Cross-cut ribs: I first came across this cut in a market in Baltimore, where street vendors were barbecueing cross-cut ribs seasoned with Cajun spices. I eventually persuaded our butcher Peter Allen, who is a dab hand at unusual cuts, to fathom it out for us.

It’s basically a cut taken horizontally through a rack of short ribs or Jacob’s ladder. Like short ribs, it makes a really interesting serving option for a relatively underused cut of beef that would normally go to mince or be used to make stock.

At the restaurant we brown these ribs, then slow-cook them in a barbecue sauce in the oven until tender.

Veal

Thankfully there’s an increasing number of producers in this country rearing veal calves for the table – either organically, or at least using acceptable farming practices. For years, veal has been shrouded by controversy, but this is largely down to the dubious Dutch crate production system, which involves rearing young calves in cruelly confined pens and feeding them an unnatural diet in order to keep their meat as pale as possible.

Rearing calves naturally to produce rosé veal is really no more reprehensible than producing spring lamb for the table. The term rosé is used to differentiate this type of veal, which, naturally, has a pink-red tinge. Rosé veal has a lot of other merits over its pale counterpart. It may not be quite as tender, but Its flavour and texture are far superior and I think its darker colour makes it look a lot more inviting. The range of cuts is extensive too, offering plenty of flexibility in cooking. Any of the chops described below can be used for grilled veal chop with offal salad.

Veal cuts for grilling

Ribchop (250-350 g): This is the equivalent of a beef rib steak, cut from the rib end of the loin. It tends to cook up a little softer than its beef counterpart as it has a little more fat running through it. For me, a veal rib chop has a much better flavour and texture than a loin chop.

Cutlet (250-350 g): Taken from the rack and/or best end, veal cutlets are presented with the chine bone removed and the bone is normally trimmed up. This is a great prime cut for grilling, as it has a good inner fat content and stays moist during grilling.

T-bone (300-400 g): Like the classic T-bone beef steak, this is a cut through the loin and tenderloin, effectively giving you two cuts in one.

Loin chop (250-300 g): Cut specifically from the loin, these chops may retain the chine bone as well as the main bone. They do not contain as much inner fat as cutlets and chops and therefore require careful cooking to ensure they don’t dry out.

Veal cuts for slow-cooking

Shin: This is a classic braising cut, often sold under its familiar Italian name, osso buco, even in butchers’ shops in this country. It is a cut taken straight across the shank and bone of the meatier hind leg of the animal – to give fairly generous slices, around 2–3 cm thick.

Although a tougher braising cut, shin is not particularly economical because a calf’s leg doesn’t yield that many portions. Nevertheless, it is full of flavour, becomes deliciously tender with long, slow cooking, and has the added advantage of succulent marrow rendered from the bone on braising. You may possibly need to order this cut, although most good butchers will have it.

Breast: Typically boned, stuffed and rolled, this is an unusual cut to cook and serve on the bone, but it is excellent simply pot roasted or braised with herbs, fennel seeds and a flavourful stock. A breast of veal weighing around 1 kg will serve two or three.

Tail: Obviously calves tails are smaller than oxtails, but they can be cut into 2–3 cm thick slices, trimmed of excess fat and braised in exactly the same way. This is another cut you may need to order in advance from your butcher.

Lamb

Cooked on the bone, naturally reared British lamb is a lovely sweet meat and there are so many interesting cuts to choose from, apart from the obvious chops, cutlets, leg steaks etc. It’s a real shame that butchers don’t make much more of special breeds, like Portland, Blackface, Herdwick and Manx Loaghtan. These not only make a restaurant menu or butcher’s counter look interesting, they each have a terrific, unique flavour of their own.

Other full-flavoured, naturally reared options are Saltmarsh lamb from animals that graze on the drained Romney Marshes in Kent, and Shetland lamb from lambs that feed naturally on the island’s sea-washed pastures, heather-clad hillsides and seaweed from the shores.

I’m still flying the flag for mutton at the restaurant too. It’s an obvious choice for casseroles, hotpots and meaty broths, where a real depth of flavour is needed. And when we make a mutton chop curry it literally flies out of the kitchen.

Lamb cuts for grilling

Barnsley chop (250-350 g): Sometimes referred to as a saddle chop, this is my favourite lamb cut for grilling. It is cut across the saddle, producing a double loin chop, which includes the little under fillet all in one.

Apparently this chop originated in the Kings Head pub in Barnsley in 1849 to provide a substantial lunch for local farmers. The chops were also served at the celebration of the opening of Barnsley town hall in 1933.

These chops shouldn’t have too much fat on them, as the fat is difficult to render down during cooking, so trim away any excess beforehand. Along with cutlets, a Barnsley chop is probably the most consistent lamb chop as it is cut from the prime joint.

Chump chop (120-150 g): The chump is cut from the rump at the end of the saddle, so it is positioned between the loin and the leg. It has a great flavour and some butchers are now selling whole chumps as a small roasting joint to serve two. Chump chops won’t be quite as tender as cutlets or Barnsley chops, but they will certainly taste very good.

Cutlet (70-100 g): Cutlets are the most highly regarded chops on the beast and you will pay a premium for them. Many butchers and chefs trim them far too much for my liking, sometimes stripping every little bit of fat back to the eye of the meat. I like to leave the fat on, right up the end of the bone, as it is sweet and delicious – provided the cutlets are grilled properly until the fat is really crisp. Allow three cutlets per portion, depending on size.

Crown chop (180-220 g): This is a double lamb cutlet, akin to a Barnsley chop, but cut from the best end rather than the loin. It isn’t a cut you’ll commonly find at the butcher’s, but we sometimes have it on the menu as it has a fine flavour and is meltingly tender if cooked properly. Some butchers do refer to the Barnsley chop as a crown chop, so it does get a bit confusing.

Leg steak (250-350 g): A leg steak is cut straight across the leg through the bone and is 1–2 cm thick. Leg steaks for grilling, frying or barbecueing are best appreciated from new season’s lamb, as those taken from an older animal can be a bit on the tough side.

Loin chop: As their name suggest, these chops are from the loin and they incorporate the small under fillet. Suitable for frying, grilling or barbecueing, they have a good flavour and texture. Every high street butcher sells loin chops, sometimes mixed in with other chops cut from along the saddle and best end.

Lamb cuts for slow-cooking

Scrag end of neck: Taken from the head end of the animal, this is a tougher cut with a fair amount of connective tissue, and a full flavour. It’s ideal for stewing and braising. I like to use this part of the neck cut into slices, with the bone in the centre – you’ll need one or two slices per serving. Long, slow-cooking renders this neck cut very tender.

Middle neck: Taken from just below the scrag end, this cut has the appearance of a double chop. It is the perfect choice for a hotpot or a straightforward braise, as the meat around the neck is quite heavily marbled with fat and therefore stays moist and tender during slow-cooking.

Shoulder: A cut through the shoulder bone, weighing about 800 g is perfect for two. Just get your butcher to saw through the meatiest end of the shoulder, right through the blade bone. Either roast slowly in the oven with herbs and spices or confit in duck fat.

Shank: This is basically the knuckle end of the leg, which is typically left on if it is to be roasted, or often minced or diced for stewing meat by the butcher. Whole lamb shanks are also delicious cuts for slow-cooking in their own right. A few years back, you couldn’t go to a pub or restaurant without seeing a braised lamb shank in some form on the menu; as a consequence, it has lost some of its appeal. That said, it is a great, flavourful braising cut and at least restaurants have managed to raise its profile.

Mutton chop: Mutton chops – cut from the loin, best end or the chump of older animals – are great for slow-cooked dishes such as Irish stew, Lancashire hotpot or a mutton chop curry like the one we serve in the restaurant.

Pork

The rare breed pig revival has gathered momentum in this country and there are some serious pig farmers around the country like Peter Gott up in Cumbria, who breeds Tamworths, Middle Whites and Saddleworths among others. Peter has reintroduced many forgotten breeds and rears an array of cross-breeds, including his trademark wild boar and Iron Age.

Naturally reared pigs have more fat marbling through their meat and individual cuts have a good layer of covering fat, but don’t let this put you off. The fat is a great source of flavour, it helps to keep the meat moist during cooking, and anyway some of it will melt away during cooking. It goes without saying that the meat is far tastier than anything from a commercially reared pig. Thankfully names such as Gloucestershire Old Spot and Saddleworth are becoming familiar now that we are accustomed to seeing quality pork named by breed on restaurant menus.

Pork cuts for grilling

Baron chop (500-600 g for 2): This is basically a pork version of a Barnsley lamb chop – a double loin chop. Obviously it comes up larger and is great for two or three people to share. Best simply grilled or roasted.

T-bone (300-400 g): As the name suggests, this cut – through the loin and tenderloin fillet – is like a T-bone beef steak. It’s a nice way of getting two different textured meats in one cut.

Cutlet (250-300 g): Butchers rarely differentiate between cutlets (or rib chops) and loin chops, in the way that they do with beef and lamb, but it is worth specifying that you would like a chop cut from the foreloin or rib end if you prefer a bit more fat running through your chop. The extra fat keeps a rib chop more moist during cooking.

Loin chop (250-300 g): Loin, like a sirloin of beef, has less fat and the chops therefore need careful cooking to keep them moist.

Pork cuts for slow-cooking

Belly: This has become the chef’s preferred pork cut. You can serve pork belly on or off the bone, though we naturally keep the bone in place during slowcooking. Cooking time varies and you may or may not need to trim the rind and some fat off prior to cooking, depending on the breed and fat covering. A 1 kg piece of belly will serve two or three.

Neck chop: Neck chops are really flavoursome and well suited to slow-cooking. Although not as tender as the chops from the loin, they may sometimes be all right to grill.

Pork knuckle: This is quite a humble cut but it has a fantastic flavour. Suitable for roasting or slow roasting, one knuckle will serve two or three. Try baking a dish of sliced potatoes and apples, finishing the pork for the last 45 minutes or so on top of the potatoes.

Ham and bacon

Ham hock: This is probably the most flavoursome of all the ham joints and makes tasty stock for a hearty split pea soup. It can be simply boiled with an onion, carrot, some peppercorns and thyme sprigs, then served either hot with a creamy parsley sauce, or cold with mustard and pickles.

Bacon chop: If your butcher cures his bacon on the bone then this back bacon chop makes an interesting cut. You can, of course, prepare your own if you’re into home-curing. Bacon chops are suitable for grilling, pan-frying or even slow-cooking.

Bacon streaky chop: We normally soak this chop in cold water for a while before cooking, as it has a tendency to be salty. Grill, pan-fry or slow-cook.

Venison

Venison is a generic term, covering different species of deer, including the roe deer, red deer, fallow and muntjac, all of which vary in size and do have different eating qualities. The meat from a roe deer, for example, is rather more tender than that from a red deer. The flavour also varies significantly according to how long the carcass has been hung for.

Not many butchers take the time to break down a venison carcass in the way they would a lamb, which I can never understand as it would provide more value for the butcher and more variety for the customer. As you can see, the cuts here are pretty similar to those from a lamb carcass. Of course, if you live in the country and you’re able to buy large portions of meat carcasses direct from a local farmer, you might like to have a go at butchery, preparing some of these cuts yourself.

Cutlet (60-80 g): This is quite a fancy cut of venison and it’s pretty expensive, but if you are out to impress, it is a fine-looking cut. It takes very little time to cook and can be simply pan-fried or grilled. Allow three cutlets per portion, depending on size.

Venison cutlets can be treated in exactly the same way as lamb cutlets, but when cooking, do bear in mind that venison meat is very lean and therefore less forgiving.

A good butcher or game dealer will break the carcass down into chops and cutlets, though often the loin is simply stripped out, which is a shame because venison chops and cutlets are interesting cuts to cook with.

Loin chop (90-100 g): This can be cut from any part of the saddle and – like a lamb chop – it will sometimes include the under fillet, depending on which particular part of the saddle it is cut from. A loin chop will be more economical than a cutlet, though again you may have difficulty in persuading your butcher to offer venison loin chops.

Barnsley chop (200-250 g): This is a cut across the saddle, like a Barnsley lamb chop. Sadly, few butchers and game dealers will go to the trouble of cutting these, but it’s worth asking.

Rack: This can be treated just like a rack of lamb and either roasted or grilled whole and carved into individual cutlets before serving. One four-rib half-rack is a convenient size to serve two.

Shank: This is a lovely and unusual cut for slow-cooking. It is best braised and can be treated in the same way as a lamb shank. Again, this is a cut you may need to request specifically from your butcher.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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