I want to let you in on a secret.
Passionate people in the culinary world, such as butchers, are like motorcycle enthusiasts.
We, in the culinary world, love to talk about our craft. Just as much us motorcyclists love to talk about details of our motorcycles or our travels.
Butchers may seem busy (which as sure as heck they are) behind the counter, but they’d be happy to talk to you about what they’re doing and what meat cut is right for you. In fact, you’ll find that they totally love the idea that you’re interested, and that you didn’t take the easy way you and buy supermarket beef.
Don’t be shy. Speak up. You’re not wasting their time. Like anyone else, they love it when other people take an active interest in someone who shares there passion.
I typically talk to butchers, fishmongers, farmers, and others — and go with their suggestions for the less expensive cuts that you can turn into culinary marvels. You’ll see quite a bit of this on Food Biker.
Again, butchers can get just as pumped as much as any car or motorcycle nut, and are happy to talk to you about their craft. In fact, most of these guys are opening new shops, and are going against the grain, and are putting their life savings…so they can bring you good cuts of non-supermarket beef.
Beef-wise, I strongly suggest your getting your hands on the local, grass-fed stuff. Beef doesn’t have to be organic. Much of the organic labeling is a bunch of baloney (pun sort of intended) when it comes to beef, as most of the small farmers can’t afford the FDA’s huge fees for organic certification. Why do this? Simply because it’ll taste better, and the beef will be healthier for you. If you want to drill down on this economically, you’re helping a small business owner. Again, regardless of your politics, local beef simply tastes better and is better for you.
Want to read more? Check out this fantastic article by Patrick Martins in the NY Times, called “The Lost Art of Buying From a Butcher,” not to mention a link to a side-story called “Know Your Cuts.”
Want to go whole hog? Check out Julie Powell’s “Cleaving,” a controversial read that talks about her real-life apprenticeship at a butcher shop in Kingston, NY. Yes, this is the same Julie Powell who also wrote “Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen,” that led to “Julie and Julia, the movie with Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. Although I preferred Powell’s first book, they’re both worth a look.
[Fair Warning: “Cleaving” doesn’t just explore butchery; Powell delves into issues pertaining her marriage, affairs, and sexual exploration. If you have kids, don’t leave it sitting around unless you’re prepared to answer questions about BDSM, infidelity, and other adult topics.]