19 Secrets Your Butcher Won’t Tell You

Butchers share how to save money and pick the freshest meat.

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Don’t be fooled by supermarket brand names

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Avoid names like Butcher’s Brand, Rancher’s Reserve, and Blue Ribbon. The label to look for is USDA quality grade. Prime is the best (and most expensive), followed by choice, select, then standard.

A big part of our job is window dressing

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We flip brown meat over, cut off fat, and dab away blood that might turn you off.

We regrind and package it

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Your beef may get ground in Iowa, stuffed in a long tube of plastic, and trucked to our store, where we regrind and package it.

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Here's a simple way to save money

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Make sure you check the price per pound or per serving.

We can suggest cheaper options

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Why are you so wedded to the cut of beef your recipe calls for? Save $1.50 to $2 a pound on boneless pork chops. Buy a whole boneless pork loin roast and slice it into chops an inch thick.

My favorite cut?

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Also known as a hanger steak or a bistro steak, it’s got great flavor at a good price.

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Here's where to find the best meat

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Take the meat tray at the bottom of the stack or the farthest in back. Just like milk, it tends to be fresher. Check out these 50 supermarket tricks you still fall for.

This is why restaurant burgers taste so good

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Yes, that 92/8 ground beef is lean, but if you make burgers with it, you might be disappointed. Here's what you should never eat at a restaurant.

Always check the label

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Even if those chicken breasts say “100 percent natural,” they may still be injected with sodium-laden broth, salt water, or seaweed extract. These are other food manufacturing secrets you never knew about.

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Looks aren't everything

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Like the flap meat on the belly part of beef.

Here's how to avoid freezer burn

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If you throw your meat straight into the freezer in the packaging it came in, freezer burn is a virtual certainty. Instead, take the meat off the tray, re-wrap it with plastic food wrap or aluminum foil, then put it in a Ziploc freezer bag and squeeze out as much air as possible. Here's how long you can store meat in the freezer.

Want to save a few bucks per pound?

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Or get a whole chuck and ask me to make you some chuck roasts, beef stew cubes, and ground meat out of it. The bigger the cut, the more money you’ll save.

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You've been wrong about London Broil this whole time

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A package labeled that way is probably a top round roast, a very tough steak that otherwise wouldn’t be worth much. But if we label it as a London Broil—which means you should cook it medium rare with lots of seasonings, then slice it real thin against the grain—it’s at least edible.

Most people cook their meat too long

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Get a cooking thermometer and remember, food keeps cooking even after you remove it from heat. So that filet mignon that’s rare when it comes off the grill will be medium rare after you rest it. Even seasoned cooks can make these common barbecue mistakes.

Here's the deal with “Certified Angus Beef”

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Despite all the hype, most of us think “Certified Angus Beef” is a marketing gimmick that doesn’t necessarily indicate the meat is any better than other beef with the same USDA grade. Though I have to admit, it does look spiffy on that black tray.

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Here's the truth about grass-fed beef:

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I know grass-fed beef is the hot thing, and it’s supposed to be healthier, but it sure doesn’t taste as good.

Here's how to save money on steak:

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That’s your call, but don’t bother buying an expensive cut. Once you cook it that much, it all tastes pretty much the same… kind of like shoe leather.

Want fresh meat?

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Ideally you want to get packages dated that day or the day before. Some companies pump carbon monoxide into packaging to keep the meat from turning brown.

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A little pink is OK

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Your mother had good intentions, but a little pink inside your pork is fine. In fact, it’s preferable. Pork that’s white all the way through is likely to be dry and tasteless. Just make sure its internal temperature is at least 160 degrees. Sources: Butchers in New York City; Charlotte, North Carolina; San Francisco; Kingston, New York; and Timberville, Virginia; Lee O’Hara, author of Beef Secrets Straight from the Butcher; and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.


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