top questions to ask your butcher

TOP QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR BUTCHER

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

Our butchers are always on hand to answer any questions you might have when visiting our shop on Chetwynd Road, NW5. But what if you don’t have time to chat, or the shop’s a little busy? Owner, James Walker, has put together a list of the top questions we’re always asked by customers about preparing meat, where the meat comes from, as well as some useful information that should help you when picking out the perfect cut of meat.

WHAT’S THE BEST MEAT FOR …?
We are always delighted when customers come in to see us with a recipe, or meal idea. Our experienced butchers are trained to help suggest the perfect meat to go in any dish. Go on, test our knowledge. We’re sure to have the answer.

HOW DO I COOK …?
Probably the number one question we get asked. When selecting the perfect cut of meat, people want to be sure they cook it perfectly. As a rule, prime cuts are best suited to high heats for short times, or even on the BBQ. Larger cuts are best roasted, while cheaper cuts work great in stews, casseroles, slow braises, or even soups. If you’re unsure, always ask. Our butchers love nothing more than chatting with our customers, sharing tips and cooking knowledge, to help you cook our quality meats perfectly.

WHAT DOES ‘GRASS-FED’ MEAN?
Referring to meat as ‘grass-fed’ means the animal is cared for on a diet of almost 100% grass. This also means they live free-range, in a natural environment during the warmer months, and most likely given wet stored grass) or hay in the colder months. According to EU law, to be considered ‘grass-fed’, livestock only has to be on a diet of 51% grass, however JC Walker only works with suppliers who raise animals that are 100%, or close to, grass-fed.

WHAT DOES ‘FREE-RANGE’ MEAN?
Free-range refers to a method of farming where the animals, for at least part of the day, can roam freely outdoors, rather than being confined in an enclosure for 24 hours each day. JC Walker works exclusively with free-range suppliers, ensuring your meat has been raised in conditions that far exceed industry standards. 

WHAT IS MARBLING?
Marbling is the white flecks of intramuscular fat in meat, most notably red meat. The fat in lean muscle creates a marble pattern, hence the name. Marbling affects the meat’s juiciness, tenderness, texture, and flavour. In this case, more of all the above is better.

Fine marbling. The lean muscle has a high frequency of thin, evenly distributed flecks of fat. These fine flecks melt during cooking, adding juiciness and tenderness throughout the meat. In the restaurant world, the most desirable types, like Kobe and Wagyu beef, have a high frequency and even distribution of fine marbling.

Medium marbling. An inferior form of marbling, it features larger, less evenly distributed flecks of fat, which can negatively affect the cooking and eating experiences. Larger pieces of fat take longer to render and liquefy. As a result, when someone cooks a medium marbled steak rare or even medium rare, the fat will not render in time to add juiciness and tenderness to a steak. This leaves gelatinous flecks of fat that negatively affect mouthfeel. Uneven distribution can also lead to certain areas of a piece of meat being more tender and juicier while others are tough and dry.

Coarse marbling. The least desirable type of marbling, it has large, uneven flecks of intramuscular fat. The problems with medium marbling are even more pronounced.

WHY IS MEAT AGED?
All fresh beef is aged for at least few days and up to several weeks to allow enzymes naturally present in the meat to break down the muscle tissue, resulting in improved texture, tenderness and flavour. 

WHICH CUT DO YOU RECOMMEND?
If you’re shopping for meat to use in a specific recipe, try asking one of our butchers what cut they would recommend using. They can tell you which cuts will work best for both your cooking method and your budget!

HOW SHOULD I PREPARE THIS CUT?
On occasion, you may be shopping for a specific cut without a recipe in mind. For instance, you might want to make something special to celebrate your anniversary, or something quick and easy for a big group. Whatever you’re looking for, we can help select the cut AND let you know the best way to prepare it, including temperature, resting times and how to cut or slice it. Our traditional butchers can even debone or prepare the meat for you, so you don’t have to. Simply ask in-shop and we’ll be happy to help.

WHERE DO YOU SOURCE YOUR MEAT?
Don’t be afraid to ask our butchers where we source our meat. Sourcing is especially important when it comes to organic, humanely-raised, and grass-fed meats, and all of our butchers are well-versed on where our meat comes from. If you’re looking for more information, check out our Suppliers List for full details.

WHICH LESSER-KNOWN CUTS DO YOU LIKE?
One of the best ways to take advantage of our butcher’s vast knowledge about meat is to ask about less popular or lesser-known cuts. Our butchers like nothing more than talking about interesting cuts and if you’re lucky they might even share a few trade secrets or their favourite recipes. Each butcher is sure to have a favourite cut that you might not know about, or a new way to prepare a tried and tested classic, so don’t be shy, tap them up for some tips!

DO YOU MAKE YOUR OWN SAUSAGES/BURGERS?
The best way to find out which items we make in-house, such as freshly made sausages, burger patties, seasoned or marinated cuts, is to ask! We introduce new and seasonal items all the time, so whether you’re looking for something classic like sausages, or to try something new, speak to our butchers next time you’re in-shop about what we have on offer. You won’t regret it.

WOULD YOU PREPARE THIS FOR ME?
The answer of course, is yes. No problem. Our traditional butchers can prepare your meat however you wish, all you have to do is ask. Butchering meat on your own can be tricky and time-consuming, so why not let us do it for you? We can grind and blend meats, trim or shape chops and roasts, break down, butterfly or spatchcock whole chickens, and more! We’re always here to help.

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