At Ginger Pig, we are passionate about helping people to understand more about meat, how a cut's position on the body affects the texture and flavour, how to cook meat properly and also the importance of carcass balance and sustainability.
People who regularly shop with a local butcher will most likely be familiar with the different cuts available, much more so than those who buy meat from supermarkets. A butcher's counter is a veritable encyclopedia of terms for those who want to learn more about meat and the cuts that are available to buy. Even better, you can watch butchers break down whole carcasses and see where the cut you want comes from on the animal. All of this knowledge is invaluable in terms of understanding which cut you require and how to cook it.
The cut you want really depends on what you are planning to cook. Different parts of the animal require different styles of cooking in order to get the best from the meat. The hard-worked muscles, such as those from the leg, neck and shoulder regions, are tasty and have good fat content. They need longer, slower, moist cooking and take well to pot roasts, stews and casseroles.The less worked muscles, such as the rump and fore rib are packed with flavour an are best for grilling, pot-roasting and roasting. The muscles that do no heavy work, such as the sirloin or fillet are very tender and need very little cooking. Just a quick flash-searing or grilling are fine.
FORE END CUTS
The meat closer to the front of the cow (the fore end) is sweeter and tastier. This is because 70% of the animal's weight is help up on the front legs and most of the movement takes place at the front of the cow, with its head, neck and front legs. All this movement increases muscles' bulk and adds fat and marbling through the huge joints. The meat from this area needs to be cooked long and slow to break down the muscles and the extra fat in the joints adds flavour and bastes the meat, keeping it moist. These cuts are usually the cheapest, but if cooked with skill and not rushed, they deliver unctuous flavours with robust textures.
The middle of the cow offers excellent quality meat and fat marbling in the upper part of the body and great value flank, which can be barbecued or used in pies. These lesser-worked muscles deliver a finer, more delicate flavour and texture that needs far lighter cooking techniques.
HIND END CUTS
The rear of the cow has less fat running through the meat. This part produces one of the tastiest steaks - rump - and good joints for pot-roasting or roasting. But, due to their lack of fat, these cuts need moisture or 'barding' with thinly sliced pork fat or streaky bacon whilst cooking.