Even if you can’t find a good butchery in your neighbourhood, you can steal these tips from the masters of meat to make your meals more flavourful. Study up, and then turn the page to find recipes you can use to test your new skills.
Here’s Why: Freshly ground meat makes mind-blowing burgers. No grinder? Try our food processor method.
1 Cut the meat into four centimetre cubes and place them, along with the blade and bucket of a food processor, onto a baking sheet. Pop everything into the freezer until the cubes are slightly frozen around the edges.
2 Put the cold meat into the cold food processor. Pulse until it’s chopped but still slightly chunky. Place it into a bowl and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.
2/Cut Thick Steaks
Here’s Why: Supermarket steaks become dry when they’re cooked because they’re too skinny. It’s time to cut your own.
1 Place a roast on a cutting board and examine it for its striations – the “grain.” Position it so the grain runs perpendicular to your knife. (If you cut parallel to the grain, your meal will turn out tough.)
2 Holding the roast in place, use a chef’s knife to slice it into steaks four to five centimetres thick; use long, even strokes, drawing the knife toward you. (Resist the urge to saw with the knife.)
3/Pound Meat Flat
Here’s why: For the thinnest, most tender scallopine, you need to flatten cutlets without crushing them.
1 Place a veal cutlet between two pieces of wax paper.
2 Use a mallet, the flat side of a cleaver, or the bottom of a heavy frying pan and deliver firm, solid whacks to the meat. If the veal isn’t flattening enough, then start pounding from higher above. Don’t overdo it – if you pound too hard, the meat will break into mushy pieces. You’re ready to go when the cutlet is about ⅓cm thick.
4/Stuff a roast
Here’s Why: A roast feeds a crowd with ease, but you need to infuse flavour from the inside out.
1 Insert a long, thin slicing knife into the middle of one end of the roast as far as you can. Repeat on the other end to form a tunnel.
2 Move the knife back and forth to enlarge the hole.
3 With the stuffing in a resealable plastic bag, cut a four centimetre hole in one corner. Insert the tip into one end of the loin, grip the open end of the bag, and squeeze the filling into the loin. Turn the loin and stuff it from the other end.
5/Butterfly A Bird
Here’s why: Removing the backbone and flattening the flesh helps it cook quickly and carve easily.
1 Place the chicken on a cutting board so its wing tips point down and the drum sticks are closest to you. Feel out the spine and use kitchen shears to cut along each side of it, starting at the tail. Snip off the spine at the neck.
2 Flip the chicken over so its wing tips face up. Now use the heel of your hand to press down on the centre of the breastbone hard enough to break it and flatten the flesh.
Own the Tools of the Trade
Dave Riley wields a wide array of weapons in his shop, but meat-eating home cooks don’t need the whole set. Here’s a butchery starter kit.
1 Boning Knife – Use this medium-length, thin-bladed knife to deftly debone a leg of lamb or trim fat off a roast. Try the sturdy Wüsthof Classic 14cm Boning Knife. R595, yuppiechef.co.za
2 Steel – A dull knife adds to your workload – you end up sawing, not slicing. The result? Uneven, sloppy cuts.
3 Cleaver – Butchers depend on this wide, heavy knife far less than they do their scimitar. It’s best for tasks like snapping smaller or softer bones, pounding meat into flatter portions or dividing ribs into chops.
4 Cutting Board You want an “end grain” chopping block. It’s durable, and the perpendicular grain actually helps keep your knife sharp.
5 Meat Mallet Use the flat face to flatten cutlets without tearing the flesh.
6 Poultry Shears If you take a pair of scissors to the spine of a chicken, you’ll shred the bird to bits. You need a tougher tool with two pincer like blades with teeth that snip through fowl flesh, no sweat. We recommend the Zwilling Poultry Shears. R495, yuppiechef.co.za