Ham, Pork Shoulder, Bacon, Back Ribs, Side Ribs, Spare Ribs, Brisket, Sirloin, Ribeye…we’ve all heard of these cuts of meat (and many others) but sometimes they sound like they come from a certain area and in fact they are on the opposite end!
Since I’ve learned a lot recently from local farmers, meat purveyors and good ol’ trial and error, I figure that this post would be a bit of a Show and Tell to help you get oriented with your favourite pieces of protein. So lets start with pork:
This may be the most confusing critter or the world of meat processing has a warped sense of humor. You see, when you want to smoke up some pulled pork the cut of meat has about 157 different names (ok, slight exaggeration but you’ll see what I’m talking about) and it depends on the region you live in as how to go about finding this specific cut.
Pulled Pork is best made from the Pork Butt…but it’s not the back end of the pig where the name suggests but actually the shoulder area. It can also be referred to as a Boston Butt or Shoulder Butt and can come bone-in or boneless. (FYI: All you Ham fans out there…you gotta go to the rear for that 🙂 )
With ribs, these are naturally found smack dab in the middle of the pig and are known as Spare Ribs, yet if you wanted Baby Back Ribs you’d have to go looking in the Loin for those…the same spot where you would find chops and roasts. Got a hankering for some Side Ribs? Well, they are found in the same spot as Bacon.
Now our friend the cow seems to have proper names for the location of the cuts. Rump comes from..well the rump and ribs are all located where you’d expect them to be but what you may find interesting is that the biggest yield of meat comes from the front and back of the cow (nearly 60% is found in those two sections) yet they are the most difficult cuts to work with.
For example: Brisket is the pectoral muscle of the cow and since cattle walk around on four legs, that pectoral is used day in and day out. It becomes this big thick slab of muscle and tendons intertwined with fat. That is why the only way to cook it is over a long, long period of time so that everything renders and relaxes. If you tried to carve a brisket into a steak and throw it on the grill for 10 minutes, you might as well be tucking into a saddle. 🙂
Chuck is also the location for the plethora of roasts you that would buy. Pot roast, blade roast, eye roast along with stewing beef and ground beef all come from the difficult front end.
For the meat connoisseur, you would focus on the Sirloin or Short Loin sections as that is where Filet Mignon is found along with T-Bone’s and Porterhouses. Nice trim cuts that when grilled just melt in your mouth…of course with only 17% of usable meat found here, you do pay a premium at butcher shops and restaurants.
So there you go, a quick lesson which will hopefully help you when you are chatting with your butcher or shopping around for your next get-together. Do you have a favourite cut of meat? If so, what is it and how do you like to prepare it?