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The Perfect Cut

Tips for your next trip to the meat counter
  • Nevin Martell

October 18, 2017


Will it be beef or pork for dinner tonight? That’s the eternal question that plagues many home cooks as they stand in front of the meat counter. Once that key question is answered, a slew of others follow – which cut to buy, how to cook it, and what to serve with it.

To make this process a whole heck of a lot easier, we chatted with butcher Scott Weiss of Washington, D.C.’s Via Umbria – a boutique butchery and Italian accented gourmet grocery – to find out how to pick out prime cuts. Then we had a mouth-wateringly inspiring talk with Ken Alston, corporate chef for Hormel Foods to discover how to prepare them and easy-to-make side dishes. Don’t worry if you don’t have time to whip up his risotto, we’ve got warm ‘n’ serve suggestions from Hormel Foods to help cut down on your prep.

Beef Brisket

  • Beef Brisket

    Butcher’s Picks

    Look for a big strip of white running through the middle. You want nearly equal amounts of meat on either side. The top is chewier, while the plate on the bottom is more tender, so you have a variety of textures when you eat it.

  • Chef Brisket

    Chef’s Prep

    Rub it with chilies, peppercorns and marjoram or oregano. Let it sit for half a day. Hot smoke it over hickory or mesquite for half an hour, and then finish it on the grill until it’s tender. Slice it and serve on a soft hoagie roll with a smoked Gouda cheese and chipotle mayonnaise.

  • Brisket Home Side

    Homemade Pairing

    Roast corn on the grill before removing the husk and silk to add a little char. Remove the husk, then slather with jalapeño butter while still warm.

  • Hormel® Chipotle Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese

    Shortcut Pairing

    Hormel® Chipotle Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese

Pork Butt

  • Pork Butt

    Butcher’s Picks

    It should have strands of fat running through it like a spider web, but the exterior fat should be trimmed to prevent flare-ups when cooked over open flame. The color should vary from a regular pink at the center to more reddish tones by the strands of fat.

  • Chef Pork Butt

    Chef’s Prep

    Rub it with salt, pepper, garlic powder and crushed red pepper the night before to let the flavors seep in. I like to start it on the grill over mesquite wood. Smoke the pork butt for 2 hours at 200°F over offset heat. While it’s cooking, make a braising liquid of 1 part vinegar, 1 part apple juice and 3 parts water, along with a few bay leaves and fresh rosemary. When the meat comes off the grill, place it in the pan with the braising liquid, cover it and cook it at 375°F for 1.5-2 hours until it’s basically falling apart, making sure to turn it halfway through. When it’s finished, it goes straight on the plate or in your bun of choice.

  • Homemade Pairing

    Peel and dice Russet potatoes and then steam them until tender. Immediately after they come off the heat, hit them with salt to infuse that flavor. After 15 minutes, while they’re still warm, add a little mustard, a fair amount of mayonnaise, sweet relish and chopped hardboiled egg, as well as salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Make it a day ahead, so the flavors have a chance to marinate.

  • Hormel® Garlic Mashed Potatoes

    Shortcut Pairing

    Hormel® Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Pork Ribs

  • Pork Rib

    Butcher’s Picks

    You want to make sure there’s a lot of meat on the bones, so they don’t dry out when you cook them. The meat should be a rich red.

  • Pork Ribs

    Chef’s Prep

    Rub a 3-pound rack with salt, pepper, cayenne, fennel, chili powder and crushed red pepper. Smoke the ribs low and slow for an hour at 200-225°F over offset heat. I like using apple, pear or cherry wood. You want them to be so tender that you can gently pull the bone out. Then slather them with your favorite barbecue sauce, boost the heat to 250-300°F, and cook for an additional hour.

  • side Pork Ribs

    Homemade Pairing

    I make a quick Southeastern Asian coleslaw by chopping up carrots, red onion, cilantro and red and green peppers, and then tossing them with olive oil and House of Tsang® Ginger Sriracha Sauce.

  • Hormel® macaroni & cheese with Hormel® Black Label® bacon

    Shortcut Pairing

    Hormel® macaroni & cheese with Hormel® Black Label® bacon

Short Ribs

  • Butcher’s Picks

    Look for English cut, which is essentially a square with a layer of bone at the bottom. You want the meat to be a ruby red or almost purple color, which indicates that it’s dry-aged. A slightly nutty odor is okay, because that’s the smell of the dry aging process.

  • Chef Short Ribs

    Chef’s Prep

    Season simply with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Roast for 20 minutes at 425°F to put a nice sear on the meat. Then, braise the brisket for approximately 90 minutes at 300°F in a mixture of stout beer, veal stock and roasted mirepoix, flipping it halfway through. After it’s cooked, the liquid can be reduced with garlic and fresh rosemary to create an au jus sauce to serve with the cut.

    Tip: Mirepoix is a mix of roughly chopped onions, carrots and celery. The classic ratio is two parts onions, one part carrots, one part celery.

  • Short Ribs side

    Homemade Pairing

    Bacon and sweet pea Parmesan risotto. Use four parts stock to one part cream for the liquid and cook the bacon first before folding it into the rice.

  • Shortcut Pairing

    Hormel® loaded mashed potatoes

Hanger Steak

  • Hanger Steak

    Butcher’s Picks

    Ask your butcher to take out the strip of connective tissue to create two thin steaks. One will be wide and the other one will be narrow. You may also want to trim off any other small pieces of fat on the outside.

  • Chef Hanger

    Chef’s Prep

    Dress it with kosher sea salt, garlic, black pepper and red chili flakes, then cook it on the grill. It can go from medium to well done very quickly – when you see the red juices on the surface of the meat, only let it cook for 30 more seconds more before pulling it off. Don’t forget to let it rest before you serve it.

  • Hanger Steak Salad

    Homemade Pairing

    A salad made with crispy, crunchy greens – such as Romaine lettuce – along with Gorgonzola cheese, toasted almonds, ciabatta croutons, roasted tomatoes, red onions and aged white balsamic vinaigrette.

  • Hormel® cheddar broccoli rice

    Shortcut Pairing

    Hormel® cheddar broccoli rice

Pork Chops

  • Pork Chops

    Butcher’s Picks

    Look for marbling. A lot of butchers will take a lot of fat off the loin, which makes it lean, so the chops dry out quickly and lose flavor. You want a meaty center on the bone and then bands of red meat and fat.

  • Chef Pork Chop

    Chef’s Prep

    I make a rub with chili powder, crushed red pepper, fennel, salt and pepper – nothing too overbearing. Place the chops on a grill and cook them low and slow. After the meat hits an internal temperature of 120°F, hit them with your favorite glaze to give the meat a touch of char. You want the meat at 145°F internally when you take it off the grill. Let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it.

  • Pork Chops Side

    Homemade Pairing

    Toss asparagus, bell peppers and squash with dried seasonings – I like oregano, basil and parsley – along with freshly chopped garlic and olive oil. Put the vegetables on at the same time as you’re glazing the pork chops and you should be able to take everything off the grill at the same time.

  • Hormel® Cinnamon Apples

    Shortcut Pairing

    Hormel® cinnamon apples

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