Buying From Your Local Butcher: Beef

Buying From Your Local Butcher: Beef

How can you shop for the best quality, tastiest meat? What interesting cuts can you buy, and how should you cook them? Buying meat from a butcher can seem a little intimidating when you’re used to picking the same packets of meat off the supermarket shelves, and you might not be sure what to ask for. So we asked an experienced chef about how to buy from a butcher in this four-part blog series.

Simon May has over 18 years experience working as a chef in the hospitality industry. Maintaining close relationships with his suppliers, he ensures to visit local farms and butchers to source the highest quality produce and see where it comes from. Simon has always been invested in sourcing meat and learning how to cut it in order to get the best flavour and quality possible.

Here he tells us everything you need to know about buying beef. If you haven’t already, check out our interviews with Simon on general tips for buying from a butcher, as well as how to shop for poultry and pork.

What should you look for when buying beef?

Look for marbling and texture, the cut and how the cow has been reared.

What does marbling mean?

Marbling means there’s a high fat content in the meat which generally gives the produce more flavour.

Best breeds to look for?

The most popular beef cattle breeds in the UK are Aberdeen Angus, Hereford & Shorthorn.

What is the hanging process?

Hanging beef, also known as the ageing process, breaks down the enzymes within the meat which makes the fibres of the muscles softer. This makes the meat more relaxed and tender, which will give the meat an even better taste & texture. The beef generally hangs in a butcher’s fridge on average for around 10-14 days at a controlled temperature. Some butchers even have specific fridges just for the ageing process.

How does grass-fed change the meat?

Most cows are fed grass, hay and a mixture of grain and corn. The cow’s diet and treatment will determine the taste of the meat. For example, wagyu beef is highly marbled, and the higher the marbling the more flavoursome, tender and juicy the meat is. It’s more expensive due to the way the cows are raised. The young cattle are fed milk by hand and grow up grazing/free range and in some countries they also receive massages daily

Best cut to try for the beginner, intermediate and expert?

The best cut of beef for a beginner would be topside. It’s not overly expensive but still has a great flavour. The more adventurous intermediate/expert cook should try rib of beef on the bone or sirloin.

Top cooking tip?

This always depends on the personal preference, cut and weight of the meat, which is where a Thermapen always comes in handy. When cooking a joint of beef like beef rib, searing is important as it builds flavour and texture. Heat some oil in a frying pan on a high heat until the oil is smoking. Add the meat and fry until all the sides are golden brown. This locks in the flavour ready to cook in the oven.

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Favourite things to pair with beef?

If you want a rib of beef or a beef joint for roasting, I would serve this with crispy goose fat roast potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower cheese, hispi cabbage (also known as hearted or sweetheart cabbage), with a homemade Yorkshire pudding and a jus.

Top budget cut and favourite recipe to make with it?

Diced beef, also known as beef skirt, is always a good part of the beef to use, especially for a hearty casserole. A casserole is one of my favourite recipes to make at home throughout the winter months. It’s a simple but effective dish and can be left to cook throughout the day, becoming more flavoursome when cooked over a certain amount of time. I normally add carrots, celery and mushrooms to the casserole, and serve with mashed potato and some long-stem broccoli.

Top luxury cut and favourite recipe to make with it?

I would class beef fillet as the most luxury cut. This is a cut from the tenderloin. Tenderloin is the name of the large cut of beef before it’s sliced into steaks or other beef joints. The most known recipe to make with beef fillet is beef wellington, a tender fillet wrapped in puff pastry.

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"I use Thermapens on a daily basis, whether it be at home or at work. It's a really resourceful and necessary piece of equipment to make sure you get the best from your produce."
Simon Mays
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