Saturday, December 5, 2009

Beef: It's What's For Dinner!

This past week, I started the one class at Johnson & Wales I was looking forward to the most: The Skills of Meatcutting. Yeah, I know that seems unusual, most people don't seem to like that class at all, but I know there's more to it than standing in a refrigerator and cutting up dead animals. First of all, I'm very lucky to be taking this class with easily the best chef to take it with, Chef Vaillancourt. He sleeps and breathes meat, officially making him my idol :) He knows everything there is to know about meat. You can show him a cube of meat and he can tell you exactly which cut it came from! Unreal!

Anyway, this class is less about learning how to be a meat cutter (9 days would never be enough to master such skills) but more about the theory behind it, and the identification and uses of all the cuts. We started out breaking down chickens (many many chickens) and learned how to separate the wings, legs, and then remove the breasts from the bone. We have also been learning about all the parts of a cow. It's broken down into 8 primal cuts (round, sirloin, short loin, flank, rib, chuck, brisket, and short plate) and almost all of those are then broken down into sub-primal cuts and then finally into portion cuts in some cases. It's really interesting to me because it's one thing I never knew too much about to begin with. I mean, I knew generally what parts of the cow some cuts were from, but never in great detail. Also, not only did we learn the basics behind where they are from, what type of grain they have and the uses of the cuts, but our amazing chef has demoed breaking down just about every primal cut so we can see exactly how the sub-primal cuts and portion cuts can be derived from it. Now when I order a particular steak from a restaurant, or walk into the supermarket and peruse the meat section, I will actually know where my meat is coming from (in theory if they aren't liars, and some people are), and be able to tell the difference between different qualities of meat as advertised.

Did you know that Prime Rib is a misnomer? I'll admit, some rib is Prime, but not everything advertised as Prime Rib is actually Prime Rib. Prime is a grade of quality, while rib is a primal cut of beef. If the rib in question is of Prime grade it can be called Prime Rib. However, if the beef is graded Choice or Select, then it's not actually Prime Rib, it is however PRIMAL Rib because that is the cut. So when you see someone advertising Prime Rib and then pointing out it is a Choice cut of meat, you know they are big fat liars (or morons).

Next week we will learn about lamb, pork and veal, I believe. Should be an interesting time :)


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