Butchers Block: questions your butcher wishes you’d ask

By easyFood

23 March 2018

Butcher Dave Lang talks through the questions he wishes his customers would ask…

Why is buying from the butcher better than buying the cheaper, pre-packaged meat from the supermarket?
The meat in the butcher’s will be fresher, as it is prepared that day. Butchers also age their meat for an extra 10 days, meaning it will be better quality and more tender. Lastly, a butcher can offer a much more personal experience and a wealth of advice on cooking, neither of which you will find buying pre-packaged meat from the supermarket. 

Is there a difference between the pre-packaged items in the butcher’s fridge and those on the counter?
No, there isn’t. They are packed that morning using the same products as are on the counter, so the quality is the same. If you have questions to ask, however, it’s better to go to the counter and have a chat with your butcher. 

What if I don’t know what I’m looking for? If I know absolutely nothing about cuts of meat, should I admit that to my butcher?
Yes, the butcher is more than willing to help at any time. I would advise you always to ask any and all questions you may have – the butcher has all the answers and has heard it all before, so there’s no need to feel embarrassed!

What’s the biggest mistake people make when they order?
Not ordering enough meat per person. If you’re unsure, explain what you’re making and how many people you’re feeding to your butcher and he’ll be able to advise what quantity of meat you need.

What should I look for when buying meat?
First, check the colour. In general, the darker the colour, the longer the meat has been aged, and this is a good indication of quality. In terms of texture, the meat should be firm and have a small bit of marbled fat. On cuts like brisket, which have a covering of fat, the fat should be white and clean-looking.

Are expensive cuts of meat the most flavourful?
No, not always. The cheaper cuts can definitely be more flavoursome – they just need longer to cook in order to become tender.

What are the most under-rated cuts of meat?
Beef brisket, belly of pork, lamb shanks and chicken thighs. These are fantastic cuts which all have much more flavour than their leaner alternatives. I also suggest trying other types of mince apart from beef; chicken, turkey, pork and lamb mince are all just as tasty and versatile. Try the recipe below for Indian-inspired chicken mince patties with an easy sauce.

I’ve heard conflicting information about cooking burgers. Do they have to be thoroughly cooked or is it okay to have them pink in the middle?
The reason for this is because burgers are made from minced meat. On a steak, for example, only the outside is exposed to bacteria, so it’s fine just to sear the outside and leave the centre pink. With mince, however, the meat has been chopped up and mixed around, so bacteria can be present all the way through. Because of this, it’s always advisable to cook burgers thoroughly.

Can I ask my butcher for cooking tips with the cut of meat I’m buying?
Yes absolutely, he is more than happy to help with cooking tips or recipe suggestions. Just ask!

In terms of asking a butcher for extra favours (e.g. boning, slicing, cubing), how far is too far? And does it cost extra?
These little favours are part of our job and cost nothing extra – just let us know how we can help. There’s not much that we won’t do, so never be worried about asking!

Is it worth paying more for organic and/or free range meat?
If you can afford it, it can be worth paying the extra for free range meat, as meat from animals reared outdoors tends to be better quality and more flavoursome. However, if money is short, the regular meats on the butcher’s counter are still better than what you’ll find in the supermarket fridge.