Did you know that your butcher can get your dinner started before you even leave the grocery store? If you cook for meat eaters, these tips will save you prep and cleanup time and might even save you some money.
This hack took me too long to discover given how clumsy I am at handling raw meat.
I get intimidated at the butcher counter, so I keep it simple and generally stick to straightforward cuts of meat — boneless, skinless chicken; flank steaks; ground beef. This limits my cooking and isn’t the cheapest way to go.
One day, my favorite local grocer was having a killer sale on whole, organic chickens ($1.99 per pound!). I stood at the butcher counter lamenting my lack of skill.
When I mumbled something about having no idea how to handle a whole chicken, the butcher said, “how about I cut it up for you? I can skin and bone it, too, if you like.”
There were boneless, skinless breasts and thighs sitting there for three times the price. It felt like cheating! But the butcher assured me that he cuts, trims, and prepares meat all the time — it’s part of being a full-service butcher.
LIGHT BULBS WENT OFF IN MY HEAD. I may have heard angels sing. Now, I never buy meat without asking the butcher to prepare it for me.
Here are 10 ways your butcher can streamline your next meal:
1. Cut a whole chicken into parts
Why not? Think of the mess you won’t have to clean up!
2. Skin and bone chicken
My mom tried to teach me to skin and bone chicken when I was a kid. Yeahhhhh, no. Raw chicken gave me the willies (still does). I love that it takes my butcher moments to do this unpleasant job for me.
3. Cut meat into strips or chunks
Making stir fry? Stew or soup? Skewers? Let the butcher cut the meat just how you want it. I sometimes ask the butcher to cut stew meat into smaller pieces — it’s never a problem.
4. “Tenderize” meat
The butcher can pound chicken or steaks so they’re of uniform thickness. Great if you’re making a pan-seared meal.
5. Grind meat
If the meat you want isn’t already ground, ask the butcher to do it for you.
6. Trim and prepare meat for cooking
Butchers can trim fat from steaks, tie roasts and hams, butterfly chicken breasts, make meatballs, and fillet whole fish. (If I missed anything, leave a comment.)
7. Wrap meat in freezer-ready portions
Keep this in mind when you come across a sale.
8. Slice and cube deli meat
Melissa left the following comment on a post about protein-rich snacks for toddlers:
Have the butcher cut a 1/4 pound of organic deli turkey into a slab and then into finger-food chunks. Great protein for toddlers on up.
9. Suggest simple recipes
When I come across a sale on a type or cut of meat I’ve never cooked before, I ask the butcher what to do. He or she usually has a few simple cooking and seasoning ideas, plus the experience to back them up.
10. Suggest less expensive cuts
When a recipe calls for a certain cut, I often ask the butcher to recommend a cheaper alternative.
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Having the butcher help me with dinner is the closest I’ll ever come to having a prep cook. I’ll take it.
Have you ever asked your butcher to prep your meat purchase? Have I missed anything?
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