Editor’s note: Linda Avery is back with a look at a remarkable new book on butchering beef by Kari Underly. Read her review and watch the video of the author cutting rib-eye steaks several ways. Underly makes it look remarkably easy.
by Kari Underly
Facts: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 232 pages, $50.00 (or Amazon at $32.13)
Photos: Let’s say a gazillion. Underly can’t be in your shop or home to teach you but a series of step-by-step photos demo each “lesson”.
Give To: Culinary students, club store shoppers, food enthusiasts
When John Torode’s Beef And Other Bovine Matters was published, I was so jazzed that the dust cover unfolded into a poster size diagram of a cow showing forequarter, hindquarter and the various cuts from each, I hung it in my pantry. Inquiring minds want to know; chefs and cooks alike should know but finding a complete butchery course is difficult.
My father was an independent butcher when “hanging beef” was de rigueur. Having to move and butcher sides had such a debilitating effect on his back, he had to change careers. I was only 12 or so when he got out of the business and I never learned butchery from him. Nonetheless I’ve continued to be fascinated by the art.
Enter The Art of Beef Cutting: A Meat Professional’s Guide to Butchering and Merchandising by Kari Underly. Unlike Torode’s book, this is not a cookbook. You will find flavor profiles, suggested cooking methods and cooking tips, but what you won’t find is a single (food) recipe.
The “recipes” that Underly writes are Cutting for Profit (actually cost accounting and what has to be considered), Understanding Your Tools (knives, steels and stones), and Injury Prevention Strategies (which incorporates lifting and strengthening exercises for wrist and back).
Mastering Cutting Techniques includes how to denude, to filet, Frenching, cubing, the use of netting and tying. The Beef Cutting chapter begins with a primal cut such as loin and addresses how to cut the main subprimals, which for loin are short loin, tenderloin, top strip loin bone-in, and boneless top strip loin.
The book is so comprehensive there are tables with the English, Latin, and French names of the cuts plus the very interesting “common and fanciful cut names” chart, e.g., common = beef chuck eye steak, fanciful = Delmonico.
One conclusion: If you are a club store shopper, you’re there to save money. If you are shopping for a beef tenderloin and know how to release the chain and cut it from the head, remove the fat and silverskin (denuding), you can buy the much less expensive whole tenderloin rather than the fully trimmed piece.
Kari Underly’s The Art of Beef Cutting is a 2012 James Beard award finalist (to be announced May 4th).