Adventures in Eating

Meet Your Meat, or, A Pork Butt Isn’t Even a Butt

While we’re taking some holiday time off to eat and nap and frolic in the snow, we’re re-running some of our best posts of the year. We’ll be back with new stuff Monday, January 6.

Picture by Susie Rodarme
Picture by Susie Rodarme

When I first started to cook, nearly everything confused me. Vegetables–how do I chop these things? (Any way you can, it turns out.) Fruit was okay, but I can’t imagine getting to the age of 19 and being confounded by how to eat an apple. Meat confused me the most of all, and continued to do so until I got a little bit of proper education in cooking school*.

Grocery stores don’t help the confusing meat situation at all. I can go to different groceries that are the same company and the same cuts will be labeled differently. Grocery stores also have a sneaky way of creating meat cuts that really shouldn’t exist, like “steaks” made out of tougher cuts of meat that shouldn’t be cooked like steaks at all. I mean, unless you like your steak ultra-chewy, which, no thanks.

How to cook different cuts of meat flummoxed me in the beginning. I knew how to cook some cuts (yay pot roast!), but others were a mystery to me. There were still other meats I “knew” how to cook, but wasn’t happy with the results. Making beef stroganoff, for instance: my grandma would make it by frying round steak in the skillet, but it came out only a few notches above shoe leather on a tenderness scale. I had a sneaking suspicion we were doing it wrong.

Spoiler alert: we were doing it really wrong.

I learned, through trial and error and many hours watching Food Network, that there are meats you cook slow and low, and meats you cook high and dry**. There are meats that still confound me (beef round, anybody? Is there a way to cook this so that it’s not chewy or super dry?) and meats I won’t touch (no offal for me, thanks, and I’d really rather not eat anything gamy), but for the most part, with the help of a few days’ worth of lecture from a for-real chef, I’ve figured out how to cook up most cuts of meat. Because I love you and I want you to be happy–and being happy means properly-cooked meat, at least in my world–I’ve compiled my knowledge of meat into a chart that will, I hope, be of service next time you’re wondering what cut of meat to buy for a recipe. See the graphic below!

*By cooking school, I mean cooking courses at the community college. Fancy.

**So, “dry” confused me for a long time? Because I thought, well, don’t you want to use oil? I had many failed steak-cooking episodes before I realized that oil is “dry” because it’s not water-based . . . one of my many cooking moments of derp.

cuts of meat and how to cook them in a chart


Sign up for our newsletter to have the best of Food Riot delivered straight to your inbox every week. No spam. We promise.

To keep up with Food Riot on a daily basis, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. So much tasty goodness–all day, every day.