The new “golden age” of barbecuing has been spurred on by a greater selection of new found cuts. Though always an integral part of the carcass, these cuts were never before separated and identified. They’ve not only added net value to the carcass (as much as a $100.00/head) but have provided more versatility and utility to an otherwise under-valued cut-out.
We’ve gone from the era of breaking carcasses into primals (marketed as wholesale cuts) to muscle boning (marketed as boxed beef) to the now popular muscle separation (marketed as value-added selections).
A combination of improved butchering techniques and marketing magic have generated new, attractively named cuts of meat designed to appeal to avor and time-conscious cooks.
And now these cutting edge cuts — which include the atiron, the western griller, ranch steak and petite tender, are becoming household names in most butcher shops.
The new cuts come from the chuck and bottom round, beef mainstays whose popularity has suffered as consumers have become more health conscious as the nation’s demographics and cooking habits have shifted.
Smaller families and less at home cooking have translated into a shrinking market for bigger, fattier cuts of meat. Instead, consumers want smaller, boneless options they can cook quickly with minimal prep time. Which is why the beef industry funded research in the 1990’s to nd new ways to cut and serve large, multi-muscled roasts.
By 1999 the investment paid off. Researchers at the University of Nebraska and University of Florida had developed a new butchering methodology based on a technique called muscle pro ling.
The technique involves isolating muscles, then cutting them lengthwise, which allows butchers to offer smaller, tenderer cuts of meat just the right size for consumer’s appetites and pocket books.
By contrast, the traditional method of meat cutting was less precise, making it nearly impossible to separate more lucrative cuts from less choice ones.
It’s almost like the European style of cutting where those old butchers know how to do this. In contrast, we in America have been stuck in this cross-cut large family thing, here we focused on larger pieces of meat.
As we turn our focus to these newest value-added cuts, the Teres Major muscle probably gets the most attention. It’s the cream of the new crop of steaks, known as the petite tender or shoulder tender. It’s actually an extension of the tenderloin, but was lost in the muscle con guration of the chuck. It is extremely small (a pound or less), but is a part of the most tender muscle in the carcass.
Likewise the atiron is a pretty small cut, and also comes from the chuck, as does the ranch steak. Meat experts have known about these chuck benefits for as long as I can remember, and have selectively known how to capture these premium cuts at heavily discounted prices.
The western griller comes from the bottom round, and is somewhat deceptively mislabeled. Though it is the most symmetrical, attractive muscle, it is also the least tender. So, purchase this steak, knowing full well that it has to be tenderized.
For most of these new found steaks, tenderness will be an issue, but remember they’re much less expensive than the middle cut steaks. They also pack as much , or more, avor — just simply cut more thinly across the grain.
These new steaks are actually the product of necessity in these lean times. They give you an alternative to the more popular, more expensive cuts — meaning you can still afford to throw a backyard party.
In the old days, say about this time of the year, it wasn’t so hard to throw a bang-up backyard barbeque. You just had to pick up some nice thick 28 day-aged prime New York strip steaks — light a re, grill to medium rare, and listen to your guests stomp and cheer.
Cheap steaks don’t make you out a cheapskate. It’s all about seeking out overlooked values and making the most of them.
Just as necessity is the mother of invention, so it is that meat selection is the key to maintaining the status quo without breaking the bank. In tough times the less tender get going!
read also: "Whole Hog Barbeque"
PONY TALES by PONTY: more insightful stories written by Ken Knight
Ken E. Knight is the author of the “Knightro Report”, a nationally syndicated livestock-marketing column, which is featured in this publication on a regular basis. Mr. Knight is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a major BS Degree in Meat and Animal Science and a minor in Communications. In addition to being a professional auctioneer, public speaker and livestock judge, he brings many years of corporate level meat and livestock market management and expertise to the industry for which he now serves as an independent voice of shared knowledge and experience.
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For more in-depth information regarding the topics that have been touched upon in this report, Knightro conducts livestock marketing seminars on a regular basis. To schedule a seminar, auction, judging, or speaking engagement, please contact Ken Knight, Knightro, W11911 County Road FF, River Falls, WI 54022, phone toll free 1-877-KNIGTRO, phone 715-262-8480, fax 715-262-8480, e-mail [email protected]t; or contact the Midwest Farm & Livestock Directory at [email protected].