For a little extra effort, the rewards of getting to know and using secondary cuts of meat can be significant.
In using the whole beef or lamb product – from nose to tail – the benefits and value are returned to the animal, producer, business and customer.
Secondary cuts, also known as underutilised cuts, such as those explained in this masterclass, are packed full of flavour.
To extract the flavours, a little more effort and time is needed in the cooking process to ensure you are able to infuse or develop the taste and tenderise the meat.
Knowing what to look for, and matching appropriate cuts with the optimal cooking method, will deliver outstanding results for an affordable price.
Brisket (Point End)
There are two briskets per carcass. Whole brisket can be split into point end or navel end. Point end can be prepared with deckle (fat and intercostal meat removed.
- Flavour: A classic slow braised beef flavour. Point muscle that sits on top of the fat is quite marbled and very juicy.
- Look for: Some marbling, deep red meat. Average weight 4-6kg up to 8kg. Bigger is better.
- Cook: Remove thin red muscle on outer surface (on navel end cut). Leave some fat on. Cut thin slices and cook slowly.
Beef shin delivers all that the lamb shank does.
- Flavour: Stronger flavour punch than lamb shank.
- Look for: Trimmed ends of the shin. Excessively thick tendons are a sign of beef that may not break down in cooking.
- Cook: Braise whole, then peel off bone or cut into slices of shin to reveal bone marrow. Pair with a full-bodied South Australian shiraz in winter.
One of four distinct cuts that is also referred to as skirt in Australia. Known as bavette in France.
- Flavour: Clean, beefy taste.
- Look for: Coarse grain, flat and lean cuts.
- Cook: Carving across the grain is critical to get this cut to perform at its best.
Oyster Blade (Flat Iron Steak)
Prepared by removing silverskin and gristle from whole oyster blade. Also known as a feather steak. Economical.
- Flavour: Strong beefy flavour with faint hints of iron (liver), that handles a marinade well.
- Look for: Premium weight 0.8 to 1.2kg for grilling.
- Cook: An equal second for most tender cuts for grilling in a beef carcass (behind the scotch fillet).
In some beef loving countries, such as Argentina and Korea, this cut commands higher prices than porterhouse. Reasonably priced.
- Flavour: As gelatinous connective tissue melts, you get a rich mouthfeel in braised dishes.
- Look for: A good butcher to get the most from the cut, as only small section of rib is especially good.
- Cook: Serve braised, twice cooked or chargrilled slowly to medium for those who don’t mind a little chew.
Thick Skirt (Hanger)
The hanger holds the diaphragm and just one cut on carcass. Also referred to as the butcher’s steak and, in France, the onglet.
- Flavour: Very tender with strong iron/liver flavour.
- Look for: Some marbling adds to flavour and tenderness.
- Cook: Not suited to wet styles of cooking. Needs careful attention to ensure outside crust is dry.
Same portion of meat as pork belly, beef short ribs and brisket come from. An affordable lamb cut in good supply.
- Flavour: Has unique lamb softness and flavour.
- Look for: Can be a fatty cut, however if lean, the meat needs to be pale red or pink, otherwise it will be tough.
- Cook: Slowly while weighed down (by air pressure in pressure cooker when braising in a masterstock, or under a heavy ceramic dish when dry roasting) so fat renders off.
Cuts from forequarter include square cut shoulder. Contains a lot of soft collagen that breaks down when heated above 80°C.
- Flavour: Meat on the bone has strong, full flavour.
- Look for: The loin eye where the shoulder is cut should have a reasonable amount of fine marbling.
- Cook: Slow roast square cut shoulder in a wood fired oven until it is falling off the bone. Slow cook and pull as per America’s famous pulled pork.
Not to be confused with the boneless neck fillet of lamb, which is essentially chuck.
- Flavour: Sweet full flavoured meat.
- Look for: Trim excess surface fat for best results.
- Cook: Best on the bone at high temperature, then peeled off bone to serve.
Lamb topside from high quality lamb performs better than cheaper end backstraps. One of the muscles in the leg.
- Flavour: Highly trimmed, avoiding sheep flavour that comes through lamb fat. This cut preferred by those with no history of eating sheep meat.
- Look for: Make sure that the meat has a lighter red colour.
- Cook: Separate out of leg and slow roast to medium or medium rare for a juicy, flavoursome alternative to more expensive, low grade backstraps.