At Grillaholics, we’re quick to reach for a ribeye or tenderloin when it comes to cooking. They’re basically available everywhere, they’re easy to cook, and they’re flavorful (enough). But, some of the most delicious and interesting cuts of meat are actually under the category of ‘butchers’ cuts’. So-named because of the idea that, for the most part, only butchers really know how to cook these less-popular pieces of the animal. You typically won’t find them in a supermarket, but if you visit a locally-owned, private butcher, he’ll certainly be able to help you out. Today, we’re gonna go through some of the foremost ‘butchers’ cuts’, and give you some tips on what to do with them.
Beef shank gets our vote for ‘most underrated’ cut of a cow. The shank is from the shin of the cow, and is a muscle that carries a very heavy workload. Because of this, the shank is tough and borderline inedible when cooked quickly. It needs to be braised or slow-roasted (or smoked!) for hours on end to break down the sinew and fat. When that happens though, the meat becomes tender from the fat it absorbs. The marrow also breaks down into a creamy, butter-like substance that gives added body and flavor to a braising liquid. In fact, many people roast beef shank for the marrow alone!
Vacio steak has only recently begun to gain popularity in North America. But for years, it’s been a go-to source of beef protein for the people of Argentina. While it is one of the flank primal cuts, the vacio steak isn’t technically a flank steak. The vacio steak hangs just beneath the loin, where it’s cushioned by the cow’s belly. This protects the cut of beef, while also creating a richer flavor within the steak. The steak is usually quite large, and can be portioned into smaller, single-serving sizes before sale. While grilling is best for the vacio steak, the heat needs to gentle. In South America, vacio steak is usually grilled over low, slow heat to break down the mildly tough muscle fibers.
In French cuisine, the cut is known as the ‘bavette’ and is typically pan-seared to be served in steak frites.
We’ll just get this out of the way -- Sweetbreads are not bread. They’re not really sweet, either. They’re organ meats, in fact, from the thymus gland and pancreas. Sweetbreads are most popular from lamb and veal, but pork and beef sweetbreads are also available. Despite being nearly-unknown in casual circles, sweetbreads are incredibly easy to cook and remarkably delicious. They cook quickly and are very forgiving, as sweetbreads are practically impossible to overcook.
Simply soak them in buttermilk overnight to remove any impurities, then throw ‘em on the grill. Use a high heat setting -- you’re looking to achieve a crispy exterior to counteract the pillow-soft meat. They’re extremely rich, so we suggest pairing sweetbreads with some kind of fruit or acid-heavy sauce.