Thursday, September 15, 2011

BBQ Book Review: The Art of Beef Cutting

Title: The Art of Beef Cutting
Author: Kari Underly
Published: 2011, Wiley

Raw meat can look pretty good on a page when butchery and artistry come together. This new book by third generation meat cutter Kari Underly is both stunningly beautiful and staggeringly informative. Kari has channeled her twenty-five years of butchery experience into winning meat cutting competitions, consulting with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to develop new cuts of meat, and now into this book project.

The book takes the beeve down one primal at a time showing diagrams of just how to break down those large muscle groups. Each individual cut get its own page for an incredible detailed look at American butchery techniques. As the author puts it "this book is a comprehensive guide to the latest cutting techniques, as well as the fundamentals of beef merchandising. I designed it to be an ideal reference and training tool for retailers, chefs, culinary schools and even enthusiastic home butchers who are eager to master the basics of meat fabrication." In addition to the guide to beef cuts there is an explanation of cattle breeds, beef grading and the knives you'll need for carving.

A whole shoulder clod from page 62

When the book arrived (gratis) at my door from the publisher, my first target was page where I could find my friend the brisket. This cut is made up of two muscles (deep pectoral or flat and the superficial pectoral or point) and comes from the long winded "Brisket/Shank Plate Flank" primal. Also featured is the shoulder clod (pictured above, and on pages 62-69) that can be smoked whole like they do at Kreuz and Smitty's or it can be broken down into more familiar and manageable cuts like top blade steaks or flat iron steaks (which Kari helped develop). It was also enlightening to explore the rib area to see just where the different types of beef ribs come from. Back ribs (page 80) are those formerly attached to the prime rib, so the meat is cut pretty close to the bone so as to allow that meat to sell for ribeye prices. Short ribs (page 137) are from the portion of long ribs just below the rib primal. They can be cut crosswise like you'll generally see at the grocery store, or kept whole like they do at Louie Mueller, Smoke and Lockhart Smokehouse.

A Short Rib (pre-sliced) from Lockhart Smokehouse

While I probably won't be buying any sides of beef to break down a home now that I have this book, it will certainly prove useful for that purpose to any aspiring butchers. For me it was fascinating to see the whole cow laid out so cleanly on the pages with such great explanations about how to create and use each cut. Now I'm just waiting for Volume 2 so we can adequately explore the pig together.

- BBQ Snob

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Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.