Understanding Meat


What is brisket?

There are so many questions that follow "what is brisket?". Where does it come from? Are the two kinds of brisket? How to cook brisket?, and once you’ve got that down, how do you slice a brisket? Let’s start at the very beginning, and then highlight how to cook brisket in an oven, in a slow cooker and on a grill. In the end, you'll know how to make brisket for any occasion.

A full brisket is a single cut of beef, and each cow has two: one on each side, just above the front shanks and below the chuck. The confusion comes from when you’re standing in front of the meat case, and see three different-looking pieces of meat, and they all say beef brisket. A full beef brisket is two pieces of meat that make up the whole. The butcher takes the brisket apart and trims it so that you have the choice between the leaner piece, usually called the flat brisket or first cut, and the more marbled piece with the most fat, often called the brisket point or second cut. The flat brisket is traditionally prepared on Jewish holidays, turned into corned beef or sometimes used in pho. The point brisket is the classic cut that's cooked in barbecue. All brisket, no matter which cut you choose, is a tough cut of meat that needs to be cooked low and slow.

No matter what method you use to cook your brisket, if you don’t slice it correctly when it’s done cooking, eating it won’t be an enjoyable eating experience. Slicing across the grain is key.

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What’s the difference between Baby Back, St. Louis and Spare Ribs?

Despite the big differences in the size of baby back ribs and spare ribs, they’re really just two different pieces of the same slab of meat.

Baby back ribs are cut from the top of the rib cage, near the backbone. Spare ribs are cut from the bottom of the rib cage and sometimes they include the brisket, which is a bony piece of meat that hangs from the bottom. The farther down the rib cage you go, the meatier the ribs become.

That is essentially why spare ribs take longer to cook.

St. Louis ribs start off as spareribs, but they're trimmed down (the sternum, cartilage, and rib tips are removed) to a rectangular shape and more uniform appearance that's easier to cook and eat, making them a great rib for beginners.

Most of the spareribs you see are St. Louis-cut.

Do you boil the ribs to get them this tender?

We are very often asked if we boil the ribs we sell to make them this tender. We say……NEVER boil the flavor out of your meat. Instead boil some shrimp to eat while you smoke the real meal with techniques that will make the ribs so tender they will appear to be boiled.

Pork Butt

Butt vs. Shoulder

What is Pork Shoulder?

A pork shoulder is also known as a pork picnic roast or pork picnic shoulder. This portion of the pig’s shoulder is the triangular portion of a pig’s lower leg. This muscle is used a lot, making the meat tough with much less marbling. It is usually sold with the skin on.

Pork butt and pork shoulder are both cuts that come from the pig’s shoulder (despite the term pork butt suggesting otherwise). Both are relatively inexpensive cuts that lend themselves to low-and-slow cooking.

Pork butt is a cut of meat that comes from the thicker section of a pig’s shoulder and includes parts of the neck, shoulder blade and upper leg. It’s a semi-tough cut of pork that contains a lot of connective tissue and fat marbling throughout; it’s typically sold with the fat cap intact. This cut is also labelled as Boston butt—supposedly, in Revolutionary New England, it was stored in specialty barrels called “butts,” and the technique for cutting it originated in Boston.

Pork shoulder, which can also be labeled as picnic shoulder, comes from the thinner, triangle-shaped end of the pig’s shoulder, just above the front leg. It has less marbling and fat than pork butt. Pork shoulder is often sold with the skin on and a layer of fat.

There are a few differences to keep in mind when deciding which one to use.

Because pork butt has intense fat marbling and a concentration of connective tissue, it can endure hours of cooking. Pork butt is an ideal choice for barbecue pulled pork, but it also lends itself to braising and stewing, which tenderizes the meat and melts the fat. Use pork butt in any recipe where you’re looking for fall-apart-tender meat and a rich, porky flavor, such as pulled pork, carnitas or stew.

Pork butt can also be roasted or made into ground pork or sausages.

When you want the meat to hold its shape when sliced or chopped, opt for pork shoulder. Pork shoulder can be roasted whole and sliced, like ham, or braised and sliced or chopped before serving. It can also be cut into chunks for stew or chili recipes. Since pork shoulder is sold with the skin on, pork shoulder is also your best bet if you’re looking to obtain a crisp skin (although you can trim the skin if desired). Pork shoulder can also be used to make ground pork.

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