I’ve talked before about the River Cottage Meat Book being the the end all be all of meat-related books – and I stand by that. But as my groaning bookshelves can attest, the world is absolutely full of great books covering all aspects of the meat business – raising animals, sourcing, cutting, marketing, whatever. One of my favorites is The Meat We Eat, a four pound tome of a reference book that has been a constant companion to many flashier books in the butcher’s library. It’s dry – you’d be more apt to confuse this for a textbook than for the River Cottage Meat Book (can we start saying RCMB? I mean, I won’t but maybe let’s think about it). The Meat We Eat makes up for in sheer depth of knowledge what it lacks in polish; you come away from it’s 1112 pages with information that spans just about every aspect of the business from harvesting methods to HACCP plans and microbial safety.
Yup, it’s technical.
As it’s written by meat scientists, The Meat We Eat is very heavy on the scientific aspect of meat production. There’s more info than you probably ever wanted to know about growth of Staphylococcus Aureus, or depilating hog carcasses. Unlike almost any other book on the market, this one has footnotes that direct you to studies relevant to what’s being discussed. It’s one thing to discuss the use of emulsifiers in sausage production, it’s another thing altogether to point readers to Mitraki, et al.’s relevant paper on protein folding defects in commercially available polypeptide binders. Yeah, have a dictionary handy.
At the end of the day, my recommendation isn’t for anyone to read The Meat We Eat straight through. There’s just a ton more important things you could be doing with your time. The beauty of this book is that it’s such a broadly focused reference that just about any meat related question you may have can be answered with a quick trip to the index. From there, you have enough information to move on to more specialized sources – the Marinanski’s books on sausages or Adam Danforth’s great books on slaughter and breakdown. If my last post inspired you to go out and pick up the River Cottage Meat Book (and it should have), then you could do much worse than putting The Meat We Eat right next to it on the shelf.
Muscle Name: Infraspinatus
Other names: Butler’s Steak, Oyster Blade Steak, Top Blade, Patio Steaks, Paleta, Espaldilla de Planchuela, Puffer Steak
Cooking style: Quick – a trimmed down flat iron is barely a 1/2 inch thick. Sear it good both sides and call it a day.
It seems like spring is finally arriving to my sleepy corner of PA. The birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and most crucially – my beloved Weber has finally reappeared from the snowbank it spent the last 5 months hiding inside. It’s reemergence has put grilling firmly in my mind and at this point I’ve been thinking about firing up the grill so much I can practically smell the charcoal. What’s great about the grill is that it’s a great way to cook just about any cut of meat you can think of. There are certain cuts, though, that just cry out to be grilled; they are so well suited for the insanely hot, dry sear you get from charcoal that it’s almost a shame not to grill them. For me, almost no steak grills up better than the Flat Iron.