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Ask the Butcher

Q: What’s the best steak?

We get this question all the time! There are two ways I can answer this.

The first answer: It depends on your personal preferences. If you had to choose, would you pick flavor or tenderness? How will you prepare it? Are you looking for delicate, or hearty? Depending on how you answer those questions, you may land on a different steak. Don’t assume that the highest price is always the best steak! Filet mignon, for example, is the most expensive. But this is largely a supply issue (the average cow only yields 10-12 lbs. of filet vs. 20-25 lbs. of other cuts) and not a quality issue, though the legendary buttery tenderness of filet is hard to match and difficult to overstate! Come in and talk to a butcher and they can help you find the steak of your preference!

The second answer: 9 times out of 10, I’ll choose a ribeye. This cut has the ideal amount of marbling for maximum flavor, and it maintains incredible tenderness. The cap on the ribeye, which varies in size and surrounds a portion of the steak, to me is the tastiest part of the cow! So tender. So flavorful. To me the ribeye richly optimizes all the qualities of a good steak.

 

Q: How long can I keep meat in the freezer?

Excellent question! The quality of meat will generally not be affected by freezing for 6 months to a year, depending on how well it is packaged.

All of our meats are wrapped in freezer paper that will protect the product from freezer-burn. If you are planning to freeze for the long-haul (more than 6 months), you can add another layer of protection, such as wrapping it in plastic or putting it in a freezer bag.

 

Q: Do you sell dog bones?

Believe it or not, these are one of our top sellers in the Butcher Shop! We sell beef femur bones, which have large amounts of marrow and are unlikely to splinter relative to other bones, such as rib bones.

These bones have a high marrow content and can keep your dog occupied and satisfied for a long time.

They are usually located in our freezer section, but if you don’t see them, ask anyone behind the Butcher Counter. They are sold frozen and can be given to your dog thawed or frozen. If they are too big, ask the butcher to cut them down to the right size for your pup! He will be happy to oblige.

Q: What is a primal?

 This question comes up a lot because we’ve been throwing the term around quite a bit recently. Most people know what a side of beef is and what an individual cut is (a steak, a brisket, etc). A primal is somewhere between the whole side and the individual cut.

For example, a New York Strip is a steak cut from the short loin. Each short loin will yield 10-12 New York Strips. That short loin, before it is trimmed, carved, and sliced, is the primal.

Our Meat Buyer seeks out good deals on primals and we pass the savings onto you. You save in two ways: First, when we buy a large quantity of primals, we get a discount and pass that discount onto you. Second, when you purchase the whole primal, we are able to give you additional discount because of the volume of your purchase. When you order a primal, you can specify how you want the steaks cut and packaged, so you can store the excess away in your freezer. Primals often come with more than just the steaks, they may come with sides like stew beef or ground beef from the excess meat that was cut away from the beef. Primals are a great way to stock and save, or provide for a large group of people.

 

Q: I can’t grill at my apartment, but I love meat. HELP!

Don’t panic! I have a simple solution for you: Cast-iron. With a good cast-iron skillet you can cook a variety of meats to grill-like perfection. Do a quick Google search for “cast-iron steak” and you’ll find all sorts of possibilities for cooking your favorite steaks. Beef or pork, flank steaks or short ribs, you name it and there’s probably a way to use cast-iron in lieu of a grill. Some recipes combine time in the oven with time atop the stove, while others only use the stovetop.

One thing to be careful about: Don’t add too much oil! You need some to coat the surface of the skillet, but not so much that if you picked up the meat, it would drip the pan’s oil.

 

Q: How do I get bones to make chicken broth?

Homemade bone broth! More and more of our customers are taking this route over purchasing a can. It takes a bit more time than a can, but nothing beats the rich flavor and knowing that any homemade recipe is homemade all the way down to the broth. Homemade broth also avoids unnecessary sodium and, depending on how you get your bones, reduces waste by using more parts of a chicken you are already using to feed your family.

We regularly keep chicken bones, such as chicken backs, that are great for broths and stocks. Any butcher at Tony’s can get some for you.

But I recommend a couple other possibilities:

1) Roast a whole chicken, feed your family, and use the carcass to make broth. If you are making a lot of broth and need more bones, you can supplement with chicken backs from Tony’s, or freeze the carcass until you roast another chicken, then combine the two!

2) If roasting chickens isn’t your thing or you’re short on time, you can buy one of our whole rotisserie chickens and use the leftover bones just as if you roasted the chicken at home!

Good luck with your broth! If you make too much, freeze it for next time!

 

Q: What’s so special about Colorado lamb?

Oh yum. Tony’s doesn’t just carry Colorado lamb because we list Local as one of our values. Colorado lamb really is some of the best around. Restaurants from around the country source lamb from Colorado because of its quality.

The Colorado lamb isn’t better lamb just because its from Colorado. It’s not as though Colorado’s air has something special that makes the lamb delicious. While many lamb producers breed primarily for wool quality with meat quality coming in as a secondary consideration, the industry in Colorado has specifically emphasized meat quality for years. The industry in Colorado has been particularly attentive to developing quality, and it’s paying off!

There are many marketing schemes that have been developed by meat producers to get the consumer to associate a particular breed or region with quality, even though quality may not necessarily link to that breed or region. Not so with Colorado lamb. The industry here in Colorado has made a concerted effort to be sure that the quality matches the marketing. There are many factors that go into quality, from breeding to feeding, and Colorado producers pay close attention to every factor.

Tony’s is proud to carry Colorado lamb. It’s flavor and texture are the best available. As noted above, chefs agree! Some chefs throughout the country will take lamb off of the menu when Colorado lamb is in short supply. Lucky for us, we live here in Colorado, so short supply isn’t one of our problems!

 

Q: What breed of cow produces the best beef?

It depends. We see a lot of marking these days about “Black Angus Beef.” This has a lot of customers wondering about what breed of cow is in the Butcher Counter. But the particular breed (Monfort, Angus, Charolais, etc.) does not mean as much for quality as marketers would have you believe, although quality can certainly be found in each of those categories.

Quality comes from breeding, feeding, and treatment of the animal. Quality in those areas can produce juicy, flavorful, and natural beef among any of the breeds that Tony’s sources.

The best indicator of quality for a consumer is the Premium Choice or Prime designation. These tell you that, regardless of what kind of cow the beef came from, the beef you are purchasing is the best available. Premium Choice and Prime designations are awarded based on objective standards, such as the amount of marbling in the beef, that point to what makes a steak worth serving to our family and friends.