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The Questions You Felt Too Dumb To Ask Your Butcher

By Jake Kalick
May 18, 2019
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Select the perfect cut of meat for dinner and for your budget

So you received your new 10” Fry Pan or 4 QT Saute Pan, you understand proper heating technique for the perfect sear , and now you’re ready to execute the perfect steak dinner. There’s just one catch: when you get to the butcher section you find there are more options than the Netflix menu you plan on scrolling later that evening.

We connected with Johnny Prime CC, one of New York’s most authoritative voices on beef, to help you sort through the clutter at the counter and shop beef like the pros.

Made In: You're hosting a dinner party and want to cook a killer cut of beef. When thinking value, what are the most underrated (and dare we ask overrated) cuts of meat?

Johnny: The most overrated, for me, is definitely the filet mignon. People seem to go bonkers over this cut because it is both incredibly lean and incredibly tender. But to me, incredibly lean also means incredibly boring. While lean beef is surely the healthy alternative, the real way that accomplished chefs get flavor into a filet mignon is by cooking it with lots of butter and lots of salt. That kind of destroys the whole appeal of lean beef, so at that point you may as well get a rib eye and embrace the fat content.

Underrated cuts would be things like skirt, flank, chuck tender and tri-tip. They tend to be cheaper, but I love them because not only are they budget friendly, but they have lots of marbling that can transform directly into flavor if you cook them the right way. They make for great stand-alone or pre-sliced steak preparations, as well as great fillings for fajitas, steak sandwiches or tacos. They're highly versatile for parties.

Made In: If you're going to go all out and blow everyone away, what cut are you buying? How are you preparing it?

Johnny: I would go for a gigantic tomahawk rib eye or a porterhouse. These cuts are stunners because they're such eye-catching and iconic looking steaks. I would get a nice three- or four- inch thick monster cut from the butcher. I would vacuum seal it in a food grade plastic bag with butter, rosemary, garlic, cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt. Then I would let that baby take a nice warm bath in my sous vide machine at 125 degrees for about six hours. I'd pull it out at the party and let it rest while we all enjoyed some cocktails. Why should I slave over the stove or guard the oven? I should be drinking and snacking with my guests as much as possible - the sous vide preparation is perfect for that. Then after a bit I would coat it with more pepper and salt, and sear it off in a screaming hot cast iron pan with butter to get some charred crisp on the outside. Maybe three or four minutes per side while basting the hot, melted button over the top with a spoon. The result is a perfectly cooked medium rare pink from end to end, with a great crust on the outside. Once that rests off the heat for a bit, I would slice it and plate it on a beautiful cutting board or chopping block, alongside the bones.

Made In: What are you looking for when selecting the right cut of meat?

Johnny: Marbling. Always marbling. Marbling is the intra-muscular fat that renders away when cooking and translates directly into flavor and tenderness in cuts of steak. It's also the "good" kind of fat, meaning mono-unsaturated or oleic - like you might find in olive oil or avocados. The more marbling, the better.

I also love dry-aged beef. Dry aging does two things: (1) it concentrates beef flavors, and (2) it creates tenderness. The muscle fibers in the meat break down to become softer, all while the beef flavors concentrate as the moisture content is reduced. A dry-aged steak with lots of good marbling is a double whammy of awesomeness.

Made In: What question can I ask my butcher to make the best selection? and also sound most in the know?

Johnny: I always like to ask him or her if there's anything special in the back that they don't have in the case. While I am clearly a man who is always after the best beef he can find, sometimes a rack of dry-aged lamb or some dry-aged pork chops are a great way to mix things up.

So what are you waiting for? Armed with your new knowledge, grab a bottle of red, head to your local market or delivery service, and soon you’ll be adding “Prime” into your foodstagram handle.

Oh yeah, if you’re curious about whether or not you can flip that steak while it’s cooking, we also solved that for ya.

About Johnny Prime:

Johnny Prime is a professional carnivore. He’s created a website that’s entirely dedicated to steak, steakhouses and meats of all kinds – but mostly beef. He’s eaten at over 100 different steakhouses and reviewed steaks at hundreds of other restaurants on his blog, Aside from reviewing restaurants, he enjoys explaining the various cuts of beef and how to best enjoy them at home with recipe demos. By using the knowledge he obtained through beef advocacy training, he also writes about the history of beef, how beef is raised and gets to our plates, and the nutritional values of beef. Johnny Prime is on a quest to become New York City’s most authoritative voice on beef. With nearly 35,000 followers combined on his social media accounts (@JohnnyPrimeCC), he is well on his way. Johnny also recently began selling high end beef through his online butcher shop,