Tips for Navigating
the Butchering Process

Tips for Navigating
the Butchering Process

What We Do

There is a lot to think about when preparing your cut sheet. We will provide some background to help guide the process. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to call. Just remember, I'm the grower, I've never butchered a cow, but I've been around it a long time and have some tips for navigating the butchering. I also would recommend doing some internet searches where you can get advice from real experts. But here are some thoughts to guide you through the process:

The first thing to consider is whether you want any of the organs, hide, or bones. Since these are removed prior to the aging process, the butcher will need to know if you want to keep them so they can be set aside. Usually, you can get the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas (sweet bread), tail, tongue, and/or hanging tender (also called butcher's steak).

The Fore-quarter consists of:

Chuck – This is the large muscle that comprises the front shoulder. It's not as developed as its counter-part in the rear of the cow, making it more tender. My favorite roast is a chuck roast. It can also be sliced thin for great carne asada or made into chuck steaks. Some butchers will take the more tender parts of the chuck and pull off Sierra and Denver steaks. These are new cuts that are gaining in popularity.

Brisket – This is the front chest muscle. It's tough, but if cooked right it can be very delicious. There are many ideas and methods on the internet. I use a 2 stage ~16 hour total cook time. If you are not the grilling kind, or wish to pick up this skill on a future animal, this can always be ground into burger.

Flat Iron – One of the standard steaks that can be pulled from the Chuck; it’s usually about 1 lb. It's known for its tenderness and can be cooked like any other steak. Highly recommended.

Skirt Steak – This is a flat piece of meat on the inner side of the ribs. I believe it's the diaphragm. It's very flavorful but can get a little tough if overcooked. This makes great fajita meat or stir fry.

BBQ Ribs/and Short ribs – Beef ribs are long, so they are cut into two pieces. I'm a huge fan of pork ribs, but not so much beef ribs. I'll eat them if they find their way to my freezer. If you've never had beef ribs, go to a restaurant that serves them and give them a sample. If you like them and like to grill, then these are for you. If you are uncertain, these can be deboned and ground into burger.

Ribeye – No explanation required. They can be cut into steaks or left whole to cook as prime rib.

The Hind-quarter consists of:

Round – This is the large muscle that is around and below the cow's hip. Can be cut into steaks, but these are of lesser quality. Most commonly used to make roasts, or can be ground into hamburger.

Flank Steak – A somewhat tender piece of steak that is from the abdomen of the cow. I definitely take this cut every time. I will cook it as a steak. It's best to thinly slice it across the grain to increase the tenderness. Like the skirt steak, this cut is great in fajitas.

Sirloin Tip – These can be cut into steaks or left in one piece as a roast. I go either way on this, as roast or steaks, it's a great cut.

Tri-Tip – This is a triangular piece of meat cut from the bottom of the sirloin. They are usually about 1.5 lbs. I love this cut. I grill these for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, at a little under 300 degrees. I will usually coat the meat with a homemade rub, along with some seasoning salt. I will cook it until an internal temperature of 130ish degrees. After you take it off the grill, you have to let it sit for about 20 minutes. The rub makes a great tasting bark on the meat; pay attention to the grain of the meat when slicing; the direction of the grain changes as you work through the meat.

Tenderloin, Fillet Mignon, New York Strip, Porthouse, T-Bone......
These are your prime steaks that are derived from muscles along the spine. These muscles are not worked very hard, and so are quite tender. A couple of things to keep in mind when

selecting your steak package:
The tenderloin is a conical shaped piece of meat that is about 12 inches long. This is the most tender piece of meat in the whole cow.
The Fillet Mignon is the steak that is cut from the tenderloin; these are usually cut thicker 1.5 to 2”. Because it is shaped like an elongated cone, the Fillets will start out about 3.5 to 4” in diameter and get smaller as you work down the muscle.

New York Strip – This set of muscles surrounds the tenderloin. Usually about a 12 oz cut, my favorite way to eat these is cook to medium rare on the grill and then put under the broiler with some parmesan and chives on top (less than a minute), or smoother with sauteed onions and mushrooms.

Porterhouse – This is a New York Strip combined with a Fillet Mignon. This is created when you cut through the bone and take both sides. The Porterhouse is the first 3-4 steaks cut toward the larger end of the tenderloin.

T-Bone – Like the porterhouse, this is the combination of the New York and Fillet Mignon. The difference is that this cut is taken toward the mid part of the tenderloin where you have a slightly smaller Fillet.

Personally, I always take the NY Strip and Fillet's separately. I like them separate - that way you get two moderate steak dinners versus one big one. However, plenty of folks prefer the Porterhouse and T-Bones. You really can't go wrong here; you are choosing between great and great.

Organs & Bones

Tail – great in stews, the meat has a fair amount of fat in it, which makes a great flavor when cooked with onions, potatoes, and carrots. There are many recipes and cooking tips online.

Tongue – This is considered a delicacy in many cultures. When I was younger, my German Aunts used to boil the tongue for sandwiches, and in many of my favorite Mexican restaurants, you can find “tacos de lengua” on the menu. Either boiled for 2-3 hours with a little salt or cooked in a slow cooker for 4 hours, the meat will tenderize nicely and you will be in for a treat.

Hanging Tender – This sits right below the diaphragm muscle, sometimes called the butcher's steak (because it was taken out with the other entrails and available for the snag). It's a delicious muscle that is tender and flavorful. It's very similar to the flank steak or skirt steak. Not to be passed up.

Bones – If you have dogs, they will love the bones. Many of our clients also use the bones to make homemade bone broths or use them for soup bones.
I know my older relatives would use the other organs as well, but I personally don't eat them on a regular basis. I've eaten liver, but it's not a regular in our house. I've never tried the heart, sweet bread, or kidneys (although one time I cut up a heart and was cooking for the dogs and my two older sons came in and started eating it. They loved it, I kept my mouth shut and they devoured about ½ lb each. Later that night, I asked them how they liked the meat. They told me it was really good. I got quite a reaction when I told them what they had actually eaten).
Moving on to the actual carcass---The cow will divide evenly down the spine into two identical 1/2's. This is what the butcher will work with. The front half is called the 'forequarter', and the back ½ is called the 'hindquarter'.