home Forums Kitchen Chit-Chat Buying meat Butcher VS Supermarket

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  • #23954
    HelenAdams
    Participant

    A recent comment by Greg about buying from his butcher has got me wondering wondering about the various options.

    Generally I buy from a supermarket.

    There are two sort of butcher/delis nearby but they are European specialty stores and I have never found the meat to be superior and it is more expensive.

    In other areas there are discount butchers and I will look in if I am in the area, but again seldom buy. They are reasonable price and in most of the meat looks good. The reason I don’t usually buy is I have a pretty full freezer and the savings are not worth filling it more.

    I buy on sale generally and there are 3 stores that offer spectacular savings (loss leaders) regularly and have what I consider high quality meat/poultry/fish.

    But I am now doing sous vide which shines with what used to be cheap cuts, but now are very pricey like brisket for example. Brisket costs as much as filet mignon these days and double what strip loin costs.

    Just curious at the moment as there is only one butcher in the entire Yukon they have to have the meat shipped from the south. They do charcutrie of caribou and some private butchering for hunters, but they are not allowed to butcher and sell game or fish or poultry etc. until it has gone south for inspection which would up the selling price considerably. But soon I will be returning to the real world and
    I am wondering how others shop for meat. I used to have a wonderful butcher but that was a long time ago.

    #23955
    Anonymous
    Participant

    I use both butcher and supermarket. I also get meat from the local farmers market. All my bacon comes from the last. As do most of my prime cuts of beef and lamb. Oh and sausages. I tend to buy (free range) Chickens and mince (ground meat) from the supermarket. Unless chickens show up at the markets. They tend to be much better and IMO worth the premium price I pay there. I don’t think the mince justifies the markup though.

    Meat for stewing I always buy at the butchers. That way I can have it cut the way I want it. The local supermarkets don’t have a cut to order service. And their butchery skills leave a lot to be desired at the best of times. They don’t semi freeze their “stir fry” cuts for example and as a result it is more like ragged stewing cuts.

    Often I will get my stewing steak in the piece and butcher it further myself. For example, I like 2″ beef cubes for Beef Wenty (my take on boeuf a la bourginonne). Even my butcher who is very good, tends to slip into habit and do 1″ cubes about half way into the breakdown. Of course if I ask for a piece of chuck steak at the supermarket they look at me as if I’m from outer space and pull out a “steak”. As for brisket, they tell me I need lady’s wear. Sigh. I think they think I mean corsets.

    #23957
    gteague
    Participant

    did you know that jung had a theory of coincidence? he called it synchronicity but the skeptics brand it coincidence and scorn it. myself, i think it the evidence that magick is working.

    but i said all that merely to say that it’s coincidence that you guys raised this topic just when i came here to post, basically, on the same subject. see–magick!

    i’m sure you guys don’t pay any attention to a stateside outfit called ‘omaha steaks’ as i’m absolutely sure they wouldn’t ship overseas unless you were an oil sheik and sent them a private jet.

    but today i got a coupon from a cookware purchase and when i went to check the site they offered a discount package on top of the discount coupon for signing up — no obligations to buy, btw–i don’t do subscriptions for clubs much.

    http://www.omahasteaks.com/

    so even though the shipping is high if you don’t get one of the ‘free shipping’ offers (i’m sure with my two discounts that would have been pushing it), i ordered one of their combo packages. they say items come packed in dry ice, are individually vacuum packed, and will keep in the freezer for 5 months. here’s the list of items:

    Happy Family Banquet (includes 4 Free Burgers)
    2 (5 oz.) Filet Mignon
    2 (5 oz) Top Srln
    4 (3 oz.) Gourmet Jumbo Franks
    4 (3 oz.) Polynesian Pork Chops
    4 (4.5 oz.) Chicken Fried Steaks
    8 (4 oz.) Omaha Steaks Burgers
    1 (20 oz pkg.) All-Beef Meatballs
    16 oz. pkg. Omaha Steakhouse® Fries
    4 (4 oz.) Caramel Apple Tartlets

    i figured that not only will this give me a very good variety of proteins to cook, that should be enough food (if i don’t ruin too much) to last me the 5 months meaning the only meat i’ll have to buy is the occasional chicken thigh, which are dirt cheap.

    but one bonus was after i placed the order, i found they had some useful tools including a pretty slick (free) iphone/ipad app (attn: @greg). but the very large fly in the ointment is that not once on their site or in the app do they mention sous vide or pressure cooker or induction cooking. nothing nada zip niente zero mentions. geeeeeesh!

    so their steak chart indicates 155ºF/68ºC for medium well–does that sound about right? it matches nearly exactly what my thermoworks food/temperature chart says. and they do explain how to cook on a grill (i’m assuming a pan on the induction must be much the same) and use an internal thermometer probe to determine doneness. but as far as i can see so far, they only mention flipping once. sorry! hope that doesn’t negate the other info there. [g]

    what i found unconscionable was that this steak-elite outfit has instructions for cooking in a microwave? are they serious or just have desperate customers with less cooking skills or equipment than me?

    /guy

    #23958
    gteague
    Participant

    trying to calculate the cost per pound and i guess i’m tired–the equation is eluding me. best i can guess is approximately $10/lb–the meat is about 6 lbs and the cost was $50 if you don’t include the shipping. this doesn’t include the meatballs which would add nearly another 1.5 lb.

    i guess the number of items made me think it was a much better deal than that. but then again, i couldn’t eat more than that in the storage time. and supposedly this is premium meat in every way–they’ve been around a long long time and it’s already vacuum packed which would cost me several dollars to do here. and the portion sizes are perfect for single meals which means i don’t have to trim from larger cuts so waste should be nil.

    #23959
    Anonymous
    Participant

    I am always wary of these bulk deal specialists. They are after all a business trying to make money. If they seem cheap there will be a “gotcha” somewhere. Perhaps quality or maybe their “filet mignon” isn’t. Or What’s in their meatballs/ burgers?

    That said it may be they are relying on volume sales to keep prices down. There are quite a few that use that business model. In which case you are on a winner.

    As for cooking techniques, we are moving you straight into 21C methods. Lots of people haven’t caught up. Never mind that pressure cookers have been around for centuries, and even sous vide is pushing 50. Cooks are a conservative lot. What worked for a caveman once is still being used unquestioned by a lot of cooks out there. Even Marco Pierre White did a masterclass on steak on my MasterChef last night. He said to cook a perfect steak, flip it once. Mind you his demo steak was, even to my eyes, raw in the middle. And definitely overcooked on the outside. Possibly even to yours.

    The idea behind both the multi flip approach and sous vide is to reduce the temperature gradient so that more of the steak is cooked perfectly. SV can deliver edge to edge perfection. Multi flip doesn’t quite get there, but it comes close. Which is why resting times are shorter. I think that 68°C is nudging boot leather, but if that’s the way you like it. Fine. Just don’t invite me round for dinner. I just checked the thermoworks chart. I have one too. 68°+ is described as “brown chewy”. 63-68°C is “medium well”. So say 65° (150°F). Though as always I’d be happier if you tried lower.

    The fact that they recommend cooking steak in a microwave (shudder!) should tell you a lot about their target market and the quality of their meat.

    The snow has mostly melted now.

    #23962
    gteague
    Participant

    even if you prove right in being pessimistic (the offer could simply be one of helen’s ‘loss leaders’ to suck in potential marks, er, customers) the fact that i have no experience with judging meat quality might work for me. [g]

    another bonus i forgot to mention is that i detest wasting money on food that i could spend on gadgets, so i’m automatically incentivized to cook and eat all i ordered. it hurts my soul to have to throw food away and the cats can only eat so much.

    there’s not much in the pkg that is pc fodder, but seemingly a nearly 50/50 split between sv and the frying pan. which are the two devices i need the practice with.

    but really, i cringe and wince and throw up a little in my mouth every time gordon ramsey (and nearly all the others too except for texas grillmasters!) reveals a steak he’s cooked and it looks like lipstick or fingernail polish inside. especially those wellingtons which are his speciality (wellies he calls them). i doubt i could be persuaded to ever even cut into one of those. when the competitors cook meat it has to be iced over before one of the judges declares it ‘raw’.

    #23963
    gteague
    Participant

    btw, take zappa’s advice: ‘watch out where the huskies go / don’t you eat that yellow snow’. prob not many huskies down there though …

    #23964
    gteague
    Participant

    and, having no previous knowledge of cooking techniques, to me, when you explained sv cooking you hadn’t gotten 5 sentences into it before i was saying to myself–how did it take them 400 years to come up with this? and of course i know part of the answer is that the control and measuring tools have only appeared in the last 50 years or so.

    sv not only makes perfect logical sense to me, it appeals to the pseudo-scientist/geek in me as well. my only problems so far is that everything comes out too cold and soulless, but the skillet and learning to brown should solve most of this for me.

    #23965
    Anonymous
    Participant

    It will certainly help. I find the best answer is to preheat the plate. And don’t muck about getting it to the table. Hang on, you live alone. Just eat it right out of the frypan while it’s still on the stove.

    #23966
    Anonymous
    Participant

    It’s not the yellow snow I have to watch out for. After all that has added vitamins. :D It’s the pink snow. And yes it does exist. I’ve seen it in Antarctica. Some kind of bug living in it supplies the colour.

    PS. this is Helens thread. We shouldn’t hijack it too far.

    #23967
    gteague
    Participant

    oops. i truly had forgotten. i treat all threads like free-for-alls. when the internet started we didn’t have these newfangled artificial separations by golly. dad gum it we all got together in one huge chat room and had at it. [g]

    and that’s another reason i use the bandwidth saving [g] instead of ;) or whatever that thing is. with a 300 baud (110 baud was an earlier one no one remembers), 3 bytes was a lot and the 80 bytes it would take for a smiley (even if any character set supported it–which it didn’t) was unthinkable.

    #23972
    Anonymous
    Participant

    300 baud? You ARE a spring chicken. The first modems I dealt with were high speed 75 baud units. [g] is three characters. :) is two. Assuming ASCII thats 33% extra of my limited bandwidth. Grrr!

    #23975
    Laura Pazzaglia
    Keymaster

    Well, where I am the food is very high quality except for the supermarket meat. Everytime I buy it I’m unhappy with the cut (pork chops with bone chips loose in the meat) or the quality (ground meat is very watery).

    So I go to my semi-local butcher I have to drive a bit but he’s close to my children’s school. When I want ground meat he’ll take bits of this and that and put it through the grinder. The mixture is much dryer and if it needs to be browned (say for a ragu or a chili) I’m not spending the first 30 minutes “boiling” the meat so it will dry enough to fry and brown.

    He’s very flexible and I order special “American” cuts ahead of time and he’s always happy to do it for me. Most recently I asked for two whole racks of ribs for a BBQ and before that thick-cut pork chops. When I was doing photographs for the hip cookbook I needed extra-thick veal cuts for the ossobuco recipe and special beef roasts to make”brisket”. I brought the book over a few months ago and he was thumbing through it delighted. He was saying “oh, yea I remember when you asked me for that cut of meat!”

    But, I also shop for the family there. He has these neat “package” deals for a set price which are 5 kilos of meat each is a different kind. So when I feel like I’m always buying the same thing I get the and I bring home various mixes (like chicken legs, stewing pork bits, beef steaks, mixed ground meat and turkey breast) for a very reasonable price per kilo. I think I paid €3.50/kilo which is about a third the going price of beef per kilo. And it’s not like he’s getting these “packages” from the back. He puts them together in front of you using the meat in the display case.

    Of course, we don’t eat meat very often so I break-up each meat type in 500g portions and freeze. So 5k (about 10 lbs) of meat lasts my family of four about a month or two.

    The only thing I feel guilty about, is that I don’t really like the chicken. It’s Italian free-range raised and tastes very game-y. It kind of tastes like feathers, or something. I think I’m too used to the American crate-raised, brined old meat to appreciate the quality of Italian chickens.

    Maybe I should try the supermarket chicken, here. : (

    Ciao,

    L

    P.S. Guy, don’t go buying meatballs – they’re so easy to make yourself!!! This autumn I’ll post my meatball recipe online. The jist of my technique it is that I start the sauce and boil it in the open pressure cooker. Then I drop the raw meatballs in as I make them. It’s easier to bring to pressure and you have a place to put the meatballs down as you make them from the mixing bowl.

    #23976
    gteague
    Participant

    @laura, i think that meatball thing was just added in there to bulk up the bundle, but i’ll take your advice if i want to make more. i’m not much of a meatball eater anyway.

    and remind us the italian word for ‘butcher’ or ‘butcher shop’. i remember it as being one of the hardest words to pronounce and thus to spell of the italian vocabulary i learned. of course my memory has been playing hob with me lately, so i could be thinking of the wrong word.

    ps: i’m only up this early because the dammed i gatti destroyed my radio desk. luckily, everything seems to have power back up after 45 minutes of putting it all back into place. but i gatti are in exile in a locked bathroom and i spray air freshener in there when i pass by–they hatehatehate air freshener!

    so it’s buongiorno presto and ciao a tutti. i’ll be back in nel pomeriggio destroying more perfectly good threads

    /guy (guido)

    #23981
    Laura Pazzaglia
    Keymaster

    Macellaio (butcher) or Macelleria (butcher shop) ; )

    Re: cats. They probably thought it was time you re-organized the area. I think the spray sound makes them think the bottle is hissing at them.

    I manage a large neighborhood colony of cats (they are a protected species in Rome) – some really want to come in the house but my husband is allergic!

    He already put up with my two senior diabetic 2x-a-day-insulin-injection-dependant cats the first half of our marriage so I can’t torture him anymore with strays. But we have a very furry balcony! ; )

    Also, vacations are much easier to plan since we can just leave a bag of food to the neighbor – and the little old ladies pick-up the slack.

    Ciao,

    L

    P.S. I have a neighbor who only comes to her house in the summer time and she dearly loves the cats. The rest of the year I snap photos of the various cats with my cell phone for her.

    #23984
    gteague
    Participant

    well @greg, when the kitty pictures come out, you _know_ the thread topic is well and truly underwater!

    gatti del diavolo: red tom is rosso il gatto or ross. black female is sambe la gatta or sam. my friend who works at an animal shelter said that every cat needs a long name and a short name. and i’ve never had a cat i didn’t speak to in italian although i could no longer remember my vocabulary by the time these two came along last year. i lived in a tiny apartment next to dfw airport for 25 years and worked 18 hour days, sometimes every day of a week or two. i couldn’t put cats through that, so i’ve been sans gatti for two and a half decades but the first thing i did when i moved to the country was to rectify that but now i look back after this latest incident of destruction i look back on those years as very peaceful!

    2015_0405 cats in bed 3

    #23985
    Anonymous
    Participant

    I guess all we need now is a reference to Hitler. Did I just do that? Sigh. Sorry about killing your thread Helen. ;)

    #23986
    gteague
    Participant

    nearly past your bedtime old man! i plan to go back to (try to) sleep myself. at least i got to watch the start of the (british) open for a change–with uk time it starts at 0400 for the tv broadcast.

    btw i do love it that i sow chaos and you apologize for it. keep that up! [g]

    #23987
    Laura Pazzaglia
    Keymaster

    Back to pressure cooking… I’ve been mulling over pressure cooking cat food.

    Just saw an expose’ on kibbles and it was revolting. Might work well as a recipe for the website, too. They said brown rice was very nutritious non-protein filler.

    Must ask THE BUTCHER or SUPERMARKET which cuts of meat would be best. ; )

    See? We’re back!

    Ciao,

    L

    #23991
    gteague
    Participant

    about the only time mine get meat is the occasional scraps from my cooking–they won’t eat processed meat or meat out of a can. but my pc cooking is becoming so good i don’t like to share and they only get them when i’ve made too much of an item and get burned out and want to clear the decks for something else.

    #24006
    HelenAdams
    Participant

    @guy I am not always on topic myself.
    We have several companies selling similar packages in Canada. I have priced a few and the cost is double what you would pay are double normal supermarket prices or more. We also have a plan or two where people pay so much a month and have a massive delivery at Christmas. Again double or more, but I know people who buy these. Those who detest shopping or are unable to budget.

    An exception to this is the coupon websites like Groupon. Often you can buy premium meat and seafood from very highly regarded local butchers at less than supermarket prices for regular grade. You don’t save big bucks per meal, but can buy something you normally could not afford for a bit less than you would normally pay. ie T-Bone steak and lobster on a bologna budget.

    BTW has anyone noticed the trend in recent years of selling mystery meat like hot dogs and bologna at the same prices or more as New York Steak for example.

    #24007
    HelenAdams
    Participant

    @greg
    I butcher a lot of my own meat and have a couple of books on it. But my two favorite supermarket butchers are great. When Pork butt went on sale for 99 cents a lb. (at the time 0.87 USD) I asked them to saw it into three pieces, no problem. Made it much easier for me to cut it into chops, roasts, cutlets etc. And I often get a turkey sawed in half.

    Pork is right now the cheapest meat in Canada but surprisingly lamb is becoming cheaper. I do love lamb.

    No farmers markets near me here or in the south. And I am pretty sure organic in this country means they accidentally ate some fresh grass on the way to the slaughterhouse. Not saying it doesn’t exist, just that the certified labeling standards are pretty lax.

    #24009
    Anonymous
    Participant

    Hey I’m not exactly above wandering off topic either. I just try to consider the OP’s reason for posting and bring it back. At least I don’t talk about cats. :P

    I don’t break down whole carcasses. Just turn roast sized lumps into sizes I want to use. Unless I actually want a roast of course. Currently cooking another of those rolled lamb roasts I mentioned the other week. [email protected]°C this time. I also checked. It is labeled as a “loin”.

    Lamb is common here. Much more common than uncured pork. Veal is almost nonexistent. And beef roasting pieces are rare. It is almost always sold as steaks (even Chuck!!!) stewing chunks or stir fry strips. Almost every roast made in the country on any given night will be either a leg of lamb or a chicken.

    I’m jealous of your supermarket butcher. Our supermarkets no longer have an in house butcher. Not even an apprentice. All the meat is butchered centrally and shipped in prepackaged. You can’t even ask for a specific amount. You just have to get the number of packs that cover what you want.

    Feral cats are not cherished here. Just this morning there was a radio report of a new study that indicates that feral cats are responsible for the deaths of over a million native animals EVERY NIGHT. Certainly I see a lot fewer small birds and animals than I did as a kid. My father used to complain about bandicoots digging holes in his lawn nearly every night. I haven’t seen one in decades. The radio presenter admitted on air to having just got a new kitten. There was a stony silence from the interviewee (You could feel the frost in the air). Followed by “well I hope it’s desexed AND kept indoors”. His emphasis. She hastened to assure him it was. We don’t like bunny rabbits either. We are a nation of Elmer Fudds.

    #24010
    gteague
    Participant

    when i was growing up in west texas, horny toads were ubiquitous and you could hardly go anywhere without treading on one since the anthills they fed on were so plentiful. btw, they can squirt out their eyes, and quite a distance!

    the rest of the world knows them as horned lizards but i haven’t actually seen one in the wild for nearly 30 years now. and they have to have been around a long time before us (and maybe pesticides?) arrived. honey bees are suffering from the same thing they speculate. unfortunately, whatever is killing these critters isn’t affecting fire ants or wasps or scorpions or rattlesnakes in any way whatsoever. you’d think a biological scientist could figure out what makes them immune.

    and yeah, encouraging feral cats is very much frowned upon here as well although many out here in this semi-rural area feed them. you have to admit, they are completely irresistible!

    #24011
    HelenAdams
    Participant

    Well not many feral cats in the Yukon unless you count the cougars and the odd wildcat. No feral dogs either which I believe is an Australian concern. And we have no kangaroos feral or not AFAIK but someone but dis try and start an ostrich farm IIRC. I have come face to face with a black bear once while walking the dog and more than one moose. The moose are the scariest. But the existing wildlife is one of the charms of both the Yukon and Vancouver.

    Beef is probably the most commonly sold item here these days. Maybe has been for centuries. Any cut/type imaginable and they are coming up with new one I think. All beef, or 100% beef is a common advertisement. Grade is ignored by most even the butchers. And while everything must be graded it is kind of a rubber stamp.

    I do consider myself lucky, I get the impression these guys are a tad bored and happy to get a request. Both big stores and I do not go there more than twice a month so it isn’t like they really know me. I do fire off an email when I get exceptional service, but they probably do not know that.

    I don’t breakdown whole carcasses either although I used to help my grandfather do it. Never actually killed an animal either unless you count mousetraps but have seen it done. Here in the Yukonit is commonplace to shoot your first moose/caribou by 10 years old. A different life.

    I have read about the Australian bunny rabbit problem for decades. Here we have the spruce bud worm and various seaweed etc. killing of our native species and plants/trees. Of course we the people are probably the worst culprit in North America.

    #24015
    Laura Pazzaglia
    Keymaster

    I think the difference is that Italy is much more developed and there are very few “wildlife” areas anymore. The ones that exist, like the beach resort where my kids go, have re-planted forests so all the pine trees are in perfect lines. There are either farms, or populated areas – very few and small isolated wild areas (there are just too many Italians).

    Rome is trying to do a “natural” urban balance in that there is a very large rodent problem and we know what brought on the dark ages around here. They’re also moving to an all natural insect control (they’ve been spraying cities with anti-mosquito spray several times a year for like.. ever). So now they’re encouraging the bat population and give free bat houses to homeowners to install. I don’t know when they’ll phase-out regular disinfestations because now, the bats go hungry after they spray.

    In the summer we sit on the balcony after dinner and look at the light pole in front of our house. It has a cloud of insects buzzing around and once in a while and bats swoop in and out of the light eating their dinner.

    Areas of the world that have swathes of un-touched wilderness have more of a duty to maintain the natural ecosystem so they are more sensitive to invasive and destructive species.

    Ciao,

    L

    #24111
    gteague
    Participant

    my ‘big box o’meat’ just arrived and i’m blown away so far. i’ve never been exposed to dry ice and i’m now convinced it’s a miracle substance!

    the meat arrived in a huge, thick styrofoam cooler. better quality than you get when you’re going on a picnic and realize you don’t have a cooler and zip down to the local dept store to buy a cheap one for $5-10.

    remember that it’s headed towards 100ºF/38ºC this afternoon and this has been in texas for at least 48 hours now if not longer since it got stuck over the weekend in dfw.

    i opened it up and received a cold blast in my face. granted, it’s 86ºF/30º in my house, so it doesn’t take much cool to feel refreshing. i grabbed my thermometer and the air was around 60ºF/15º at the top of the box, but as i worked my way down to the bottom where the boxes were still frosted over it dropped to below 30ºF/-1.1ºC.

    i expected all this stuff to be in plastic vacuum-sealed bags and just piled in the cooler. but each item was in a thick cardboard box and i had to scramble to make some room in the freezer. the boxes were still partly frosted over and at the bottom of the box i found about a one foot square bag of dry ice way less than 1/2″/12mm thick. it was about 90% still frozen, to my amazement! needless to say, i’m saving the cooler for our next power outage–i didn’t have one already. i don’t know if i could ‘save’ the dry ice–i guess i could try to put it in the freezer and see? except i have little room left in there.

    <i moved it there. btw, that stuff _hurts_ your fingers! should have used my oven mitts!>

    here’s the freezer shot. gonna do invoice inventory to make sure i got all i paid for. but as far as i’m concerned i can see that some of my money went into planning and packaging, which is encouraging. it means they sweat the details and hopefully their meat has been picked the same way.

    omaha steaks bundle

    #24115
    Anonymous
    Participant

    Dry ice is VERY cold. Much colder than your freezer. So you won’t be able to store it there, though you will slow down its evaporation. It will make everything in your freezer much colder though.

    Also it sublimates. This means it goes direct from frozen to gas so it is very hard to tell just how much has gone unless you know how much was there in the first place. There is no puddle to gauge completion.

    Rumour has it it is very good for making ice cream. Powder it very fine and add it to your custard. It freezes the custard very quickly so no ice crystals form. The result is very smooth and creamy ice cream. You need to make sure that all the dry ice has gone before you eat it though. As you have discovered, dry ice burns bad. I can’t imagine what it would do to your mouth. Correction. I don’t want to imagine it.

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