Book Review: The Everyday Meat Guide

The Everyday Meat Guide: a neighborhood butcher’s advice book, by Ray Venezia with Chris Peterson. I’m going to give this four out of five stars; it has a lot of interesting information, but wasn’t quite as useful as I hoped.

I saw this on the library shelf and picked it up partly out of curiosity, and partly because these days you can’t tell in advance what cut in the meat section will be a reasonable price. Odd things turn up on discount every other time I visit, and some of them I’ve never cooked before. It seemed like a shame to keep passing up potential bargains just because I didn’t know how to best cook a particular cut. So, I thought this might have the information I was after.

…Well, yes and no. This guy’s a butcher who shops at butcher shops, looking for quality; I do my shopping in a regular grocery store, looking for something that I can make tasty that doesn’t cost too much. The cuts aren’t the same, and your average grocery store’s meat section has a wider and sometimes vaguer set of labels, especially when it comes to beef.

That said, this book does have a lot of useful information. It covers poultry, pork, lamb, veal, and beef, and it has color photographs to illustrate each cut. Very, very handy when you’re not sure what something is. It also covers labels – USDA Organic is a costly certification, whereas “organic” is probably just as good but means it was cut by the store’s own meat department from organic meat, not by a certified producer. Steak is a deceptive word; in the meat industry it means meat cut into individual portions, not a piece of meat specifically meant for the grill. Shoulder steaks, chuck steaks, and flat iron steaks are mentioned in particular as “tenderize this with either low-temp cooking or a long acidic marinade”. (This small piece of advice is worth reading the book for, IMHO.)

All told, I’d say this book works on three different levels. If you want basic advice on “what should I look for to find good meat in good condition, and what are the warning signs of meat in bad shape”, read through it and take some notes, it’ll help. I particularly advise this if you’re bargain-hunting to stretch the grocery budget. Bad meat is much, much worse than no meat at all. Better to get just a little good meat and avoid potential gut havoc.

The book’s also good for “what are the basic pieces of the carcass that will be tougher or more tender, and how to cook appropriately”. But it’s aimed a little more at people who want a party-presentable cut than just cooking for your family. If you’re comfortable with a broiler or a slow-cooker, you’ll probably get more out of it than someone just familiar with pots, pans, and stick it in the oven wrapped in tinfoil.

All told, worth a read.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Everyday Meat Guide

  1. If you look in the meat department carefully, you can often find cuts of meat that barely didn’t make the grade above, and get them cheaper. Just look in the cheaper grade for good marbling, and get that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The thing with brown meat vs pink meat – it just means oxygen somewhere along the line, and usually the meat is fine. Just sorta poke it and look for other signs.

    Like when I was back in the deli section working on salami and cracker kits. The salami was exposed to air in the package, and even though it was cured sausage it would change color from air in the package. The salami was fine, and it was just brown.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For a while they were trying to start a panic about the bright red meat that didn’t have visible blood– you get that by being able to process with nitrogen. (90% sure that’s the gas; it’s not toxic, it just displaces oxygen)

      Very minor preservation improvement, but it looks really nice.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. :bounces: Ooh, National Cattlemen’s Association to the rescue!

    [I grew up in a house filled with hand-outs aimed at “how to use every piece of meat”, mostly beef; mom still has some of those bumper stickers from the ’80s with the It’s What’s For Dinner logo]

    https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/cuts/cut/44461/ingredient-cuts

    This is the link to labels-in-the-store list, there’s one for methods you want to use as well.

    Quality warning, don’t use pork the way you would beef– cook it like chicken. It is *awesome* how well you can swap out pork and chicken for recipes.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. After my cooking school, the best information I found on stuff like this is Alton Brown’s big books on cooking. They can be a bit talky, and definitely are gauged to a “barely have cooked” level, but they are very good for that sort of thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve always liked Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”. I bought it from the local co-op when I was 16 and had just taken over cooking for the family and have used it in 4 out of 5 meals since. The recipes are simple, contains a section on how to cook in general at the beginning of the book, with specifics about grain, meat, fish, etc at the begining of their section, and there are usually instructions for simple recipe variations at the the end of the recepies. All in all, it’s a great cookbook for anyone who just wants to make dinner without spending a fortune on specalty ingredeants.

    Liked by 1 person

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