If you’re earning a culinary arts certificate online, you’re familiar with a wide range of classic cuts of meat. A perfectly cooked filet mignon or pork tenderloin has formed the basis of many fantastic dishes for generations. Over the past few years, however, many chefs have come to embrace more unusual choices of meat, and in the National Restaurant Association’s 2017 survey, new cuts topped the list of hot food trends.
These pieces of meat are appealing to both diners and culinary professionals because of their novel flavors and textures, but also because they tend to be less expensive than some more familiar pieces of meat. When you learn about some of the exciting cuts being sold at butcher shops and served at restaurants today, you may discover some great new ideas for your own dishes.
Beefing up your cooking
Certain cuts of meat are not well known to American diners simply due to cultural differences. For example, hanger steaks have long been popular in Europe, but they’ve only recently caught on in the U.S. Cory Harwell of Simon Hospitality Group in Las Vegas explained to Thrillist why he considers this steak the most underrated piece of beef.
“Hanger steaks have only recently caught on in the US.”
“The hanger steak comes from the plate, which is the lower belly of the animal, and literally ‘hangs’ from the diaphragm,” Harwell said. “You’ll find it to be rich and full with a hearty, beefy flavor, similar to that of a ribeye, but without the price tag.”
Many new forms of beef have appeared in recent years as a result of research largely funded by the Beef Checkoff Program overseen by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So far, the most successful product to emerge from these efforts is the flat iron steak. Taken from the shoulder of the animal, this cut was invented in 2002 by a pair of university researchers. According to Tedium, cutting with the grain to remove the meat from the connective tissue in a specific way resulted in a tasty, nicely marbled steak that sold at an affordable price and thus quickly gained popularity.
A number of other steaks have been invented to try to follow in those footsteps. Students at Colorado culinary schools are likely familiar with the Denver steak, introduced in 2009. This piece of beef is also taken from the shoulder area, specifically the underblade. Westword noted that the steak is remarkable for having more than two times the marbling of tenderloin, making it an exceptionally satisfying alternative.
The bonanza cut emerged from work at the University of Nevada Reno. Nevada Today explained that it’s a relatively small piece of meat that packs in flavor and tenderness almost akin to filet mignon. Plus, it’s simple to trim: When the beef for the flat iron steak is separated with the proper technique and angle, the two quarter moon-shaped pieces of bonanza emerge from the area between the ribs
Pigging out on fresh cuts of pork
Butchers have also explored a number of intriguing and unusual cuts of pork that are now gathering fans around the world. For instance, GQ Australia recommended exploring the possibilities of the pork collar as an alternative to pork belly. Available at low cost, the well-marbled neck is commonly used for making Italian salumi, but it’s perfect for a variety of other purposes. The meat can be left whole and grilled or braised, or it can be cut into steaks.
Bon Appetit suggested a few other cuts of pork well worth trying, such as the pork top sirloin steak. Characterized by a healthy amount of fat content and connective tissue, this chop will yield the best results when it’s first seared on the stove and then roasted in the oven. The secreto, or pork skirt steak, comes from an area near the belly and is great when well-seasoned and prepared on the grill.
Chefs can find a great deal of inspiration by visiting their local butcher. When you try a few unusual cuts in your cooking, you have the opportunity to create a dish that truly stands out. Use your culinary academy training to bring the best out of beef and pork in all shapes and sizes.