Can You Pass This Butcher's Quiz?

Torrance Grey

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About This Quiz

"Butcher": The very word has an unsavory connotation. In fact, it's had one for a while -- in his youth, the Roman leader Pompey was called "adulescens carnifex," or "butcher boy," for his bloody dealings with enemies. 

But do butchers deserve this kind of shade? Let's examine the evidence. While vegetarian diets make increasing sense as the world's population approaches 10 billion people (that's a lot of mouths to feed!) the developed world struggles with a near-epidemic of diabetes and pre-diabetes. For patients with these conditions, meat is an important -- and enjoyable -- part of what would otherwise be a restrictive diet low on sweets and other carb-heavy comfort foods. Beyond that, let's face it: the role of meat in celebratory dinners and family gatherings isn't going away anytime soon. 

In light of that, a traditional butcher's shop -- as opposed to a supermarket -- can be a good way to find high-quality meats, sometimes even ones that are from humanely raised animals. An independent butcher is very likely to take great care about the safe refrigeration and handling of meats in his or her shop. And, of course, a well-trained butcher is an excellent source of advice on roasting, grilling, braising and other cooking methods. 

Do you know what the guy (or gal) in the white apron knows about meat? For example, could you tell a friend what the best cut of beef is for making fajitas? Or how "baby-back ribs" got their name? Test your steak savvy, or your chop chops, now!

Which of these is a common synonym for "butchery"?

"Fabrication" is the art of cutting up a very large portion of raw meat into manageable cuts. Sometimes, this even means cutting the meat into serving sizes.

Which of these is NOT a cut of meat?

Some vegetables, like fennel, have "bulbs." Meats do not. There are many other cuts of meat beside the three listed above.

Which of these knives would NOT be used in meat fabrication?

Palettes are used by painters (they are the plates with indentations that hold paint in use), and so are palette knives. The other three are all commonly used by butchers -- even clam knives, which can be used to french roasts.

The fibers of the meat are called its _____.

The culinary and lumber industry both use the term "grain" in referring to the texture of the material they work with. In cooking, you'll hear about cutting "with" or "against the grain."

Which of these would be made with a grinder?

Sausage, hamburger, chorizo -- all of these are made with meat grinders. Grinding meat in-house is a good way to control food safety, as the grinding process makes it very easy for foreign pathogens to get mixed into meat, and this is especially true at large-scale meatpacking plants.

Who is most vulnerable to foodborne pathogens?

The very young have developing immune systems, and the elderly often have weakened ones. This puts them on par with immunosuppressed people when it comes to foodborne illness. That is, they're likely to be hit harder by them, possibly even fatally.

True or false: One way to increase meat's safe storage time is to seal it in a vacuum bag.

Vacuum-sealing withdraws air from the packaging, reducing the chance that pathogens in the air will touch and affect the meat. Essentially, meat should touch as few things as possible in order to reduce the risk of spoilage.

Which of these might require a casing?

Not all sausage needs a casing -- the thin membrane that holds it in a long, hot-dog shape. Sausage can be shaped into patties or crumbled and mixed with other foods. But when people refer to "a sausage," they mean one in a casing.

How long do portion cuts usually last in a refrigerator?

Once meat is individually cut for serving, it doesn't last very long. It's better to keep meat in larger cuts until it's needed.

How cold is the average restaurant walk-in refrigerator?

Large restaurant refrigerators are commonly called "walk-ins," and are kept just above freezing. Meatpacking plants can store their meat at freezing temperatures, because they don't need to worry about thawing it to cook -- that's the restaurant's job.

True or false: A "scimitar" is used in butchery.

Although you might associate scimitars with works of fiction like "The Arabian Nights," it is also a knife used in fabrication. A cooking scimitar is usually 12 to 16 inches long with a curved blade.

What does a butcher use water or mineral oil for?

Sharpening stones, once called "whetstones," are lubricated with either water or oil. These aren't just for butchers -- you can buy a sharpening stone for your home kitchen.

A 400-grit stone is ______.

Sharpening stones start at about 100-grit, which will take a lot of material off your knife, so be careful. A higher grit is probably better, even on the coarse end.

How high does grit go in fine-grit stones?

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, author of the weighty opus "The Food Lab," says that most cooks won't need such a high number. He does caution, though, that "You won't believe the difference a sharp blade makes in your cooking."

"Hanger" and "porterhouse" are cuts of what?

These are fairly expensive cuts of beef. You might have had them in a steakhouse.

Which of these meats can you make a crown roast from?

While most of us think of lamb when we think of crown roasts, this can be done with pork, too. If you don't think of anything when we say "crown roast," it's a rib roast shaped in a circle with the bones pointing upward. It's a very striking arrangement.

What part of the pig provides ham?

The upper leg of a pig is generously sized. That's why it provides us with that big cut of meat, the ham.

Which animal gives us "brisket"?

Brisket is a favored cut for barbecue. It's cooked for hours over a low, cool fire.

Cooking a steak to 160 degrees F renders it ...

120 degrees F will give you a rare steak -- which might feel unpleasantly wet or mushy in the mouth. Cook temperatures go up in increments of 10 from there, and 160 degrees is well-done, which is too hard and gray for most people.

If a lamb is slaughtered after it reaches 12 months old, it must be labeled _______.

"Mutton" is the cook's name for the meat of a sheep. "Lamb" is considered more desirable, so most are killed between 6 - 12 months of age.

What part of a pig gives us "pork butt"?

Pork shoulder isn't from the part of the body we usually think of as the "butt." It's actually the shoulder, because "butt" comes from a German word meaning "widest part."

"Forcemeat" is most similar to ...

"Forcemeat" is an old-fashioned word for ground meat. It is sometimes used as stuffing.

What part of the animal does the "hock" come from?

You've most likely heard this word as "ham hock." Ham hocks are added to stews or red and beans and rice to add flavor.

Which of these is the highest grade of beef by USDA standards?

There are eight USDA grades of beef. They are Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner.

How thick does a steak have to be before it becomes a "roast"?

This doesn't sound like much! However, more than two inches will affect how you cook the cut of meat -- roasts are carefully baked according to their weight, so they're still tender in the center, but all potential pathogens are killed.

What is "frenching"?

Lamb and veal chops are often frenched to make for a nicer presentation on the plate. Left alone, chops have fat and sinew all the way to the ends of the bones; this is how pork chops usually come to the table. Leaving some bone sticking out, sometimes with a white butcher-paper wrapping, looks a lot classier.

Which of these is the smallest cut of beef?

The filet mignon and Chateaubriand cuts come from very small muscles called the psoas major. They are known for their tenderness, excellent flavor, and high cost.

Cooking meat slowly in liquids is called ...

The difference between braising and boiling is that braising is done in a mix of liquids, not just water. This might include wine or broth.

To split a cut of meat nearly in half and splay it open for faster cooking is called ...

It's easy to see where this name comes from. The cut of meat is sliced so that it resembles two wings that join at a lengthwise center, like a butterfly.

When poultry is butterflied, this is often called ...

"Spatchcocking" is thought to be a shortening of "dispatch the cock." This means it was a quick way to dress and cook a newly killed bird.

What kind of steak would a butcher likely sell to someone who wants to make fajitas?

Skirt steak is an inexpensive cut that is very tasty when cooked right. Fun fact: "Fajita" comes from the Spanish word "asfajita," meaning "little belt." Who knew there were so many fashion terms in butchery?

Slow-cooking meat in a vacuum-sealed bag is called _______ cooking.

"Sous vide" is French for "under vacuum," and involves slowly cooking the meat in a water bath, in the aforementioned bag. But surprise! It doesn't actually have to have a complete vacuum seal. According to "Food Lab" author Lopez-Alt, carefully pressing excess air out of a zippered plastic bag will give you the same effect.

True or false: Baby-back ribs come from very young pigs.

Baby-back ribs get their name because they are smaller than regular spareribs. The animal is the same age.

If a butcher's customer asks for a "brat," what does he or she want?

"Brat" is short for "bratwurst," and is pronounced "brot." Inexpensive to buy, they taste great with mustard and a beer on the side.

A butcher's shop specializing in dried and smoked meats is called what?

You can pick up a salami or some pancetta at the delicatessen, but not a pound of raw pork. Today, of course, delis are also a place to find cheeses, wines, candy and more.

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