You long standing marmots will know that provenance, ingredients and quality are what keep us awake at night. Are these absolutely the best tomatoes in the UK right now? Is this the right type of salt for these radishes? Is this Cosmopolitan pink enough? (True story.)
Maybe we need to get out more, but when your pickiest chef sighs wistfully, shakes the butcher’s hand and declares a side of beef to be the best he’s ever seen things go a bit quiet in the kitchen.
When Chef Karl Doering uttered his proclamation in a field kitchen in the deepest depths of Herefordshire, pans were put down, serviettes remained temporarily unfolded and everyone gathered for a little masterclass from master butcher Neil Powell and his new biggest fan.
As Neil explained, choosing beef cuts is both technical and emotive. Technically, if you’re looking for meat for a steak you need to ask for large cuts from relatively weak, low-activity muscles like the loin. It’s just in front of the cow’s hind quarters and it’s where the three types of sirloin and tenderloin are found. High-activity muscles on the chest and belly are the premium slow-cooking and braising cuts.
When you’re choosing tender cuts, always look for fine grain in the meat, as little tough connective tissue as possible and a low to medium amount of marbled fat spread evenly throughout the muscle. You also want to make sure that you’re slicing up by single muscles when you get your hunk of beef back home for butchering as that makes for a really tender mouth feel. Basically the less you have to chew through the better it will be texturally. Through Neil’s shop individual chefs or home cooks can request bespoke maturation, their record so far is 100 days ageing!
Flavour is certainly an emotive issue and one that intrigues us. The beef that Neil sells is reared naturally in the lush and fertile Herefordshire countryside, and sourced from trusted local farms, including their own. The cattle are tended carefully and kept together and remain calm and stress free on their way to slaughter. We think that this makes all the difference to the final flavour profile. Chef Karl certainly thought so and so did the guests at this particular event, many who were farmers themselves, who raved about the beef course. High praise indeed.