Use your local butcher as a resource—as a meat expert, the butcher knows the answers to all of your questions.
Most of us head to the grocery store when we’re looking for a good cut of meat. We’re used to the usual suspects—top sirloin, chuck steak, ribeye—but more and more, new cuts are appearing on the scene. Until recently, we haven’t seen cuts like hanger steak or boneless chuck short ribs at the meat counter. These cuts were so unpopular, you couldn’t give them away, and butchers usually kept them for themselves. In the last few years, chefs have started prominently featuring “butcher’s cuts” on their menus. Just like that, cuts like short ribs went from hidden to hip (which, consequently, made them much more expensive).
The influx of unfamiliar cuts of meat can be exciting, but it can also be confusing. Lucky for us, we have an invaluable resource—our butchers. They’re the local meat experts, and they do more than just stand behind a counter and cut steaks. I had a chat with Taste of Home’s Senior Food Editor, Rashanda Cobbins, about how to break the ice at the butcher counter.
Q: What made you start chatting with your local butcher?
A: Many people aren’t aware, but butchers are meat experts and can recommend the perfect cut of meat for any cooking occasion. They also can break down larger pieces of meat for you if you’re not skilled in that area.
Q: Do you go to an actual butcher shop to special order cuts of meat?
A: No, I don’t typically, as I don’t order special, large cuts of meat. I visit the meat counter at higher-end grocery stores, like Whole Foods, where they are often able to accommodate my needs. If you’re looking for a specialty cut of meat that may not be available at your local grocery store, like leg of lam or crown lamb roast, you may be better off visiting a butcher shop.
Q: I’m seeing a lot of new names at the meat counter these days—flap meat, clod heart, bistro steaks—how can the home cook know what these are and how to cook them?
A: It can be confusing, because the same cut of meat can be labeled differently at each grocery store. Ask the person at the meat counter for help.
Q: What is your favorite cut of meat?
A:Cube steak (which usually comes from the top round or sirloin) is one of my go-to’s—I like it for weeknight meals. It’s inexpensive and it doesn’t require a terribly long cook time; however, the longer it cooks, the more tender it is.
Q: How do you cook specialty cuts?
A: I love short ribs for braising. They can be expensive, but they’re great for special occasions. Chuck roast is perfect for roasting; I usually buy it when it’s on sale and freeze it so I can add it to my dinner schedule anytime. For grilling, good options are skirt steak, flank steak and tri-tip. Make a homemade marinade to help tenderize them.
Q: What advice do you have for the first-time special-meat orderer?
A: Ask questions! Don’t be afraid to get suggestions from the butcher or ask if the meat is locally sourced. You want to make sure you are getting the best cut of meat for your needs and your budget!
Now that you’re an expert in chatting up the butcher, check out our 32 favorite steak recipes to grill, broil or pan-fry your way to the perfect steak dinner.
You definitely don’t have to keep steak for special occasions. One of the easiest ways to cook it is seared in a cast-iron skillet with or without butter. All you need after that is a nice leafy salad to complete the meal.
You won’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen with this dish as both the Asian-inspired coleslaw and the grilled steak come together quickly. Just the thing for breezy nights, the colorful combo is perfect for summer gatherings of any size.
By using top sirloin, this dish is great for a weeknight dinner for two or four. The rich mushroom-wine sauce brings out the best of the beef-forward flavor, and it tastes great with sides like roasted potatoes and green beans.
Broil, grill or quickly sear these steaks in a cast-iron pan to get a nice caramelized crust on the outside while keeping the meat tender inside. The size of the steaks, blue cheese topping and croutons can easily be cut in half for smaller portion sizes.
Butterfly and flatten a flank steak so there’s a large surface area for this savory red pepper and spinach stuffing. Roll it up, wrap in bacon (yes!) and grill for a few minutes. Once sliced, serve with a delicious creamy blue cheese sauce.
Flank steak is great for the grill, especially with this lime and garlic marinade, and it cooks quickly, just a few minutes per side. After letting it rest, slice against the grain. Need more ideas for this economical cut of beef? Check out some of our other flank steak recipes.
Cook marinated top sirloin steak for this zesty salad, or feel free to use leftover steak from another meal. While the base is leafy romaine lettuce, add anything else you love to the bowl, from cucumbers and mushrooms to cheese.
Skirt steak is usually a pretty tough cut with lots of connective tissue. That’s why you want to use something like this beer and lime marinade to tenderize it and add flavor. Like other grilled steak recipes, a quick sear over the fire is all it takes.
Once you learn a great steak marinade recipe, you’ll be able to turn even the toughest cut of meat into a delicious dinner. This sweet citrus marinade transforms flank steak into a tender flavorful cut.
There are so many wonderful flavors in this salad, thanks to fresh greens, mandarin oranges, strawberries and a citrusy vinaigrette. The only thing you need to cook is the steak, and dinner is on the table in no time.
The sharp peppery flavor of horseradish has always been a great foil for a rich, juicy steak. Blend it with cream cheese, parmesan and parsley for a delicious steak topper, and serve with a classic baked potato.
These teriyaki steak skewers will be the hit of your next backyard barbecue. The aroma alone will get everyone’s attention, but once they taste the sweet and savory marinade, they’ll be hooked. You can easily double or triple this recipe for a crowd.
Make this whole meal on the grill for your next cookout. The steak gets a brush of vinegar and Worcestershire before a rub of zesty spices, and the potatoes taste great with a little char from the fire.
A marinade of balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and Dijon adds a ton of flavor to this steak, and it complements the sharp blue cheese topping. Any cut that you’d grill works here, including sirloin, strip or ribeye.
The sharpness of tomatoes, lemon, onion and feta is the perfect foil for a deliciously rich ribeye. Serve it with this Creamy Roasted Garlic and Spinach Orzo side dish for a more authentic Mediterranean meal.
Talk about peak summer. Sometimes all you need for a perfectly grilled steak is a side of fresh garden tomatoes marinated in raspberry vinaigrette and fresh herbs and spices. A side of cheesy potatoes or sauteed green beans work, too!
Porterhouse or T-bone steaks are great on the grill, especially when rubbed with garlic and served with wine-soaked mushrooms. Take dinner to another level with creamy twice-baked potatoes and a Caesar salad.
With Dijon and herbs de Provence, this full-flavored marinade practically takes you to the French countryside. After the steaks come off the grill, top with a savory herb butter. For something more American, try our new obsession: cowboy butter.
Easy to prepare, steak pinwheels make a statement, especially with this savory mushroom filling. It’s a great summertime option when the grill (and the days and nights) are hot and you want to keep the kitchen cool.
You don’t need to fire up the grill for kabobs! Use the air fryer for this steak recipe instead. These fun steak skewers cook in just about the same amount of time without the fuss. Serve with corn or flour tortillas and pico de gallo.
Butter, Dijon and onion turns an everyday steak dinner into something special. Ribeyes are the choice cut for this steak recipe, but you can do the same with a NY strip or tenderloin; the sauce is even great on chicken or burgers.
You’ve seen the bacon-wrapped filet mignon at the grocery store, but it’s just as easy to make at home. This recipe is perfect for two (yay, date night!), but it can easily be doubled or tripled for a dinner party.
Because everything for this quick and easy meal is cooked in one skillet, prep work and cleanup is a breeze. The delicious wine and mushroom sauce will have everyone thinking you spent hours in the kitchen, though.
Lindsay is a professional chef, recipe developer, writer and developmental editor. After years of working in restaurant kitchens, she turned to writing to share her skills and experience with home cooks and food enthusiasts. She's passionate about using local, organic ingredients and teaching others how to incorporate seasonal food into their diet. Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, writes for several publications and is the co-author of two books about Ayurveda.