Alt-Cuts, They're What's for Dinner

Alt-Cuts, They're What's for Dinner
Photo by Barney Taxel

Now that we're blessed with butcher shops like Ohio City Provisions, Saucisson and NaKyrsie Meats, three newfangled shops that join a host of longstanding neighborhood favorites, we're starting to see exotic new products in the display coolers. Unlike grocery store shelf-stockers, who simply open boxes of pre-cut meat, today's craftspeople start with whole animals or large primals and fabricate them as they wish. Some of these cuts go great on the grill, while others require a long, gentle braise to reach their potential. Any way you slice it, these butcher's cuts offer a tasty alternative to the same-old, same-old.

"There's more to buy from the butcher shop than just strip, filet, ribeye and T-bone steaks," says Ohio City Provision's Adam Lambert. "Not everything needs to eat like filet mignon."

1. Frenched Rolled Beef Short Rib

Short ribs come in various iterations like English-cut, flanken-style and common bone-in short ribs. For this dramatic presentation, the meatiest portion of the rib primal is extracted, trimmed and wrapped around a frenched-rib flagpole. The labor-intensive process results in a large, flavorful and expertly trimmed piece of beef that is best seared and braised with aromatics.

2. Pork Flank Steak

"This cut of meat is often called 'pork secreto' because it's really hard to find in butcher shops," says Lambert. That's probably because the butcher keeps them all for personal consumption. Treat this special cut like you would a beef skirt or flank steak, he suggests, by giving it a good marinade and grilling it over high heat to medium (not mid-rare). Most importantly, slice the meat against the grain to ensure a tender chew.

3. Beef Coulotte

"If you like the flavor and texture of a strip steak, you'll love the Coulotte because it not only looks and cooks like one, it costs half the price," says Lambert. This prized cut is extracted from the sirloin cap, which is known more for its choice flavor than texture. But this particular piece is an exception. Season it, grill it and serve it just as you would a pricy steak (but not much past medium-rare).

4. Pork Coppa Roast

We typically see whole pork shoulders or boneless butts smoked into meltingly tender pulled pork. A great butcher can pull out the very best portion of that unwieldy hunk of meat – the coppa – for use on its own. "It's the Cadillac cut out of the pork shoulder and it's one of the most versatile cuts on a pig," Lambert promises. If you don't feel like salting and hanging it to dry for six months, consider searing it and popping it into the slow cooker for the better part of a day. "Thanks to a ton of inter- and intra-muscular fat, it's really hard to overcook the meat."

5. Bone-in Beef Chuck Roast

Beef chuck is a large, complicated primal that comes from the shoulder. "A traditional butcher shop would just rip these on the band saw into thick slices for sale as blade roasts or grind it into burger meat," says Lambert, adding that the term "roast" is misleading since that cooking method isn't recommended. This jaw-dropping centerpiece should be cut into manageable lengths, seared and braised (pot roast or beef bourguignon would be nice) until fork-tender.

6. Beef Merlot Steak

You wouldn't want to grill up the cut of meat called beef round, which responds best to moist, slow cooking. But deep inside this juggernaut of silverskin and sinew lies the elusive merlot steak, so named for its wine-colored hue. "This is one of the harder cuts to pull off because of all the seaming out of connective tissue required," Lambert explains. If you're lucky enough to score one out of the two per steer, season and sear it over high heat just past rare for a truly special butcher's treat.

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Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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