The Art of Cutting Beef

Kari Underly will demonstrate butchery at The Chopping Block and help Culinary Insiders try their hand at beef cutting on Saturday, September 8th during our Culinary Insiders Weekend. It seems appropriate to share the book review I wrote a while back. Linda Avery


The Art of Beef Cutting: A Meat Professional’s Guide to Butchering and Merchandising

by Kari Underly

When John Torode’s Beef And Other Bovine Matters was published, I was so jazzed that the dust cover unfolded into a poster size diagram of a cow showing forequarter, hindquarter and the various cuts from each, I hung it in my pantry. Inquiring minds want to know; chefs and cooks alike should know but finding a complete butchery course is difficult.

My father was an independent butcher when “hanging beef” was de rigueur. Having to move and butcher sides had such a debilitating effect on his back, he had to change careers. I was only 12 or so when he got out of the business and I never learned butchery from him. Nonetheless I’ve continued to be fascinated by the art.

Enter The Art of Beef Cutting: A Meat Professional’s Guide to Butchering and Merchandising by Kari Underly. Unlike Torode’s book, this is not a cookbook. You will find flavor profiles, suggested cooking methods and cooking tips, but what you won’t find is a single (food) recipe.

The “recipes” that Underly writes are Cutting for Profit (actually cost accounting and what has to be considered), Understanding Your Tools (knives, steels and stones), and Injury Prevention Strategies (which incorporates lifting and strengthening exercises for wrist and back).

Watch Kari at work:

Mastering Cutting Techniques includes how to denude, to filet, Frenching, cubing, the use of netting and tying. The Beef Cutting chapter begins with a primal cut such as loin and addresses how to cut the main subprimals, which for loin are short loin, tenderloin, top strip loin bone-in, and boneless top strip loin.

The book is so comprehensive there are tables with the English, Latin, and French names of the cuts plus the very interesting “common and fanciful cut names” chart, e.g., common = beef chuck eye steak, fanciful = Delmonico.

One conclusion: If you are a club store shopper, you’re there to save money. If you are shopping for a beef tenderloin and know how to release the chain and cut it from the head, remove the fat and silverskin (denuding), you can buy the much less expensive whole tenderloin rather than the fully trimmed piece.

Kari Underly’s The Art of Beef Cutting was nominated for a 2012 James Beard award.

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