Tips & Techniques

5 Things to Look For When Buying Meat

June 18, 2014

Today, Tom Mylan of The Meat Hook is sharing the 5 things he looks for in a butcher shop, so you can make sure you're getting the very best.

1. Find a shop that does whole-animal butchering. Whether or not they focus on grass-fed and pastured meat, a butcher shop that works with whole animals knows where their meat is coming from. Whole-animal butchery is really hard to do: If someone puts forth the effort needed to do it, chances are they're going to be better all the way around.

2. Buy meat that is red. This is simple: If beef is pink (from immature animals) or pork is grey (also immature, or not from a heritage breed), then it's not going to taste like anything. Take your business elsewhere.

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More: Once you get that perfect piece of flank steak, here's what to do with it.

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3. Buy properly hung meat. It may sound erotic, but it's actually really important. If beef hasn't been dry-aged for 14 days after its slaughter, then it hasn't gone through rigor mortis, and it will be tough. If it's been wet-aged, it won't have good flavor because the moisture can't evaporate. A properly hung carcass loses 15 to 20% of its weight during the hanging process, which really concentrates its flavor. It explains why dry-aged meat is more expensive, but also worth it.

4. Look for house-made products. From bacon to salami to ham to roast beef to sausage, if it's made on-site, that’s a sign that the butcher cares about what he or she sells and is making good use of their animals.

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5. Seek out friendly, knowledgable butchers. I hope that The Meat Hook Meat Book really helps readers to not only understand meat, but also to realize that the guy or girl across the counter is their life support in the kitchen. Butchers can help walk you through a recipe or a technique, and offer advice and dinner ideas. Respect them. Listen to them. They can teach you a lot. It is, after all, what they do all day long, five or six days a week.

Now you know how to find the highest-quality meat -- what will you do with it? 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • chris
  • Terrie
  • Robert A.
    Robert A.
  • Cara Nicoletti
    Cara Nicoletti
  • AmyRuth
Tom Mylan

Written by: Tom Mylan

Tom ran out of clever screen names 8 months ago, considered quitting the internet, couldn't. He's a butcher/owner at the Meat Hook butcher shop in Brooklyn, NY and makes a pretty mean bowl of chili.


chris July 14, 2015
I've been buying all my meat from a local full-service butcher for a couple of years. It really hurt, initially, as he's more expensive than the supermarket. But, we eat a bit less, and it tastes much better. Plus, I have a knowledgeable person who enjoys tutoring me on everything meat.
Terrie April 1, 2015
We are so lucky here in Philadelphia. Kensington Quarters is exactly this kind of butcher (local, grass fed, non-gmo feed) and more. They have a wide range of classes, including slaughtering (eek!), to making your own sausage. And they have a restaurant! They source liquor from distilleries that use non-gmo grain. AWESOME!!
Robert A. April 1, 2015
Lucky you, but would be so kind as to post some of the prices for the meats etc.?
Robert A. March 30, 2015
It is almost impossible to find the kind of butcher suggested here; plus if found the cost would be astronomical and unaffordable.
Cara N. June 24, 2014
Go Tommy go!
AmyRuth June 22, 2014
I would love to live in your neighborhood