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5 Things to Look For When Buying Meat

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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.

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? 

Tags: Steak, Tips & Techniques, Lists, Advice