I was reading the Metro newspaper the other day and noticed the article shown above. On reading it I wasn’t shocked.
During my time as a butcher I’ve been asked many well-meaning questions and a few concerning ones too. A middle aged adult with three children in tow once enquired ‘how to cook a burger?’ which did worry me a little! The situation soon became clear that our older generations are well versed in butchery lingo but for the majority of younger customers, it’s a whole different language…
So here’s an A-Z of some commonly used words in the world of meat. Where I couldn’t think of one I’ve either left it blank (insert your own) or substituted for a different, but nonetheless, still useful word. Here we go!
Aged – meat that’s been hung for flavour and tenderness
Brown meat – referring to the wings, legs or thighs of poultry such as chickens and turkeys
Cutlets – lamb chops, on the bone, taken from the ribs towards the head end of the lamb
Dry hanging – hanging meat in a fridge to allow it to age. Normally 28 days for beef, 7 for lamb and 14 for venison
Escalopes – thin, lean, boneless and often beaten for tenderness slices of meat, normally veal
Faggots – made from pig’s liver, heart and belly. Minced and then added to herbs and often breadcrumbs before shaped into a ball
Ground – the American term for minced, normally in reference to beef
Hand – a boned and rolled joint taken from a pig’s shoulder (top of a front leg)
I – ?
J – ??
K – ???
Lights – the lungs, normally used when talking about those of a lamb, sheep or pig
Marbling – small flecks of fat distributed throughout the meat, important for flavour and maintaining succulence
Noisette – the eye from a lamb chop taken off the bone and rolled into a circle with a small strip of the breast, then tied with string or elastic band
Osso Buco – Italian for ‘bone with a hole’. Normally taken from veal carcasses these are slices of the upper leg with the marrow bone left in for flavour
Pluck – the heart, oesophagus, lungs and liver once removed from an animal and passed fit for consumption by a meat inspector
Questions – ALWAYS QUIZ YOUR BUTCHER
Round neck – the neck of a lamb or mature sheep, on the bone and normally cut into rings for stews and gravy
Sweatbreads – the thymus gland from the neck and the pancreas normally from lambs or veal. Not to be confused with sweatmeats which are the testicles
Tripe – the cleaned stomachs of sheep and cattle, an old fashioned dish that takes a lot of boiling to cook it
U – ????
Vacuum packed – as it says, done to keep meat fresher for longer. On opening the meat can smell a little stale, leave it on a plate and this should go fairly rapidly, if it doesn’t it might be off. Always check used-by dates
Wagyu – a breed of cattle traditionally from Japan that’s known for its unrivalled marbling
X – chining, the removal of the spine from joints such as ribs of beef or racks of pork and lamb, makes carving easier post cooking
Y – scoring, your butcher might offer to do this to pork joints with the skin on to give better crackling. Asking for one way will give strips, both ways will give square or diamonds
Z – ?????
It’s not a definitive list but will hopefully gives a good starter for ten and allow you to converse with your butcher slightly better, or maybe even baffle a trainee!
Butchers used to have their own language, normally words spelt backwards, which they used to converse with each other without the customer knowing what was being said. It allowed them to serve different meat than was being asked for, or for bosses to instruct staff to use particular cuts that they wanted rid of. It’s not really in use these days (possibly still in some traditional shops or markets) but some words have remained.
If you ever hear ‘Dee-lo’ then the butcher is suggesting that an old piece of meat should be used. Always listen out for this and insist differently!