Cuts of Meat and How to Buy Them

This is the second article in June of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on June 9, 1907, and is an educating article on the cuts of meat.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the Boston Sunday Post.

Cuts of Meat and How to Buy Them

FULLY as much wit goes to the purchase of meat as to its cookery. This if true of all cuts, but especially of the cheaper pieces. Any one with the money to pay for them can go to a butcher and order rib roasts, porterhouse steaks, French chops and the best cutlets, and be tolerably sure of good meat. It is when economy is an important factor in housekeeping that a knowledge of the value of the cheaper cuts, of the methods of buying and cooking them, is most desirable.

Beef is, of course, the great standby. There is a tradition that one can eat unvaried beef for a longer time without weariness than is possible with any other meat. Its nutritive values are high, and these, fortunately, are not confined to the prime cuts. Rightly purchased and prepared, it is feasible to economize in getting beef and not suffer in the process.


Do not let me be misunderstood. If you wish good roast beef—roast pure and simple—you will have to buy a rib roast. If you desire a plain broiled steak, you must get either the porterhouse, the sirloin, the so-called “Delmonico” or “short” steak, or the hip bone steak. But by the purchase of cheaper cuts you may give your family beef a la mode, beef a la jardiniere, baked steak, smothered steak, beefsteak and onions and a variety of other savory dishes in the enjoyment of which they will forget to pine for the “choice cuts.”

Yet even these one may have by exercising skill in buying, A large family who have a place in which to meat may buy a big piece of beef—the whole cut of the ribs—at a price far smaller than they would give for any one of the favorite cuts. This piece would weigh from sixteen to twenty pounds, and can be cut in a variety of ways. A good steak may first he taken from the top. Then the tenderloin may be removed to make a line roast of fillet. Bart of the rest may be tied in a round and the part near the top of the ribs will make an excellent roast. Lower down, where the meat is less tender, the beef may be cooked a la mode or a la jardintiere or as a pot roast or made into a savory stew. It is a great mistake to think that stews are not nutritious. That this prejudice against them prevails so generally is due to the fact that they are usually poorly cooked.


Fast boiling of meat in too much water, with no seasoning beyond salt and pepper, or, perhaps, an onion, produces a dish that deserves all that can be said against stews. But when the meat is cut in rather small pieces of medium size, put over the fire in cold water and cooked long and slowly, then seasoned judiciously by some one who knows the possibilities of herbs, sparingly employed, of celery salt, mushroom and walnut catsup, Worcestershire sauce, kitchen bouquet and the like, the result gives one a new idea of what may be meant by a stew.

The nutritive qualities are only lost when the liquor in which the meat is cooked is drained from it and converted into soup or used for some other purpose. Much of the good of the meat goes into the stock, and this should be eaten with the meat.


To return to our piece of beef. From the bones and trimming of so large a section as this there may be made good soup stock. If there is more than is desired for stews, part of it may be minced for Hamburg steaks, to be either broiled, fried or baked, in small cakes or in one large steak. Bart of the beef may be pickled if there seems to be risk about keeping it.

When buying beef in smaller quantities it is well to bear in mind that while a cut from the round will not make a satisfactory plain roast it is excellent as a pot roast, or, as I have said, for beef cooked in any of the other ways I have mentioned. A steak from the top of the round, if pounded and rubbed with oil and vinegar half an hour before cooking, may be broiled and will please those who do not insist upon the tenderloin. The “short” steaks are almost as good as the porterhouse if properly cooked, although they, too, lack the tenderloin.

In purchasing lamb or mutton it is possible to achieve good results with small money by the exercise of judgment in buying. Long ago I rendered my tribute of gratitude to the household writer who first taught me the value of a forequarter of lamb or of young mutton. In the prevalent rise of prices, this, too, has soared from the 12 and 13 cents a pound it used to cost to 4 or 5 cents more on the pound. Even so, it is an economy to buy it.

From a forequarter of lamb or young mutton—which means a yearling lamb—weighing from seven to ten pounds you may secure a roast, a dish of chops, a stew and a soup. Have your butcher “lift” the shoulder out, taking away a good deal of the meat from the ribs as he does so. In a ten-pound forequarter you will have a shoulder roast of from four and a half to five pounds. Your butcher will wish to break the bone—but don’t let him do it! Have the piece roasted just as it is, and you will find it delicious. For a change you may sometimes have the bone extracted altogether and fill the orifice with a good stuffing.

You will now have from seven to ten nice chops, according to the size of the forequarter, which you can broil or fry, and for which you would pay from 20 to 28 cents a pound if you bought them by themselves, instead of with the rest of the large piece. From the neck and trimmings of the chops you can make a stew or a soup or both. The breast may either be cut up into stew meat or else rolled into a little roast and baked. Served with tomato sauce it is an appetizing dish.

If you have a small family, you may secure variety in buying a leg of mutton by having it cut in two, boiling the half nearer the shank, serving it with caper sauce and roasting the loin end. Or you may cut a couple of chops from the loin end of the leg and roast the near the shank. Also, it is worth while to bear in mind that the shoulder chops, which usually cost about half as much as the rib chops, may be trimmed into a very fair imitation of French chops and the trimmings used for soup or stew. Or the whole chop may be broiled or else cooked in casserole. The meat is quite as good as that from the ribs.

Veal, too, may be bought with judgment. The fillet is the most expensive cut, but it is no better than the loin or the shoulder. When the latter has had the bone removed (to be used for soup), the hole left filled with a good stuffing, and the meat slowly and thoroughly roasted and served with a rich brown gravy, it is as savory a dish as can be offered, and will bring joy to those whose gastronomic consciences permit them to eat veal.

The breast, too, is tender, and while the fact that it is rather a thin cut, except in a pretty large calf, does not make it a satisfactory roast without a little care, it may be boned, spread with a good stuffing, rolled and roasted. The breast is one of the cheapest cuts of veal, and to many one of the best. Either the neck or the leg pieces of veal may be used for stewing, and will make a good potpie with dumpling, or an excellent curry or a savory stew.

Marion Harland

Family Meals for a Week
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