Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio stresses the importance of butchering.

on May 29, 2008

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First off, I want to apologize for my long absence from this site. On May 10th I opened Craftsteak, at the new MGM Grand Resort and Casino in Connecticut, and like any new restaurant, it became my sole mistress for the past few weeks. Each time I open a restaurant, the first night still feels like my own personal episode of "Restaurant Wars" (minus the schlocky decor). Thanks to my talented and sleep-deprived staff, we made it through to a successful opening, and I can finally focus on something other than steak. As luck would have it, this week's challenge was all about ... steak.

I liked this week's episode, and not just because it dovetailed perfectly with my own efforts. I thought it illuminated some important basics about technique and ingredients.

First off, the importance of butchering. Butchering is not some archaic skill best left to others -- it's an essential part of any chef's technical repertoire. Spike won the Quickfire hands down because he had butchering experience and it showed in the clean, even, tomahawk steaks he created from one massive "109" (butcherspeak for a rib roast.) Leaving aesthetics aside, well-butchered meat is essential for proper cooking so that one area doesn't cook more quickly than the rest. It's also a good deal more economical to purchase large cuts of meat and butcher them yourself, since a good kitchen will find a use for every bone and scrap. A knowledge of butchering also affords one a more subtle understanding of meat that translates into better cooking. For example, the meat on a rib-eye is ever-so-slightly fattier up by the neck than by the loin, which means it needs to be cooked differently than the rest -- something you may not get from eyeballing the meat.