Why go to the butcher when there is a fully stocked meat counter at the supermarket too? Very simple: because butchers are experts in their field and make a key difference when you are buying your meat. Ideally, they are competent, passionate and happy to advise. To find out whether your favourite butcher really deserves such a high level of trust there are some questions that will allow a professional butcher to sparkle and expose a beginner. Try it out one time:
Can I get rump fillet from you too?
By asking this question you are testing to see how well your butcher knows their way around the standard cuts. Experts distinguish between the classic rump within the rump cut and the rump fillet, which is even more tender. The fibres in the rump fillet also run in a slightly different direction to those in the rest of the rump, so the rump fillet – strictly speaking – also needs to be cut differently in order to cut steaks across the grain. Your butcher will definitely have both available, the question is whether they know the difference and can therefore offer you the more tender cut. Disadvantage: if they know about rump fillet, they might ask you for more money for it – but they would also have earned it.
Do you also have dry aged beef fillet?
Everyone is talking about dry aging – and rightly so. The dry aging process actually makes meat more tender and often more intense. Many butchers are jumping on the trend and dry-aging their meat themselves. They often try to outdo each other with long aging periods. But be careful: the beef fillet is located outside of the protective bone and fat cap of the back, so the already small piece loses more liquid when dry-aged than interior sections of the cow such as roast beef and entrecote. Beef fillet should therefore never be hung for longer than 30 days. If your butcher sells you fillet that has been dry-aged for longer than 40 days, they are either lying to you or in their dry-aging frenzy, they have committed a serious mistake. If they say that they don’t age their own fillet, that is a valid and honest answer. The exception: a fillet that has been aged in butter or suet can be aged for longer – as then it is protected from drying out.
I need minced meat for burgers, what is the best thing for me to get?
The correct answer: beef mince with a fat content of approximately 20%. Every butcher should know that you need pure minced beef for a burger. Knowing that a really juicy burger needs to have a fat content of 20% will sort the wheat from the chaff. In all probability, the standard minced beef in the display counter will have a significantly lower fat content. The perfect approach therefore would be to push a fresh piece of meat with an appropriate amount of intramuscular fat through the mincer or to add an appropriate amount of fat to a leaner piece when pushing it through the mincer. A fat content of 20% ensures that there is plenty of fat to deliver the meaty flavour of the burger and the burger will also feel juicy. Leaner minced meat in a burger would become dry very quickly.
Fillet is too expensive for me, can I just get a sirloin steak instead?
There’s a reason that fillet and faux-filet (sirloin) have different names. “Real” fillet is a pan-fry piece that is superior in tenderness to almost any other cut. Faux-filet (sirloin) looks similar to the fillet, but it is a long-fibred muscle with a lot of connective tissue, which is only suitable for stewing. Your butcher should explain this difference to you when you ask this question, as braised meat made from fillet or a steak made from faux-filet (sirloin) would both be a catastrophe in terms of taste. Good alternatives to a fillet would be a rump fillet or – if your butcher really knows their way around modern cuts – a flat iron from the shoulder.
Which meat is best for tartare? Does it have to be a fillet?
Most tartare recipes recommend preparing the dish with fillet. This is fine, however there are numerous other meat cuts that would be great as tartare meat and are much cheaper. For example: the eye of round also known as “Maiserl” in Germany – a lean piece from the haunch of the cow, which is just as good as fillet when minced. As a bit of background: if you cut through enough of the stable and connective fibres in classic braised meat cuts, you can use any tough meat in tartare. Even the lean and delicate fibres of the rump create an outstanding tartare at half the price. A good butcher will offer you both fillet and a cheaper cut, rather than just pointing you to the more expensive prime cut.