What is the Beef Knuckle?

The beef knuckle is a sub-primal from the beef round. It weighs approximately between 9 to 14 lbs., depending on the carcase weight.

The knuckle goes by many names: The ball of the round, sirloin tip, round tip, tip center (centre in UK and Ireland) and sometimes thick flank, beef ball tip roast, sirloin tip roast and French roll roast (there are different names around the world). 

After the knuckle cap is removed this is a very lean beef cut. The beef knuckle is a very versatile beef sub-primal cut and a great source of lean beef. 

There are four main muscles in the Beef Knuckle including the knuckle cap. This outer layer has a small piece of meat but mainly consists of dry connective tissue that should be removed.

The femur muscle

This is the muscle that is attached to the femur and has a fair bit of fat and gristle that needs to be removed. It also has a layer of connective tissue from where it connected to the femur. When trimmed, this muscle is great for lean ground beef.

The wedge muscle

This one is a solid lean piece of beef with a thin outer covering of connective tissue on the outside and a thick silverskin on the inside. When it is completely trimmed, there are many options for this cut. Diced for stews, casseroles, beef bourguignon. Sliced thinly for minute steaks, sandwich steaks, Philly cheesesteak or cut into strips for stir-frying or beef stroganoff, it is an excellent product. You could roast it, but you would need to add some fat to the outside because it is very lean.

The bullet muscle

This is the best muscle of the group. It could be roasted, with a layer of fat added for flavour and moisture, and it has really lean wide-ish slices, so very good for portion control. The inter-muscle connective tissue does not need to be removed as it will melt during roasting.

The bullet can be further subdivided by cutting along the thin silver skin to make two smaller cuts. If these cuts are matured for long enough, say 14 to 21 days, they are very tender and full of flavour. The thicker of the two, if tenderised, is as tender as some of the premium steaks and the thinner piece makes really good beef strips for stir-fry. 

Tenderising steaks using a Jaccard tenderiser is a useful method of breaking down the fibres of meat prior to cooking. The unit has 48 needle-pointed blades that cut into the muscle and leave the meat softer to the tooth and create a better eating experience. The Jaccard tenderisation also allows more marinade to penetrate the meat, giving a lot more flavour to the final product.

Dry Aged Beef

Aging beef in a drying chamber is a different process to maturing beef normally.

Premium cuts are kept for twice as long as normal, or longer, to intensify the flavor.

Tenderization tails off at about 20 days.

Then dry aging intensifies the flavor through moisture evaporation.

There is a particular smell and taste to dry aged beef.

Sometimes described as similar to blue cheese, it is not for everyone and some people feel it is meat that has gone bad.

Not so.

Properly dry aged steak is like fine wine with its own bouquet and attracts a premium price because of the losses from evaporation and trimming.

What Should It Look Like?

Dry aged beef can be aged for 50 days or more. It will blacken on the outer surfaces, but will be red on the inside when cut. The temperature, airflow and humidity must be constantly monitored.

What does bad meat smell like?

Beef that’s gone bad has a sour smell. Sometimes with an aroma like milk that has gone off.

Eating meat that has gone off, or is slimy, can cause food poisoning.

How can you tell if steak has gone bad? Smell is the first indicator followed by color.

First thing: Fresh meat, like fresh fish, has no smell. If you get a sour odor from a piece of meat, you need to be careful. It may not be safe to eat. We have a maxim in our trade, “If in doubt, throw it out”. 

There are lots of reasons meat goes bad:

  • Live handling
  • Unclean slaughter
  • Incorrect storage
  • Insufficient refrigeration
  • Poor handling,
  • The wrong packaging
  • How long since slaughter
  • Incorrect handling after purchase
  • Home refrigerator not working properly, among others.

Be careful though, meats with preservatives, i.e., some sausages and cured meats, if kept too long, can carry dangerous pathogens even though there may be no smell. Always buy from a trusted source.

Beef Beyond Filet, New York Strip and Rib-Eye

Hanger Steak

Hanger steak is the central muscle in the beef diaphragm. It is unusual in that there is only one in the beef carcase, whereas all other muscles coming in pairs. There’s a big, beefy flavour you won’t get in other muscles.

A hanger steak should be cooked to a medium rare temperature, as well-done steak will be dry and tough.

Beef Short Ribs

Beef short ribs are my absolute favourite cuts of beef for slow cooking. They have it all. Tasty, flavorful meat, a nice layer of fat, and the tactile pleasure of eating it on the bone. When cooked for long enough, they become very tender and fall away from the bone.

Flank Steak

Flank steak is a hidden gem among low fat cuts of beef. The wall of the animal’s belly has this lovely lean muscle that can be cooked in a variety of ways. You can use flank to make tacos, stuff them, roast them, and cube them for stews and casseroles.

Beef Cheeks 

When customers became more affluent, beef cheeks went out of style. In the past, cheek meat was viewed as cheap food, so it was avoided. However, when they are slow-cooked, the beefy flavor is incredible. Slow cooking in liquid brings out the best in cheeks, so make sure you try it now if you haven’t. You will thank me for this tip.


Bavette is another type of flank or skirt steak that is under-used. A relatively unknown cut of meat, it is thicker and meatier than the flank, has a rich beefy flavor, and is quite tender if cooked properly. Also known as flank steak or skirt steak.

Chuck Steak

When sold with the bone in, Chuck steak is sometimes referred to as 7 bone steak in America. No, not because there are 7 bones, but because the bone is approximately shaped like a 7 (roughly). Chuck steak has a bit of connective tissue and several muscles, and not all of them are as tender as you would like. The chuck steak cut is good if you don’t mind chewing a bit. If you buy the chuck in a thick piece, say three pounds, it makes a great roast.

Feather Blade

The feather blade steak is considered the second most tender muscle in the beef carcass. It isn’t the most photogenic steak, and it needs a skilled butcher to remove the connective tissue and prepare it properly. Beef chuck is delicious fried or grilled.

The Flat Iron

Like the feather blade, the flat iron steak is also from the chuck and can be cooked in the same way. The underrated cut is tasty and tender, but it lacks fat.

Pectoral Muscle

Outside butchery or chef circles, the pectoral muscle is probably unknown. Lean and full of flavor, this shoulder cut is ideal for casseroles and stews and it makes great ground beef as well. The texture is similar to brisket, so it could fill in if you were short of brisket.


Another little-known cut is the heel, which is surprisingly tender. To separate this from the hind shin, you will need a good butcher. This low-cost cut of meat, also called merlot or velvet steak, is a good grill and fry choice.

Chuck Eye

Chuck eye steaks are often referred to as Delmonico steaks after the New York restaurant where they were a signature dish. The longissimus dorsi muscle begins in the chuck and becomes wider down the back of the animal where it is called rib-eye, then striploin (or sirloin) and it ends at the beginning of the rump.

There are only about two usable Delmonico steaks in the chuck, but if you can get them, you will be pleasantly surprised by the big beefy flavor. It can be grilled or fried and is cheaper than rib-eye. 

Knuckle or Sirloin Tip

The beef knuckle (called sirloin tip in the USA) is very underrated and is quite inexpensive if you want to buy steak on a budget. You will enjoy this cut of meat if you have a good butcher cut it for you.


Spinalis is the rib eye cap and is becoming increasingly popular among chefs. While it is not as cheap as most of the other cuts, it is relatively unknown and I recommend you try it. Tender and full of flavour, try it at least once.

Beef Clod

The beef clod is a series of dense muscles in the shoulder and some of them are really good value. A 21-day maturation of the beef produces great value steaks for grilling and frying.

Eye Of Round

Let’s face it, eye of round is a tough muscle, but if it is matured properly and cooked correctly, it is a good value steak. It is best cut thinly and fried medium-rare. Sprite is said to tenderize eye of round, but I’ve never tried it myself.

Pineapple juice or papaya juice are great tenderizers. This cut of meat also makes a good lean, affordable roast, although it would benefit from a layer of fat on the outside.

Topside Cap

When stuffed and rolled, the topside cap is a great budget cut with excellent beef flavor.

Silverside or Bottom Round

They cure the Silverside in Ireland to make corned beef by slow roasting it to break down the fibers. Instead of the tinned corned beef made of compressed pieces of meat, get a flavorful solid piece of meat that goes great with potatoes and cabbage. It is called bottom round in the USA, and it is a popular budget cut.


The topside is a medium-priced cut of round or beef leg meat. After maturing for at least 21 days, it makes great sandwich steaks when sliced thinly. Flash fry quickly and avoid overcooking.


Californians seem to especially like tri-tip, but it is growing in popularity elsewhere. In addition to roasting and barbecuing, you can also fry or grill steaks if you cut them across the grain. Tri-tip is made from two distinct types of grain, so you should ask your butcher how to prepare it.


Brisket used to be used almost solely to make corned beef, and the bone was left in. Times and tastes have changed and now brisket is very popular in BBQ, and in certain states in America they smoke it and slather it with marinades. Brisket is an inexpensive pot roast that has a fantastic beef flavor that benefits from slow cooking.

Ground Beef

Where would we be without ground beef? Hamburgers, rissoles, meatloaf, meatballs, spaghetti bolognese, lasagne, cottage pie all use ground beef. In fact, you could cook a different ground beef recipe every day for a year without repeating a dish. Ground beef is the least expensive of all cuts of meat and is infinitely versatile.

Preventing Spoilage: Refrigeration and Packaging

Beef Exposed to the Air

To avoid spoilage, the temperature, humidity and airflow in butcher refrigerators have to be monitored constantly. Depending on the type of meat and the species, we refrigerate carcasses before cutting. It is important that the carcass is in prime condition and clean before processing.

Refrigerating a carcase too soon will have an adverse effect. The internal muscle temperature has to be allowed to decrease slowly before refrigeration begins. If not a process called “cold shortening” will make the meat tough. Carcasses should cool at 16 degrees C for 16 hours.

The carcass is usually vacuum sealed after is cut and boned. This extends the shelf life by removing oxygen from the packaging. (Microbes need oxygen to multiply).

If you open a vacuum sealed pack, sometimes there will be a smell. A mild rotten egg is one way to describe it. This usually goes away in less than an hour and is from the vacuum packing process.

So, by the time you buy beef cut into steaks, it may have been maturing for up to 28 days.

The aging process has to be carefully monitored for beef to tenderize so that it is at its best.

Enzymes in meat break down the fibres and over a period of about 20 + days the tenderization occurs. You could eat meat two days after slaughter but it will be tough and lacking in flavor.

There is also a process called Modified Atmosphere Packaging. (MAP) that replaces oxygen with gas that retards microbial growth in the pack.

Meat cut from quarters into primals, then deboned and cut into steaks, ground beef and roasts.

Discoloration happens faster when the meat surfaces are exposed to air

Sweetbreads and Oyster Pie

1 pound sweetbreads (Sweetbreads are an organ meat from the thymus and pancreas.)

2 teaspoons salt, divided

4 tablespoons lemon juice

½ pint oysters

½ teaspoon pepper

1 cup cream

½ cup butter

Puff Pastry (homemade or store bought)

Soak the sweetbreads in cold water for 1 hour.

In a large sauce-pot or stockpot, bring 2 quarts water to boil with 1 teaspoon of salt and lemon juice.

Drain the sweetbreads and use a slotted spoon to place them carefully in the boiling water. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes, then remove to drain on paper towels.

In a separate pot over medium heat, stew the oysters in their liquor just until they curl. Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, cream, and butter. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line a pan with the puff pastry. Spoon the oysters onto the pastry and arrange the meat atop the oysters. Pour the oyster sauce over that and top with the other pastry, pinching the sides to seal. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

A Morning at Wagshal’s Market – Washington D.C.


Originally published in 2013:

I recently interviewed and then “shadowed” the head butcher at an exclusive butcher shop in Washington DC. I didn’t get the job by-the-way. I’m not at all sore about it, just a bit disappointed. Was I ready to make the move away from the South I have grown to love, maybe not but I had to check it out for the opportunity?

I shadowed the head butcher, Pam. She was impressive in her intimate knowledge and skill and as she said to me, “this isn’t a job it is my life.” It was immediately obvious that she deeply cared about what she was doing, her snide comments about the rest of the staff aside I felt there was a lot I could learn from her if given the chance. Which of course you know I didn’t get – but no sour grapes here. After a quick interview of my interest and knowledge of meat cuts, butcher experience, etc. (Ahem that would be none really, but I had bluntly told them I had never been professionally trained. They are the ones that told me they were interested in me due to my passion for the subject. Maybe I should mention writing a good cover letter is really a plus when applying for a job.) she quickly moved on to preparing the morning orders to be picked up.


I shadowed, which means I observed while I asked a few questions. I’m not sure if these were a nuisance in retrospect, but she appeared more than happy to answer any of my questions. One thing was obvious, she loved to talk, to talk about meat and maybe most of all how good she was as a butcher and salesperson. The first order of business that morning was to trim and tie a beef tenderloin and cut beef short ribs. It was riveting watching her work with such ease and grace. It was obvious she deeply cared about what she was doing as she told me with pride of her 103 day dry aged porterhouse steaks she had for sale. She did sell one while I was there, an inch and a half thick for a little over $80. The price seemed a little stiff to me, but what did I know about 103 day dry aged prime porterhouses. Better be a damn good piece of meat for that price and still needing to be cooked. I wondered how good of a cook the man buying the steak was, did he do the cooking? His wife? Did he have a private chef?

After the man left she turns, “I told you I’d sell all those steaks this morning,” she grins and she had told me so. I’ve never minded someone with a big ego as long as they have the talent to back it up which Pam clearly did. “I could sell ice to an Eskimo or sand to an Arab.” Okay I have to admit that comment was a little over the top, but what the hell she was proud of the sale and why not that is a damn expensive steak. I wonder how much the man is willing to pay for a steak at a fancy steakhouse. I wonder if that day was special or does he not even blink twice about paying that much for a steak.


“I’m the best butcher you’ll ever know. I won a butcher competition where there were 57 men and myself. I cut down a whole side of pork in twenty-five minutes. The guy next to me only had two trays done.” Ah, Pam I’ll miss your stories even if they are a bit self-absorbed. I highly recommend Wagshal’s Market for your meat procuring, so long as you have the unlimited budget to afford it. I hope to be back someday when I can afford a 103 day aged porterhouse, maybe then I can tempt my vegan relatives to try at least a bite.

Small Batch Sausage Making 101


Step 1: The Spices

Your spices consists of the ingredients you will be using to flavor your sausage. Toasting and grinding your own spices makes a difference you can taste. Avoid ready made spice kits.

Step 2: Cutting

Cut the meat into uniform cubes that are smaller than the opening of your grinder. Remove blood vessels, tendons, or glands. Place the meat in a bowl large enough to allow room for mixing

Step 3: Marinating

Evenly distribute half of the spices over the meat. Using your hands mix well until evenly coated. Add the second half of spices and mix again. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours to allow the seasonings to permeate the meat.

Step 4: Chilling

Chilling both your meat and parts of the grinder helps to avoid grinding issues. After cutting and marinating the meat, be sure to refrigerate it for at least 2 hours so it is thoroughly chilled.

Step 5: Grinding

Begin by assembling the grinder following manufacturers instructions. You will need a wide bowl or container that fits easily under the grinder to catch the ground meat. Feed the meat into the tube, one piece at a time. Let the machine do the work rather than pushing too much meat through the grinder at once.


Step 6: Mixing

Seasoned, ground sausage meat should be mixed thoroughly by hand for 1 to 2 minutes. This action ensures that the seasonings are evenly distributed throughout.

Step 7: Tasting

Scoop up about 2 tablespoons of the well-mixed farce and shape into a small, flat patty. Cook the patty in a small pan over medium heat. Evaluate the taste and texture. If too dry add a small amount of ground fat. If the seasoning Is too weak, add more salt or spices. If too highly seasoned, add a small amount of unseasoned ground meat and ground fat. It is much easier to add salt and spices than it is to lessen their intensity.

Step 8: Stuffing (Optional)

Stuffing takes practice. Don’t be discouraged your first few batches . They will still taste great. Natural casings are the processed lamb, pork, and beef intestines used for casing sausage and salami. Before they can be used, they must be rinsed thoroughly in several changes of cold water. Once rinsed, they can be stored in water in the refrigerator for up to about 5 days.

Remove a length of soaked casing from the water.

Turn the crank so that the lid presses gently onto the top of the meat, forcing just ½ inch (12 mm) of the meat out through the nozzle. This helps to eliminate air pockets

Pull the end of the casing over the edge of the nozzle, then knot the end of the casing.

Place your thumb and forefinger around the end of the nozzle to regulate the movement of the casing.

Crank the handle slowly to press the sausage meat into the casing. Release more casing off the nozzle as the sausage flows through the tube.

If an air bubble forms, prick the sausage casing.


Basic Sausage Recipes:

Poultry Or Rabbit

3¾ pounds (1.7 kg) boneless, skinless poultry or rabbit

+ 1¼ pound (567 g) pork back fat

+ 2 tablespoons (1.2 ounces/34 g) fine sea salt


3 pounds (1.4 kg) boneless lamb shoulder

+ 2 pounds (900 g) lean boneless lamb foreshank or hind shank

+ 2 tablespoons (1.2 ounces/34 g) sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

______ or

2½ pounds (1.2 kg) boneless lamb shoulder

+ 2½ pounds (1.2 kg) boneless pork picnic

+ 2 tablespoons (1.2 ounces/34 g) sea salt


4½ pounds (2 kg) boneless pork picnic

+ 8 ounces (225 g) pork back fat

______ or

5 pounds (2.3 kg) boneless pork Boston butt

+ 2 tablespoons (1.2 ounces/34 g) fine sea salt


5 pounds (2.3 kg) untrimmed beef chuck or brisket

+ 2 tablespoons (1.2 ounces/34 g) sea salt

____ or

3 pounds (1.4 kg) untrimmed beef such as chuck or brisket

+ 2 pounds (900 g) pork Boston butt

+ 2 tablespoons (1.2 ounces/34 g) sea salt

Breakfast Sausage And Seasoning

Basic Sausage Recipe:



1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cayenne

⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 allspice berry, ground

1 tablespoon minced garlic




½ cup (30 g) finely chopped fresh sage



Farmer’s Sausage And Seasoning

Basic Sausage Recipe:



1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon toasted and ground aniseeds

1 teaspoon ground cayenne




1½ cups (360 ml) dry red wine reduced to ½ cup (120 ml)

2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese



Fennel Sausage And Seasoning

Basic Sausage Recipe:



2 tablespoons toasted and ground fennel seeds

1½ teaspoons freshly ground pepper

2 teaspoons ground dried oregano

4 teaspoons minced garlic




½ cup (30 g) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons whole fennel seeds, toasted

1 tablespoon chile flakes

¼ cup (60 ml) dry white wine



Spicy Italian Sausage And Seasoning

Basic Sausage Recipe:



3 tablespoons toasted and ground fennel seeds

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

4 teaspoons ground chile flakes

1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon minced garlic




2 tablespoons dry white wine



Sweet Italian Sausage And Seasoning

Basic Sausage Recipe:



3 tablespoons toasted and ground fennel seeds

1½ teaspoons toasted and ground aniseeds

3 allspice berries, ground

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon ground dried oregano

1 tablespoon minced garlic




½ cup (30 g) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup (60 ml) dry white wine



Stingray Oyster

Scientific Name: Crassostrea Virginica

Stingrays are so named for the bay oyster’s chief predator.

The chocolate colored shell is definitely slurp friendly. A simple seagrass salt scent drifts over the liquor.

This classic Chesapeake Bay oyster has decidedly plump and sweet meat with a solid brininess. The finish is slightly metallic that floats on the taste buds.

Try with hot sauce and a Pilsner, perhaps Siracha sauce.