Meat Fabrication: the classroom
So I know y’all can’t wait for my next posts about meat fab… right? I am definitely enjoying this class, although I wish it were longer than three weeks! It’s just not enough time to stuff sausages, clean hanger steaks, and de-bone turkeys and chickens.
Here’s our classroom, and the school’s meat fabrication room. We fabricate almost all the meats, poultry, and fish used in our cafeteria and restaurant. As you can see, everything is really really clean, which is pretty awesome. This is due to the fact that we scrub everything after every class. We have to pay attention to sanitation laws because the state inspector comes every day to check on our cleanliness, process, and labeling.
Here are some of the tools we use. The large saw is a bone saw, used only to break down primal cuts of meat. In this case, we cut subprimal cuts from half a pig (see also an upcoming post). Just as a reminder, a primal cut of meat is a large part of the animal’s carcass, like a side of beef. This is one of the first cuts made when breaking down a slaughtered animal. A subprimal cut is a smaller cut of meat, for example a brisket or a sirloin. After that, we portion out pieces of meat for cooking, and they are called fabricated meats/cuts. Which is why this class is called meat fabrication.
The next largest knife (is that proper grammar?) is called a scimitar. The smallest knife in this photo is a boning knife, which we use most of the time. We also occasionally use our chef’s knife and very frequently a honing rod. A honing rod doesn’t sharpen the knife, but it straightens it enough to make it seem sharper. You can only sharpen a knife with a proper stone.
Here are some posters that are on the walls, to remind us of the different cuts of meat. Beef is by far the most complicated, in my opinion. We had a lecture on beef today, on the anatomy of the cow, where the different cuts of meat come from, and which cooking methods to use. It turns out that the way meat is cut is regulated by laws, so that you know what you’re getting. There are standards that need to be adhered to. Also, it’s important to use the right cooking method for the kind of cut you get.
We have a white board where we keep track of current market prices of meat and poultry. When we break down whole chickens, for example, we calculate the price of the portioned chicken by diving the total weight by the total price we paid for the chicken, minus the market price of the bones (which we sell separately). That way, we can get a price per pound, and make labels, and keep track of everything for accounting.
Here’s a scale with a piece of wrapped ribs on it. It’s pretty straight foward, just as you would see at your local deli.
And of course the spice rack, most important. We aim to give our meat flavor, and have many different spices and rubs. In our last class, we rubbed some pork butt with BBQ spice, and then a couple of days later had pulled pork in the cafeteria. Yum!
Last but not least on our tour, the loading dock. This is where we receive shipments of produce, dairy, meats, etc. You can see the gray bin we use for compost. Luckily, NECI was able to get a special composting permit, so any food, including meat, can be composted instead of thrown in the trash. It gets picked up regularly, as does the recycling and garbage. And the end of class, we bring out all the trash, compost, etc. as part of our final cleanup.
That’s all for now. Future posts will include lots of photos of dead animals, so beware!