By Adam Palmer
This past December, my wife decided that she was going for “wife of the year” with her birthday present for me: A private butchering class at Butcher & the Burger. As I walked in to the Butcher & the Burger, I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was immediately escorted downstairs under their kitchen where Chef Allen, their head butcher, presented me with half a hog, in all its glory. I definitely was not prepared for how large the thing was, but damn it looked tasty!
We began our 3 hour lesson with some background on the hog: what farm it came from, was it organic or not, how long ago they slaughtered Wilbur, etc. All things that were meant to give an understanding of the full process of “Farm to Table”. Next, we moved into knife work. I definitely thought I had this down, but I was wrong! While working through the loin, Allen had to tell me to stop handling the knife like a scalpel a few times. I had to explain that the last time I butchered anything, it was a human (This isn’t a joke, I once T.A.’d for Medical Neuroanatomy). Once I figured out the handling adjustment, it was smooth(er) sailing. During this we also discussed small etiquette’s with the knife and hog around the kitchen and why they are important to cleanliness and safety.
Once we finished the knife talk and the background on the hog, we worked through all of the different sections, which Allen described by their relation to cow cuts: sirloin, rib eye, etc. And what they are typically cooked into: roast, chops, loin, etc. This was very interesting to me because while I am very familiar with anatomy, I paid little attention to the fact that there is a portion of the pig that would also be considered a rib eye.
Each section required a little bit of a different touch. When carving out the chops, I had to make sure that I used a straight, very close to the bone cut and then use a bone saw to finish it off. Around the roasts, I had to be more delicate as to not cut into other muscle groupings. If you’ve been paying attention, you might notice that that this is not a typical butchering course. There are many classes that would have the butcher doing the majority of the slicing and dicing. However, in my class Allen would start a piece, make sure I knew the lines to watch and then he would let me section out the cut. This definitely created a one of a kind experience. One that I will never forget… except for a few things at the end because due to the intensity and length, I was worn out.
At the end of our time, we made sure every section was bagged and properly labeled: Jowl, Use to Grind, Stew, Chops, Roast, Loin, etc. And why did we do this? Because I got to take the entire thing home. Which meant, when I got home I had to throw a few things in my freezer away, but it was well worth it! Allen also made sure that we discussed how to prepare each piece and what temperatures to cook them at. I wish I had been able to take notes, because (as mentioned before) I was so worn out that I only remember a few of the recipes he gave me, which have been killer so far.
In conclusion, if you want to impress the ManBQuer in your life, I highly recommend a butcher class. Especially this one.