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Thread: Newbie saying hello, with Questions on Home butchering

  1. #21
    Senior Member Chuckles's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    I would check out this book.

    In the past buying whole cows for restaurants I kept the tenderloin, ribeye and NY strip and everything else went for grind. But I sold a ton of burgers. Short rib and brisket really help the flavor of the grind. If you do it this way you can grind the liver in without it tasting too strongly of liver. You will also need the fat from these cuts as this is probably a fairly lean animal.

    I do think you should save some chuck for stew meat and maybe some inside round for roasts. Your idea of saving larger cuts with the option of grinding later is a good one but keep it in the back of your mind that you may have to add fat from a different source at that point to get the proportions in line for most recipes.

    I would go into it with a couple of Forschner 6" curved semi stiff boning knives, a breaking knife and a cleaver w/ a mallet. But I have never done it before. A reciprocating saw could be very helpful if you start losing light and have to get bones apart quickly. Just beware that bone dust will speed up spoilage so be sure to wipe it off well.

    Is this cow to feed you and yours or do have other plans for it?

    Also, cool project and welcome. Great way to get started here!

    If you're going through hell, keep going.

  2. #22
    Senior Member Customfan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Ahoy There! welcome to the jungle!

    Im more of a Hog guy (Ive done a number of whole ones for smoking)... you should be able to pull this off... alas you need a butchers input, but ere are a couple of items for your list from past experience...

    - Two words "butcher knife" those are some bad A@@ tools that can help with that kind of work... CCK has a real animal of a knife!... I call mine THE HOGINATOR! and a meat cleaver... I like my Shun (Yes... I know, I know!)
    - You need a knife with a lot of grip on the handle... or gloves or both (There is usually a lot of slipping).
    - Maybe even a mesh glove, whatever you do don't put both hands in there at the same time in the same place when you are slicing unless you know what you are doing.
    - Diagram of parts so you can find your way around.. maybe even look at some videos. Why not visit your local butcher so he can help you out and get some tips.
    - A good apron (Mine is plastic and is full body).

    Hope this helps!

    Just a suggestion!

    Eat to live? -> live to eat... but as long as we are at it... eat very, very well!

  3. #23
    Thanks, Chuckles. Good ideas you have, and I am looking into the book. Thanks for the welcome, and for the advice on knives. This is to feed me and mine, which brings up a big question.

    I have a couple of guys who would be willing to come and help, and who want meat in exchange. I am wondering what and how much meat would be a reasonable exchange to offer them for their help. Any thoughts on this? A quarter will be maybe 100 pounds hanging weight. Not sure how much of that would be meat. If they took away, say, a front quarter to split between them, would that be too much of an exchange?

    Thanks for your thoughts. I saw a hog in a kill room just the other day, during my research, and that sucker was enormous! I had no idea... I would have thought it was a beef, by the size of it.

    I did get a mesh glove, but will definitely not be putting my paws in the path of a blade. I have seen the hook that some processors use... I may look into getting one of those.

    Anybody who wants to put in a thought on how much meat is proper to give in exchange for help with the slaughter, I would really appreciate some advice on this point.

    Thanks so much to all... research continues. I have found a butcher who might be able to let me see some of the work involved in processing... maybe.


  4. #24
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Zurich, Switzerland
    This is one of my favorite cookbooks, and talks at some length about dry-aging and using older dairy cows, which the chef favors over younger animals:

  5. #25
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    Hello and welcome!

    I'm far from an expert, but we did a few half steers that were cut into 6 chunks for transport to our kitchen. Still quite bulky and still quite a challenge.

    I do think a reciprocating saw would be worth it, they can be had for a reasonable price, especially since your animal will be whole. Much easier to get things into recognizable cuts and manageable sizes. Handsaws get old pretty quick, IMO, if you're cutting thru the chine bone and through the ribs on either side.

    Regarding knives, I personally use inexpensive knives like many butchers use (I like Dexter). You'll be banging around bones and whatnot, so no need for anything fancy. They'll stay plenty sharp enough if they've been sharpened properly. And actually, I'd keep another one around that wasn't so crazy sharp for skinning and frenching bones, etc.

    Besides burger, there will be all kinds of bits and bones for the stockpot. If you don't have a BIG pot, they sell those turkey fryer kits for cheap around this time of year - burner, big pot, turkey rack, and thermometer. That pot will probably be 26 quarts, and it'll probably fill up pretty quick. But real beef stock is worth the effort.

    Good luck!


  6. #26
    Senior Member quantumcloud509's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Spokane, WA aka Spokanistan, or Spoklahoma, or...
    Welcome welcome welcome to KKF! One of the newest books I bought is called -In the Charcuterie- it is written by the owners of the Fatted Calf. The book is amazing, it does not go super deep into butchering, yet some. It does talk a lot about using the whole animal and bits and pieces in a modern language. Good luck here!

    Sent from my iPhone using Kitchen Knife Forum
    Amat Victoria Curam Fortune favors the prepared.
    "A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into." -George Orwell

  7. #27
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2012
    If you have not yet, I would recommend finding The Complete Book of Butchering, Smoking, Curing, and Sausage Making, available at your local Barnes & Noble or from amazon ( It's an efficient source for all the nitty gritty, and takes you through the process step-by-step.

    For an older animal, longer hanging times are preferable. The larger the cut you can keep for hanging, the better, as you will lose less to desiccation. If nothing else, save the loins for aging, for eventual steaks. This really depends on your cooling space. Hanging for 14 days as a whole side would be preferable, and then another 14 for the loins. I would say temperature should be between 34-38* F with 50-60% humidity and a stiff fan blowing on it. That is just a rough guideline.

    An older animal doesn't necessarily mean unpalatable meat. The French actually prefer their beef cattle to have at least 3 years of age, up to about 6. Try and make sure that she will be gaining weight for a few months prior to slaughter. This will provide nicer marbling, and a decent exterior fat cap.

    As to tools, unless you are employing old-school lumberjacks, going down a chine bone with a hand saw is no easy matter. However, the length of the blade (3"-4") on most reciprocating saws designed for carpentry will be a major hindrance. You can find "reciprocating breaking saws" usually with 8" (pork) or 16" (beef) blades. They are not cheap though. If you'll be doing this a few times, or have neighbors who could share the cost, it might be a worthwhile investment. Otherwise, you might just want an 22" handsaw, and take turns.

    What is your plan for chilling the carcass? Getting the meat below 40* as fast as possible should be a primary goal. You said fairly chilly weather, and as a southerner, to me that means anything under 55*.

    If you want a more cooking centric, whole-animal cookbook, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's The River Cottage Meat Book is a classic butcher's favorite.

    Good luck and let us know how it turns out!
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  8. #28
    Senior Member ohbewon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    I usually break down 2.5 cows a week, and 20 half pigs. i can help ya out, bit i need a little more info on that type of cow, and their diet. (the diet doesnt matter much, but the higher fat contents usually have more sinew than others)
    Cassoulet, like life itself, isn't as easy as it seems...

  9. #29
    Well life is nothing if not interesting. In the eleventh hour, a cattle friend decided to take this cow in exchange for a younger beef steer. Said steer will come to me already processed, so that is that. A nice thing, in a way, since with this arrangement, I don't have to eat anybody I know personally.

    Still, this has been a great conversation and a great introduction to KKF.

    Thanks to all for the great advice and all the help.

    Faviken looks interesting, so thanks for that recommendation, perneto.

    Tad, I'm asking for all of the bones of the steer that is being processed for me... I love having them for stock! You are right: real beef stock is worth the effort. I'm going to get the hide, too. To make some leather, to make something nice... in my mythical "spare time".

    In the Charcuterie looks interesting, too... thanks for that recommendation, quantumcloud509, and thanks for the welcome!

    Thanks, DWells, for the book recommendations. The River Cottage Meat Book looks very interesting. May have to get that to add to the kitchen book shelf.

    Ohbewon, you do 2.5 cows a week? Wow, you know the drill then! This cow, the one that I am now delivering to another farm instead of into my freezer, is a Dexter, for what it's worth, maybe 700 pounds, six years old, grass-fed. She is in good condition but I expect the meat would have been pretty lean. It is interesting that you say the higher fat-content animals have more sinew. Never thought of that.

    I'm going to take all of this advice and pack it away for future reference.

    Now it is turkey time! For anybody on the hunt for a great roast turkey recipe, I recommend the "Judy Bird".
    It is a dry-brined bird, and completely delicious.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all!


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