John Gilmour, butcher and supplier of top quality produce, explains how to pick the best cuts of beef and how best to cook them.

John Gilmour Butchers has been supplying meat to Scotland’s finest quality restaurants for the past decade. Now, for the first time they’re offering an online shop and delivery service so foodies at home can also indulge in the ultimate culinary treat. We caught up with John to find out his recommendations of the five best cuts to buy:

What to look for:

Firstly, when buying meat always check for a healthy glow. This glow should not be too bright; if it is, it’s probably too fresh. At John Gilmour we hang our meat for 40 days, and good quality meat is hung for a minimum of 21 days, in which time the meat pales in colour. You shouldn’t be buying anything fresher than this.

Which cuts are best?

Generally beef cut from the hind quarter of an animal (the back legs) is most tender, whereas meat from the forequarter of the animal are perfect for pot roasts or casseroles, taking longer to cook. This is because the shoulders are what the animal uses to propel itself along, and so the meat will be firmer – the back legs aren’t actually used that much, they’re just for balance.

How should I buy?

If buying from a high street butcher, feel free to ask them plenty questions, they’ll be more than happy to help. If buying from a supermarket, always try and make sure your meat is coming from Scotland so you know it’s the freshest it can be for you to eat.

Flat iron steak

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Where does it come from?
This cut comes from the shoulder of the animal, and is so named because it should lie flat on the plate.

What makes it good?
It has a big, strong, beefy flavour.

How should it be cooked?
This kind of cut should only be cooked rare to medium as anything more and the meat will tense up and affect the flavour. Straight up with potatoes or chips, and maybe a whiskey glaze on the meat.

Rump steak

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Sometimes known as:
Popseye or the Scottish traditional ‘heuk-bone’ for hip-bone

Where does it come from?
This is cut from the hip of the animal, in the connecting muscle from the front to hind quarter. It can be split into three or four different cuts.

What makes it good?
This cut isn’t ultra-tender but it’s huge on flavour. As they’re relatively inexpensive, rumps are nice, middle of the road, good with everything, can’t-go-wrong selection.

How should it be cooked?
Rumps are best grilled to a maximum of medium, under medium heat. Don’t do this with a blazing hot grill, as the final product shouldn’t be well done.

Shoulder Steak

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Sometimes known as:
Chuck steak

What makes it good?
The best way to ensure a good shoulder steak is procurement at the livestock market. The best cattle are usually kept to the end and these produce the best shoulder steaks. Although all meat is hung, this is hung to remove excess moisture to ensure it is soft, tender and mature.

How should it be cooked?
I love this cut diced and put into a casserole or beef bourguignon. If making this kind of dish, best to cook the meat for about 3 hours.

Mince

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Where does it come from?
The hind of the animal

What makes it good?
Ensuring you get the best beef possible. Lesser mince has a higher fat content, meaning when you cook it fat floats to the top. This means you have to remove the top layer of meat, meaning you can lose up to a quarter of what you’ve purchased. For better value, healthier and tastier meal, buying more expensive mince is advisable. Our mince is made from the trimming of our steaks to make sure it’s the highest quality possible.

How should it be cooked?
Our mince is bursting with flavour, so it’s great in pies and lasagnes. But my favourite is mince, mashed potatoes and onions. The longer you simmer the mince, the more tender it becomes – so leave for about an hour.

T Bone steak

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Where does it come from?
The backline of the animal.

What makes it good?
On one side of the T there’s a sirloin with fat around the outside, and on the other side there’s a filet, so two great cuts in one piece of meat. As this is cooked on the bone it keep the meat really succulent. To make sure you’re getting the best T-Bone possible, when shopping for it make sure there’s a rich creamy layer of fat around it. Without this layer, the cut will be really dry.

How should it be cooked?
T bones should sit at room temperature for 2 hours before cooking so the meat can relax and acclimatise. I recommend eating it blue or rare, so pre-heat your grill and then cook for three minutes either side, but for a medium or well done steak increase this to 5 or 6 minutes each side. When you have finished cooking, leave it to relax again at room temperature for another 3-5 minutes for a really amazing steak.

About the Author:

John Gilmour is the head of John Gilmour company Limited and expert butcher. He has been working in his field since he left school at the age of 15 and supplies Scotland’s most reputable meat restaurants and hotels.

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About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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