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Sara Hansen

10 Essential Questions To Ask Your Butcher

Whether you’re buying pork butt, beef ribs, or anything in between, your local butcher shop is the best place locally to get good quality fresh meat. But, there’s still a good majority of people that get to the counter and don’t interact much with the butcher. Not past simply asking for the cut of meat they had in mind when they went in.

But, your local butcher is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to all things meat - different types of meat, different cuts, how to prepare them, and more. You should be taking advantage of that if you want to consistently end up with delicious results from your outdoor cooking. 

So, there are some essential questions to ask your butcher that will help ensure you get the best quality meat and the best cuts. Plus, they can even help you expand your cooking skills by recommending a different cut of meat than you may be used to if you’re curious.


What to Ask the Butcher:

Now, if you’re wondering what exactly to ask the butcher, we’ve got you covered! Here are 10 essential questions you should be asking:


What are your freshest cuts right now?

Many local butcher shops and meat markets process animals and manufacture products in-house. So, the butcher will know what was cut most recently and what is the freshest. The fresher the meat the better the taste will be. This question may even lead your butcher to give you a behind-the-scenes peek if you’re interested.

If they don’t process the animals in-house, they will still be able to tell you what came in most recently from their source.


Where do you source your meat from?

Whether they are processing the animals in-house or not, you want to get the full scoop from your butcher on where the meat is coming from. This will ensure you are getting the best possible meat that you can locally.

A good butcher will be well-versed on where they get their meats and will be happy to tell you all about it. Are they getting the animals/meats from a local farm or ranch? Why did they choose that particular farm? The answers to these questions will tell you about the strength of the relationships they might have with local farms, as well as the quality of the meat.


grass fed cattle | Questions to ask your butcher | What to ask the butcher
Source: Snake River Farms


How is the meat raised?

This is a natural follow-up question to the one above. Get curious about how the animals are raised at the farm or ranch your butcher sources from. The meat from animals that are humanely raised, free-range, and grass-fed will always taste better. For example, for pork and chicken, free-range should be the minimum standard you are looking to buy.


What grades of beef do you have?

When you are buying beef, it is important to consider the grade of the meat. Ideally, you don’t want to be buying lower than Choice grade meat if you want good-quality beef that is tender and flavorful. Most quality markets will also offer a selection of Prime cuts and even Wagyu.

Remember, the higher the grade of beef, the higher the amount of fat marbling throughout the meat.

Don’t forget to also ask about any dry-aged beef they may also have in different grades.


What are your best cuts for smoking/grilling?

Keep in mind that the "best" cut of meat isn't necessarily the best option for the method you plan on using to cook it. As we’ve mentioned before, some cuts do better than others when you are smoking meat. Other cuts are best over high-heat on the grill.

Talk to your butcher about the type of cooking you are planning on doing. They’ll be able to give you insights into different cuts that would work and give you new-to-you options you could try. 


What lesser-known cuts do you recommend?

A good way to take advantage of your butcher’s vast knowledge about meat is to ask about lesser-known or less-popular cuts that they would recommend. More than likely, they’ll have a favorite cut that you may not be familiar with or a new way to prep an old favorite of yours. This is an easy way to expand your repertoire when it comes to outdoor cooking.


Questions to ask your butcher | What to ask the butcher | questions to ask the butcher
Source: FoodBeast


Do you have any tips for cooking this?

It is almost a sure bet that your butcher not only loves to prep cuts of meat but they also love to eat it too. So, tap into their knowledge about cooking different cuts of meat and get insider tips they may have.


What cut would give the most bang for my buck?

You’re probably not going to want to spend a lot on a cut of meat every time you go into the meat store. Especially if you are outdoor cooking often. The good thing is, you don’t necessarily have to spend a ton of money to end up with a deliciously cooked piece of meat. Some of the most economical cuts of meat are also the most flavorful.

So, if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck at this visit, ask the butcher about good cuts based on price point.


Will you _ this for me? 

Do you want to debone a cut of meat? Planning on spatchcocking a whole chicken? Want to smoke a frenched rack of lamb? Go ahead and ask the butcher to do it for you. They’ll gladly handle a lot of the prep work for you when you buy your meats. They can even walk you through some of the prep work if you like.

So, don’t be afraid to ask for more than just grabbing the cut you’re pointing to. Butchers are trained in much more than just weighing out meat. They’ll be happy to help and they want to set you up for success when it comes to your outdoor cooking. 


Bonus Question From Your Furry Friend -
What large bones do you have leftover?

When it comes to questions to ask your butcher, your dog has an important one. As butchers process and cut an animal to meet customer’s needs, there will probably be some large bones leftover. These bones make delicious treats that you can bring home for your dog. In most cases, the extra bones are just going to be thrown away. So, don’t be afraid to ask if they have any you can get before you leave. Some butchers will even smoke these bones for you, adding extra flavor for your furry friend to enjoy. Or, you can even use these bones to add extra flavor to soups.

Important note: If you plan to give the bone to your dog, make sure it is not a bone that splinters easily or is very small.


dog bones from the butcher | Questions to ask your butcher | What to ask the butcher
Source: Butcher’s Bones


Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions, They’re There To Help

Asking questions and building a rapport with your local butcher can open many doors for you when it comes to your outdoor cooking. They are there to help you and they know everything there is to know about meat. By utilizing some of the questions to ask your butcher that we’ve covered above, you can ensure you are always getting great quality meat and expanding your cooking skills while you’re at it. 

Can you think of some questions we left out? Did you recently learn something new from your local butcher? Tell us about it below. We want to hear from you!


If you want to learn how to perfect your backyard cooking straight from the pros, join our Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. Follow along with the in-depth virtual cooking classes to learn everything you need to know. 

Check out the virtual Championship Backyard BBQ Classes to follow along step-by-step with 20 different recipes or dive into one of our All-Access Passes to try your hand at cooking four different types of meat just like the top competition cookers. Make sure to also check out the latest from the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel. Click “Subscribe” to stay on top of the latest insider tips and BBQ news straight from the pros!

Sara Hansen

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