10 Things Your Grocery Store Butcher Can Do for You (That You Didn’t Expect)

published Mar 8, 2017
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Butchers aren’t just there to grab the second sirloin from the back out of the meat case for you; they are equipped to do all sorts of meat-related tasks, probably much better than you would do yourself. All you have to do is ask.

We spoke to butchers from Stew Leonard’s, Publix, and Sprouts to get a refresher on what you can ask your grocery store butcher to do for you.

Meet the Experts

10 Things Your Grocery Store Butcher Can Do for You

1. They’ll cut your meat.

Whether you need a chuck shoulder cubed for a stew, steak cut into strips for fondue, or a whole chicken broken down into parts, your butcher can do it for you. In fact, customers ask their butchers to do these sorts of tasks all the time. “It’s one of the top requests that we get in our butcher shop,” says Alvin Adams of Stew Leonard’s in Danbury, CT.

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2. They’ll cut through bones.

Some cuts of meat are too big for the home cook to take on — especially when bones are involved. “We do a lot of cutting up of pork shoulder,” says Carter. “We just have to use the bandsaw.”

3. They’ll remove bones.

Taking the back bone out of a bird and flattening it, aka spatchcocking or butterflying, helps it cook more evenly and quickly. You can certainly do it at home, but if you’re short on time or not up for tackling the task, you can ask the butcher to do it for you.

Like slicing or cubing meat, this is a task butchers are ready to tackle: “We get a lot of requests for butterflied turkeys — people like to grill them,” says Jim Brown, the supervisor of the meat department at Stew Leonard’s, Danbury, CT. “We do it for the chicken, too.”

4. They’ll make turkduckens.

Your butcher might hate you for it, but at least at Stew Leonard’s, the request to make a turducken — a duck inside a chicken inside a turkey — has been obliged on more than one occasion. “It can be done, but you’d have to have someone skilled do it,” says Adams. “It takes 40 to 45 minutes.”

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5. They’ll grind meat for you.

Say you want a special blend of brisket and chuck for the ultimate burger, or maybe you just prefer to pick your own meat. Well, you can — and should — ask your butcher to grind it for you. According to Deb Carter, the Assistant Meat Manager, at Publix in Pampano Beach, FL, quite a few people will grab a roast or a London broil off the shelf and ask the team to grind it up. (And the team is happy to accommodate.)

6. They’ll tie your roast.

Butchers have the skills (read: equipment) to tie your filet mignon, crown roast, leg of lamb, or whatever your heart desires. “We have a machine that does it for us,” Adams says. “It’s pretty accurate and it gives a nice presentation.”

7. They’ll make special orders.

Looking for a goose or a suckling pig? If you ask a few days in advance, the butcher might be able to get it for you. “If you don’t see something you’re looking for, just ask and we’ll order it especially for you,” says Rodney Mills, the director of Meat and Seafood at Sprouts Farmers Market.

8. They’ll split up a pack of meat.

There’s a two-pack of chicken breasts, but you only want one. You can’t open the packet and just take what you need, but the butcher can. People sometimes complain that there are two in a package and it’s just them eating, Carter says. “We can break it down and rewrap it for them, as long as it’s something that’s weighed.”

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9. They’ll tenderize.

Plenty of us don’t have the counter space or the tenderizer required to pound meat for dishes like schnitzel or scallopine, but the butcher can also do that for you. “A lot of people will buy a boneless sirloin roast, and we’ll cut it up into portions to run through the tenderizer for cheese steaks,” says Adams.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

10. They’ll season your meat for you.

Here’s a fun fact we bet you didn’t know: Butchers have a bunch of sauces and rubs ready to punch up everything from chicken wings to hanger steak. You just have to ask, according to Mills.