Ridding your meat of fat and gnarly tissue
We crave the melt-in-your-mouth richness of densely marbled meat produced by cows. In fact, the fat of most domestic animals tends to be an appealing and necessary ingredient in most recipes as it enhances flavor and succulence. Far fewer of us have the same appreciation for the fat of game animals. Why is this so? The short answer is the fats of wild animals aren't as predictable as the fats of domestic animals that are bred with the purpose of becoming the main course. Not in terms of age, diet, sedentariness or stress level — all factors that affect the amount, as well as the flavor, of fat present in an animal.
For these reasons, the fat on wild meat is off-putting and "gamey" to some, both in taste and aroma. If it remains in the processed, wrapped and
ready-to-prepare final product of your kill, pleasing not-so-wild-fat-friendly palates at your dinner table could be a struggle.
There are those among us that embrace the natural flavor and choose to leave the healthy-looking fat on each cut. But for those that don't, the following tips will come in handy.
Always remove the silverskin, regardless of your opinion on fat. It is easiest to remove when the muscle groups are left whole. This allows you to make long, productive knife strokes. When removing long strips of silverskin, such as on the backstrap, begin where it is the thinnest. Cut enough silverskin loose that you can grip it with your spare hand. While pulling the loose silverskin away from the meat, angle the blade of the knife toward the connected silverskin. Angling the blade into the silverskin instead of the meat minimizes losses. This skin is tough and difficult to cut through, so angling your blade into it shouldn’t sever it (this is similar to filleting a fish). However, if you do cut through it, simply begin again, starting at the area where it was severed. Slide your knife forward, staying just below the skin and just above the muscle. Continue until you've removed all of the silverskin.
PROCESSING KNIFE TIP:
While a flexible knife is best for removing large pieces of silverskin, a paring knife excels at trimming.
A thin layer of fat covering a relatively large area can be removed fairly quickly. Begin by placing the meat fat side up on the table. Slide the end of your knife between the meat and layer of fat with the blade facing away from you. Lay one hand on top of the muscle at the end you're starting on (this helps hold the meat still as you work) and slide your knife forward, staying just below the fat and just above the muscle. Fat isn't tough like silverskin, so you can't angle your blade into it without cutting through. A flexible blade is vital here. You can gently push up into the fat while leaving your blade parallel to the meat. If it's flexible, it will bend slightly, keeping your blade in that tiny space between the fat and meat. If it's too stiff, it will cut through the fat.
"Leaving tendons and silverskin on your cuts creates tough areas within your meat..."
The hardest fat to remove is the bubbly-looking stuff. This fat is so easy to cut through that if you try any of the prior methods, you won't be successful. Instead, lay the meat flat with the bubbly side up. Grab one end and fold it over on top of itself. This causes the meat on the other side to protrude, making it easy to remove with a large butcher knife. Notice that this technique is unique in that it requires you to cut the meat off the fat rather than the fat off the meat like the others. As meat is removed, increase the size of your fold to gain access to what remains. Here, you should cut using the same rocking motion as before.
When cutting fat off of meat intended to be steaks, you want the knife strokes to be as long as possible. Start your cut with the very tip of your blade, and use a rocking motion until you get to the base. This makes your cut long and greatly reduces feathering. It's also important to never angle your knife into the meat and keep your blade touching the fat in order to maximize yield.
CARING FOR KITCHEN KNIVES: FIVE TIPS
HONE REGULARLY SHARPEN RARELY
To maintain the sharpest edge, hone your knife with a steel or diamond hone each time before you use it. Once or twice a year, resharpen it using a stone or electric sharpener.
CORRECT CUTTING SURFACES
Always use wood, plastic or cork cutting boards. Never cut on stone, metal or glass which can damage the blade and dull it prematurely.
SCRAPE WITH THE SPINE
When transferring your chopped or diced ingredients into a bowl or pan, flip the knife over and use the spine as a scraper. This way, you won’t be dulling the blade.
HAND WASH, HAND DRY
Hand wash each knife in warm, soapy water and then dry by hand. Never place your kitchen knives in the dishwasher. The extreme heat will quickly dull the blades and warp the handles.
Knives with blade guards can be stored in a kitchen drawer. If they’re without guards, store knives in a wooden block or hang them from a magnetic strip mounted to your cupboards.