I’ll be honest, I’m terrible at meal planning. Now, this might not be a problem if I lived near a real grocery store and could pop in any time I chose. (The Valero gas station in town doesn’t count!)
When it does become a problem is when Clifford texts, ‘what’s for supper?’ and I have no idea!
Luckily, I always have ground beef in the house freezer (taco meat, burgers). Or, if I’m really desperate, I can go to the ‘store’ freezer in the barn for a steak or a roast I can quickly defrost or put in the InstantPot.
Why am I sharing this? Mainly because I’ve realized lately how often I rely on having a freezer stocked with beef.
Now, stocking your freezer with a whole or half cow might not be right for you, but I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about the process and I want to take away the unknown.
Here are the most asked questions. Do they sound familiar?
What kind of beef cuts do I get?
How do I know what to order?
We don’t eat all those ‘icky’ parts, do we have to get them?
How much freezer space do I need?
Buying a whole cow IS a large commitment - I get it! The process can be intimidating, especially for first-time buyers. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be a scary process when you understand all the different moving parts.
Your family’s eating habits are completely different from any other family
There can’t be a one-sized ordering sheet for everyone, but there are some simple decisions you can ask yourself before placing your order.
PACKAGING: Paper (lasts at least a year) or vacuum sealed (lasts 2 years). The butcher will charge more for vacuum sealed, but it might be worth it. I recommend vacuum sealed for ground beef as it’s a flat package and easier to store. Paper wrapped packages can leak when defrosting, so you’ll need to defrost in a pan or bowl.
WHAT DO YOU COOK THE MOST? ground beef, steaks, roasts? Ground beef and stew meat come mainly from the roast, so the more ground beef, the fewer roasts you’ll receive.
Ground beef: how much do you normally use at one time? The butcher can package it to fit how you use it: 1lb, 1.5lb, 2lb, 5lb.
Chili meat: This is a bit coarser than regular ground beef and is good for chili or soup
Pre-packaged burger patties: Decide how many patties/pound: 3 or 4 patties/pound
ROAST: You decide which kind and how big of roast works best for your family (2lb, 3lb, 4lb, 5lb). There are quite a few different types of roasts available and the butcher can always custom cut to your specifications. You do not have to get all of the roasts, especially if you like more ground beef or stew meat.
Here are the roasts I usually have cut:
Chuck: has the most marbling/fat. It will most likely have a bone inside.
Shoulder: Will have a bone.
Round: No bone
Rump: No bone
Tri: No bone
STEW MEAT: Do you want stew meat and how do you want it packaged? How many pounds total? More stew meat = less roast and/or burger
BRISKET: Do you want it whole or cut in half? (A whole brisket is 5-7lbs)
RIBS: Do you want ribs to grill on the barbecue? Short ribs for the slow cooker?
STEAKS: Remember, grass-fed steaks are leaner, so they don’t have a lot of fat & marbling, which will impact the flavor & tenderness of the steak. Medium well & well-done steaks can be tough unless you tenderize and/or marinate them!
Do you want T-Bones OR NY Strip & Tenderloin (filet mignon)? You can’t have both unless you purchase a whole cow – half with T-bones, half with NY Strip/tenderloin.
How thick do you like your steaks? How well-done you like your steaks will decide thickness. The thicker the steak, the longer it takes to cook.
Flank and Skirt: Do you want it tenderized?
Ribeye steak: Bone-in or out? Also, this steak can become tough unless cooked correctly. You can choose to put this into ground beef or tenderized cutlets if you want.
Cutlets and Round steak are usually tough unless you tenderize. Some people use them for chicken fried steak or in the crock pot for shredded beef.
ORGAN MEAT (OFFAL): Which organ meat do you want – liver, heart, tongue, kidney, oxtail.
BONES: Different types available: marrow, knuckle, neck, or broth. Meat soup bones are from the leg/shank and have lots of marrow with meat. Broth bones have the meat removed.
SPECIAL CUTS: Is there a cut of meat you’d like that’s not on the list? Some people like hanger steak, tri-tip steaks, Osso Bucco, ribeye roast, prime rib, tenderloin roast, cheek, head, suet, culotte roast, etc. This website is a great resource for cuts and how to cook each one.
I know this seems like a lot, but it’s really not! As long as you’ve got the basics, you can’t go wrong. Luckily, I’ve worked with the butcher for several years, and I’m more than happy to help walk you through the process!
I hope this helps clear up a few things about the process. Please let me know in the comments if there’s something I’m missing!