If prepared well, eating a good Sirloin Steak can be one of life’s little pleasures. But if you’re not a trained butcher, how would you know what this cut is, and what makes it such an enjoyable eat? As a master butcher, I think I can help there…

Sirloin Steaks – also known as New York Strip Steaks in the USA – are cut from the very best meat to be found in the primal. The whole striploin, or sirloin, is a primal cut to be found beneath the back of the animal, between the ribs and the fillet. In fact, that’s how it gets its name, which comes from the French ‘surloine’, meaning ‘below the loin’ – loin is the old name for the fillet.

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Combining the finest tender meat of the whole striploin with an outer edge of fat down one side, these steaks cook really well and are a the ideal combination of flavour and tenderness. They occupy the perfect balance between the extremes provided by other steak cuts – not too lean, fatty, tough or mild, you certainly don’t have to be a steak aficionado to taste their instant appeal. No wonder the sirloin is known as ‘the nation’s favourite steak’!

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What to look for in the perfect Sirloin Steak…

• Grass-fed – you just can’t match it for flavour. Grass-fed beef has a richer, sweeter flavour than grain-fed, and won’t leave a greasy aftertaste.

• Well matured – about 28 days should be right, certainly no less, or the flavour and tender texture just won’t be developed enough. Smell it once it’s been at room temperature and before you cook it – it might sound odd but the raw beef should have a gorgeous, buttery aroma.

• Good marbling – although not as heavily marbled as ribeye or some of the humble cuts, sirloin steaks should still be streaked with tiny flecks of fat throughout the meat.

• Butchered with care – all gristle and silverskin should have been removed so you don’t have to leave anything on your plate. Traditional hand cutting will always get the best results.

Trimmed of excess fat – known as ‘special trim’ in the trade, just 5mm left on should be plenty for a great flavour when cooking.

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These are the criteria I would measure any Sirloin Steak against, and would select mine accordingly. They are features which ‘come as standard’ with all Donald Russell Sirloin Steaks, which is just as well; if you can trust a traditional butcher to look after the essential details for you, you can just get on with enjoying your steak.

I always pan-fry mine, following our fool-proof cooking guide, and eat it with fried onions, mushrooms and our Alpine Fries – they just go straight from the freezer into the steak’s pan while it rests, and take on all its beefy flavour. My word, that’s making me hungry now!

Mark Farquhar
Head Butcher

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27/04/2017

If I said ‘The Big 4’ to you, would you know what I was talking about? They’re actually our top steak cuts – Sirloin, Ribeye, Fillet and Rump. We treat each very differently here in the butchery, and, once cut, the final steaks have their own distinct qualities to offer.

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Fillet, being the least used muscle of the four, is naturally very tender, so we only mature it for 21 days, to help bring out its subtle flavour. Its buttery tenderness makes this a seriously prized cut, and it’s what you’ll find tucked inside our delicious Beef Wellingtons.

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Sirloin gets its name from the French surloine, meaning ‘beneath the fillet’, which is where it is to be found as the butcher is preparing the full side of beef. It has worked a little harder than the fillet, so we hang it for longer, for 28 days. Many people consider Sirloin to have the ideal combination of flavour and tenderness.

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That’s the minimum time we ensure our Ribeyes are hung. They benefit from a little extra time, to make sure the creamy fat which makes them so tasty has transformed into the perfect waxy texture in its swirls and eye. Only then will it render beautifully in the pan and melt in the mouth, releasing all that flavour.

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Lastly, we have Rump. On the back haunches of the animal, it has worked with every step these outdoor reared beasts have taken as they graze the fields. All this work means it has a full, deep, beefy flavour and a definite ‘bite’ to the meat. We allow it to age for a full 35 days, or even longer, until it’s tender enough to be seared as a steak. Our butchers cut our signature ‘Pavé Rumps’ from one single muscle within the rump, trimming them of all fat and gristle.

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Of course, we cut many more steaks than these four – take a look at our Speciality Steaks for starters – but these are the real ‘big hitters’ for a reason. They’re what most of our customers keep coming back for, again and again – and you can rest assured that we’ll continue to pride ourselves on selling you nothing but the very best of them!

Mark Farquhar
Head Butcher

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There’s more to butchery than ‘meats’ the eye!

Surely it’s easy enough to be a butcher? Chopping up bits of meat all day – how hard can that be?
Ah, but there’s more to it than that. Much more! Let me explain a little bit about the ancient and venerable craft of butchery … a craft that is disappearing fast, incidentally, as more and more places switch to faster, cheaper machine cutting.

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There are two main ways to become a butcher. You can start working in a butcher’s shop and basically learn on the job, over a few years, or you can do an official apprenticeship. We run our own independently audited Apprenticeship Scheme here at Donald Russell, because we believe strongly in keeping the skills of traditional butchery alive. Our apprentices – both male and female – learn by doing a series of modules over about three years, under the watchful eye of Master Butcher Sandy Wyllie, and end up with a recognised SVQ qualification.

Before you even think about chopping meat, a butcher needs to learn about hygiene and Health & Safety – safety is obviously of the highest importance in a trade like butchery. You need to study the anatomy of the animal – for instance, where the bones and the different sets of muscles are, as well as all the different internal organs – for each of the many animal types found in your average butcher’s shop.

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You have to learn how to select a good carcase, by looking at the conformation (the shape of the animal), the weight, the fat covering, a good level of creamy marbling and a nice firm texture to the meat. How the animal has been reared is important, too – for instance, grass-fed beef will always taste better than grain-fed. Once you’ve got a good bit of meat, you then need to mature it, so that the flavour deepens and the texture becomes more tender. Maturation is practically a science in itself – each cut takes a different length of time, under strict temperature and humidity controlled conditions, and it can take years of experience to judge the moment a cut is at its delicious best.

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Then there’s the basic knife skills – these take many years to master completely, so most butchers would start on the easier flank or shoulder cuts before working up to cutting a fillet steak. As well as getting the knife to do exactly what you want it to (no mean feat when you’re boning out a roast or cutting the perfect chop), you have to develop an eye for weight. Our expert butchers are so experienced that they can tell the weight of a steak to within just a couple of grams before they even put it on the scales. That’s right – as well as cutting by hand, we hand weigh everything too!

You have to learn about all the many different ‘cuts’ of meat – where they are in the carcase, how to separate them cleanly from each other – and which bits you simply don’t want to eat! You need to be able to ‘feel’ for the right place to cut and to know which direction the grain of the meat is running in – cutting ‘with’ the grain rather than across it will always lead to tough meat.

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You need an interest in food, too – until you know how things taste, and whether a cut works best slowly braised or flash fried, you won’t be able to get the most out of it. Your interest in texture and flavour has to extend even further if you want to go into making sausages, burgers, meatloaf and all the other goodies that come straight from the butcher’s shop.

All this takes years to learn, especially if you don’t believe in cutting corners and are passionate about quality, like we are here at Donald Russell. Believe me, no matter how long you practise the craft of traditional butchery for, you never stop learning on the job!

All the best,

Mark
Head Butcher

PS. I’m always happy to answer your questions. Want to know more about traditional butchery skills? Need some advice on a certain cut? Want to know how I’d recommend cooking it? Just get in touch on headbutcher@donaldrussell.com, or give our advisors a ring on 01467 629666. Here at Donald Russell, it’s all part of the service!

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