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.


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.


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.


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.


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,

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, or give our advisors a ring on 01467 629666. Here at Donald Russell, it’s all part of the service!

Posted by DonaldRussell in Head Butcher   |  Leave a comment

Matthias Schmitt

Hi again!

It’s Matthias here, with some exciting news – we’ve got some fantastic new Slow Cooked Mains for you! You might remember me talking about the original range here – deliciously tender slow cooked cuts in chef’s sauces, which cook straight from frozen and are perfectly portioned to feed one or two.

We select some of our favourite meaty cuts and marinade them with our own special blends of herbs, spices, garlic, lemon, wine and more, then seal them up and cook them really slowly ‘sous vide’ for hours on end. All the juices which would normally evaporate during roasting are trapped nicely in and around the meat as it cooks, ensuring great flavour and an unmistakably succulent, fall-apart tender texture. They’re so easy – you don’t even need to defrost! Simply heat in as little as 40 minutes from frozen, for a slow cooked restaurant experience from your own oven… our customers have said that it’s like having a chef cook for them every night of the week!

Anyway, here are my three new creations. I hope you love them as much as we do …

Slow Cooked Beef Brisket in Stout Gravy


An old fashioned favourite, given the Donald Russell twist! We’ve taken that most old-fashioned of
cuts, a traditional beef brisket, and transformed it into a dish you’d be delighted to receive in any top restaurant. We’ve sealed it up in a thick, glossy sauce, rich in the punchy flavours of dark stout and a whole sprig of fresh rosemary, and cooked it ever so gently ‘sous vide’ for hours on end. The result? Comfort on a plate!

Slow Cooked Chicken Crown in Gravy


You’ve never tasted chicken as tender as this! We have reached new levels of succulence with this
juicy, tender slow cooked chicken. A whole crown – both chicken breasts, kept on the bone for extra
flavour – is sealed up in a savoury gravy, enhanced with sage and real chicken stock. We add a whole
sprig of fresh thyme and slow cook it gently for over three hours – ‘sous vide’ so that none of the
precious juices escape.

Slow Cooked Beef Olives in Onion & Ale Gravy


A traditional Scottish favourite in a rich, dark English ale gravy – the perfect match! Two Beef Olives
– thin slices of grass-fed steak wrapped around a delicious minced steak, pork and bacon stuffing,
with flecks of tender carrot. All slow cooked to perfection in a rich beef gravy with onions, parsley,
thyme and golden English ale.

Before I go, I’ve got one final little tip for you – our Slow Cooked Mains make the most fantastic ‘pulled meat’. Simply shred the meat with two forks once it’s heated through. Try it piled high in a soft, floury roll for a proper taste sensation!

Bon appetit,


Posted by DonaldRussell in Matthias Schmitt, NEW to Donald Russell   |  Leave a comment

Petra Pennington, Food Writer

At last – true Italian pizza, delivered direct to your home, from Donald Russell. And what pizza!

It will come as no surprise that Donald Russell Managing Director, Tazio Gagliardi, with his Italian heritage, is a pizza aficionado. When he couldn’t wait to get these home, we knew they were the genuine article.


They’re all made in Italy of course – by hand, in the small town of Fregona, Veneto, about 40 miles north of Venice – and are authentically Italian from start to finish. One bite and you’ll be hooked…

The dough is made in the traditional way, using Italian durum wheat and Italian extra virgin olive oil. It’s hand pulled and tossed to be light as air – perfectly thin and with a crisp crust.


Try the classic pizzeria round shape. Or sample the master Pizzailo’s art through our unusual and exciting styles, little known outside of Italy. There’s Barchetti (‘mini boats’), Frusti (part folded) and Rettangolari (rectangular – ideal for sharing)

The sauce is fresh and deceptively simple, like the best Italian cooking. Just Italian tomatoes, with Italian basil, and a little salt. Then come the toppings! Feast your eyes on these …



Simplicity at its best. Fresh pulped tomatoes, simply seasoned with salt and oregano, topped with torn fresh mozzarella. This is the basis of all our toppings.


Prosciutto e Mascarpone:

Italian style cooked ham, ‘Prosciutto Cotto’, with thin, melting pats of fresh tasting, creamy mascarpone.


Quattro Stagioni:

Four delicious Italian seasons represented on one pizza! Artichokes for spring, ripe peppers for summer, mushrooms for autumn, and Prosciutto Cotto for winter.


Verdure Grigliate:

Grilled Mediterranean vegetables – ribbons of zucchini (courgette), thin disks of melanzane (aubergine), and peperone rosso (red peppers).



The classic margherita, adorned with slices of ripe cherry tomato, mini pearls of mozzarella, and fresh Italian basil.

Savour the tastes of Napoli and Roma. You can do all this without having to go further than your own kitchen, as all of these pizzas bake beautifully, straight from frozen in your home oven, in under 15 minutes. So go on – pour the wine and enjoy a slice of la dolce vita!


Posted by Petra in NEW to Donald Russell   |  Leave a comment