July is usually the height of grilling season — parties, campfire cookouts, hot summer nights. Since a lot of us are sticking close to home this month, we weren’t surprised to see most of your latest Ask the Butcher questions weren’t grilling queries, but instead about how best to cook some of our most affordable cuts: flat iron steaks and boneless skinless chicken thighs (similar to boneless skinless breasts, but with much fuller flavor). Josh Applestone answers your questions and drops some wisdom for those of you wishing pork rib tips were more widely available nationwide.
Have a question for Josh? Just ask the butcher and he will answer.
Q. What is the best way to cook a flat iron steak? I have bought it because it’s so affordable, but I must be making it wrong, because I didn’t like it. It was a little tough.
A: Flat irons are best done medium. They are not as good cooked rare; that’s a little too much chew for some people. Cook it using our perfect steak method. I don’t put pepper on them. A little salt is all you need. I really like flat iron for salads. Sear some up and let them rest for fifteen minutes. This is very important; you don’t want the juice to purge out.
Then you slice it up and place directly on the salad. One tip is to have the salad all ready to go before you slice. Have it next to the cutting board. Then you can put it directly on the salad and any part that does purge can go in the salad and give it a little extra flavor. Did you know before there was brisket, people used to barbecue shoulder clods? That’s where the flat iron is from, the shoulder. Brisket is fattier.
Q. I can’t find rib tips anywhere. Where I grew up, rib tips were in abundance! Now, whenever I ask about them, people suggest spare ribs. It’s upsetting not being able to get any! Please say you ship.
A: Rib tips are a generic term that’s used for a bony fatty end. It could be the end of the spare ribs or the end of the short ribs. It could be anything. All animals are the same. The way commercial animals are broken, the rib tips are lost. We get whole pigs, split in half, so we have the opportunity to bone that out. We take them off the spare ribs. You can’t cut ribs individually without removing the rib tips. Our rib tips come from the inside of the first through the eighth rib.
Unfortunately we don’t ship. A whole hog BBQ place might have them already cooked. Or your best bet is to find a butcher near you who cuts whole animals and ask for them. The butcher needs to get the chest plate in whole or half, or they won’t have rib tips.
You can cook rib tips any way you’d do ribs. You can pre-boil to loosen up fibers and get the fat off. Or you can slow cook. Do you want them wet or dry? How you cook depends on what you are looking for — what kind of moisture content. Some people really like chewing them, others want them falling apart in their hands.
Q. I bought a few packs of skinless boneless chicken thighs. How should I make them?
A: Curry. Jessica, who lived in Japan, makes such a good Japanese curry. It’s absolutely insane. They do great in stew with a good acid; the fat with the pH makes a really creamy rich broth. I also do them straight on the grill with olive oil, salt, and a little garlic. You can barbecue them. I’ve been cramming a bunch of them on a little grill rotisserie. I slap an onion on each end, and then you carve them like shawarma or gyros. They’re amazing.
The thing about chicken is that people overcook it. I remember my mom saying about my dad, This is how he likes it. I grew up and realized things like rare hamburgers and seafood that still has a bite to it and isn’t spongy is a thing. Stop overcooking food; it’s a crime.