One demand of a modern kitchen is serving customers a quality meal at a reasonable price. One of my tricks is buying an inexpensive ball roast, then hand removing the silver skin to produce, as some of you have experienced, some very tender steaks. As with all things, there are trade-offs. In this case, it takes more time, but it’s cheaper.
What is silver skin? It’s the tissue connecting the individual muscles to the tendons, or separates muscles from each other. This tissue is quite thin and tough, which gives it a silvery, translucent appearance — hence the name.
Silver skin provides some advantages and disadvantages when you home butcher. First, it allows you to easily to slide your knife between two different muscles, letting you effortlessly divide out individual steaks. Once you’ve broken out the individual cuts, there’s the disadvantage: figuring out how to remove the silver skin. This is where a sharp knife with a pointy tip is necessary.
Take the tip of the knife and push it under the silver skin using a gentle back and forth motion. Once the blade has exited the other side of the steak, continue the gentle back and forth motion to separate the meat and silver skin. There are two additional tricks. The first is to angle the blade ever so slightly upward so the edge of the blade scrapes the underside of the silver skin. Another trick I use is to place my other hand on top of the steak so that I can feel the blade sliding.
Since this requires a sharp blade, safety is paramount. First, sharp knives are safer than dull knives, for three reasons. A sharp knife allows you to butcher with much less force; less force means you have greater control over the knife and a lower likelihood of the knife going somewhere it shouldn’t go, like your hand.
Second, if you do cut yourself, the injury will heal much faster with a sharp knife. A dull knife rips and tears flesh, giving a jagged injury, where a sharp blade will divide tissue cleanly and closer to its original position.
The third safety advantage stems from the scariness factor. When I run my finger over a sharp blade, it scares me. My fear translates into a lot of respect for what that blade can do to me.
Other safety tips when butchering: work on a steady surface. Use a counter or heavy table. Ensure your cutting board is heavy and won’t rock while you carve your meat. Always wear inexpensive, disposable nitrile gloves. I can’t count how many times I’ve saved myself a nick because the blade caught on the nitrile, and not on my flesh.
My trick for grinding my own hamburger meat from my lean butchering scraps is to mix in about 16% of smoked brisket rendered fat in when I grind it. The smoky flavor and extra bits of brisket kick up the taste. Plus, as humans, we enjoy the mouth feel of fatty meats.
Store-bought hamburger meats use much more “scrap,” scrap you probably don’t want to consume. I’ll let you research the concept of pink slime and decide if this is something you want going into your body.
So, if you want to save money, buy inexpensive cuts of meat and hand trim them to get a tenderer cut and a quality product.
Ross Derby graduated with two degrees from the Culinary Institute of America, with a focus on culinary arts and business management. Previously, he oversaw the opening of a 210-seat brewpub at the Orlando airport that did $23 million in sales. Currently, he co-owns and manages the Iron Tree Restaurant and is the brewmaster for Funky Town Brewery in Florissant.
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