Black Angus Beef … what’s the big deal??

Greetings Carnivores,

I love getting questions and suggestions for Blog topics related to meat and, todays’ comes from an old friend and past co-worker, John (who’s now living the life of a retired man … I’m so jealous) 🙂

His query quite simply was this:

“I think you should write a column about “certified Angus beef” in your blog. To me it’s nothing but a marketing ploy to charge more money. Isn’t it all just about the grading? Or how a steer was fed? Thoughts?”

Well Johnny boy, this is just for you … here goes.

Certified Angus Beef, AKA CAB is one of the most popular beef cattle breeds today but, that wasn’t always the case.

This hornless breed traces it origins back to the Aberdeenshire and Angus regions of Scotland and is known world wide as Abredeen Angus. Interestingly, this breed occurs naturally in two colours, both Red and Black with the Red gene being recessive.

As far as it’s introduction to North America is concerned, back in the late 1800’s four Black bulls were imported, and taken to the Kansas City agricultural fair.

Back in the day, these animals were used to cross breed since the gene associated with being hornless (polled) in the Angus is dominant.

Fast forward a few years from their introduction in Kansas, and the American Aberdeen Angus Association was formed. The governing body at the time decided they were going to concentrate on the Black colour, and only they were recognized as Black Angus. The Red was then relegated to a separate breed, and known as the Red Angus.

Today, both Canada and the UK still recognize the Black and the Red as the same breed and, to me (being a dog lover and owner of many Dobermans over the years) Reds and Blacks are genetically identical, just like my beloved Dobermans who (in case you didn’t know) occur naturally in 4 recognized colours. Black is the dominant gene but, the recessive gene colours are Red, Blue (yes BLUE) and Fawn. Same dog, … different colour … just like the Aberdeen Angus.

Anyway … I digress … again. 🙂

Okay so, back to your query John.

As with all breeds, grading is just one component of the process and like I wrote a while back … it’s completely optional.

Click here for my post re: grading. And, additionally, click here for more info:

As far as todays’ Angus beef well, … back in the late 70’s, the Black Angus Beef Association for purely marketing reasons, decided they wanted to “promote” their breed as being superior, so they created the designation CAB or Certified Angus Beef, and laid out a number of determining factors in order for an animal to “qualify”

What followed, not too long ago (less than 20 years) was the big push to “promote” this breed as being superior, and was first seen in ground beef patties marketed as “Black Angus backyard beef burgers”.

Seeing an opportunity to gouge the public, it wasn’t long before the BIG fast food chains jumped on board. They inflated the prices for these “superior” burgers and realized an overall public acceptance to these as somehow being better than the Plain Jane, run-of-the-mill burger.

The propaganda machine was set in motion and gathering speed.

Today, CAB is widely accepted as being superior but … is it really?

I think not.

Marketing … what an amazingly powerful tool.

Click here for a post I wrote about marketing and how your shopping habits are being “directed” by the retailers and … you don’t even know it.

To my old friend John … I hope this addresses your question buddy … and, I also hope you are enjoying your retirement (I’m still sooooo jealous).

I LOVE getting comments and questions so, keep ‘em coming. 🙂

Stay tuned and … please click “follow” at the top of the page (Carnivore Confidential). You’ll get an email notice every time I write something new.

Until next time Carnivores, stay hungry and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook


NOW you’re in for a treat … the Beef Top Blade or Flat Iron Steak.


Greetings Carnivores,

As promised last week, today I have another special selection for you … the much maligned and misunderstood, Top Blade Steak AKA the Flat Iron.

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Whole Top Blade Muscle. Note: the heavy “Silver Skin”

This little gem, as the name implies, comes from the blade section of the Beef carcass and is one of two muscles sitting under the Shoulder Blade bone. This bone is sometimes referred to as the “Paddle bone” (indigenous 1st nations people used this bone as a paddle), or the “Seven” bone (when cut across the width of the bone, it resembles the number 7). The other muscle is known as the Mock Tender only because it resembles the fillet, and that’s where the similarity ends.

More about this muscle in a future post but, for now let’s talk about the Flat Iron.

Here in North America, it’s known as the Flat Iron but, in other parts of the world it’s called things like “Butchers Steak” in the UK and, for my Aussie friends down unda, the “Oyster Blade Steak.”

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The transverse line running the length is chewy and needs to be removed. I like to do this BEFORE it’s cut into steaks

When the butcher removes the Top Blade muscle from the bone, he must do a number of things to “clean” it before it’s ready for the grill. You can do this yourself with a sharp knife but, a little skill is needed. There is a heavy “silver skin” or “Bone felt” on the side that’s next to the bone. This does NOT render well during cooking and needs to be removed.

The second REALLY important step, is the removal of the heavy tendon running the horizontal length of the muscle, separating it into two Flat Iron Steaks. I prefer to remove this BEFORE it gets cut into steaks (see photo above) but, I’ve seen it done both ways.

Once these steps are finished, you’re in for a treat.

Since this muscle comes from the shoulder it usually has a significant amount of marbling which as we already know, when cooked, contributes to the wonderful flavour of these little beauties.


Beautifully marbled texture.

Fire up the grill, season to your taste and cook to a perfect medium rare.

Oh my … “Honey … guess what’s for dinner?”

I hope you’ll give these a try and let me know how you make out … I LOVE getting comments and questions so, keep ‘em coming. 🙂

Stay tuned and … please click “follow” at the top of the page (Carnivore Confidential). You’ll get an email notice every time I write something new.

Until next time Carnivores, stay hungry and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook

Ode to Fall … how I love thee!!

Greetings Carnivores,

The skies are grey, change is in the air. I can feel it, see it, taste it. My house, high on a hill is bearing witness to the trees beyond the lake, turning as I write.

Just a few short weeks from now, when the night time temps dip, the trees will blossom with beautiful hues of Autumn Red, fading to Orange, Gold and Yellow.

Today is nasty in a wonderful Fall sort of way. It’s raining and a bit chilly.

I REALLY DO hate to see the Summer days grow short but … I SOOOO love the Fall. Bright sunshine and cool nights. NO BUGS to spoil any outside leisure activities and, those beautiful colours in the trees.

According to Wikipedia, An “Ode”  is elaborately praising or glorifying an event, describing nature intellectually as well as emotionally.

And so, this is my Ode to Fall … how I love thee!!

Ahhhh, but the promise of Winter … my favourite.

Yes, I know some have a problem with that. Perhaps I’m one of the strange ones.

I SOOOO love to ride my motorcycle. Sadly, I just don’t do very well with the crazy heat and humidity that goes hand in hand with the Summer months here, where I have lived almost all of my life.

Being a Butcher for 35+ years has messed up my internal thermometer. I used to DREAD going to work. “How in the WORLD am I going to stay warm for 8 hours ???” Crazy thing now, I LOVE it !!!

I ACTUALLY look FORWARD to spending the ENTIRE day in the COLD !!! Seriously!!!  I can work my butt off and NEVER break a sweat !! It’s BEAUTIFUL !!

Again, I digress …

Here’s the deal … I SOOOOO look forward to the cold and SNOW !!!

I want to be clear … I LOVE the change of seasons we are blessed with in this part of my beautiful country (Canada) and, I really wouldn’t have it any other way.  As much as I look forward to Spring, and the rebirth of everything green, I ALSO SOOOOOO look forward to the COLD, exhilarating slap of WINTER!!

I am a skier. I love all things out-of-doors, especially in the Winter. I guess that makes me a bit of a “Winter weirdo” and, let’s not forget … a FOODIE too!

For me, the Winter presents a WHOLE new experience for folks that just love to cut, cook, prepare, present and serve FOOD to appreciating people (mainly my Marital equivalent, family and friends). Comfort food to warm the heart and soul. Spicy chili’s, hearty stews and crock pot recipes that beg for a crackling fire, glass of wine and a big sweater.

Coming home today, as I drove up my long driveway, I was wondering “how am I going to impress my marital equivalent for dinner tonight ” and, … I’m SERIOUSLY drawing a TOTAL blank.

I put the key in the door, my beautiful four legged Princesses meet me as usual, and … dinner is gone. Out of my mind like the flush of a big Porcelain throne.

History. It’s play time and … Daddy’s home!!!

I usually give dinner serious thought during the day. Today however, I’m waffling between pulling nasty, last minute, got-no-time-for-anything-else, burgers or worse out of the freezer … OR, (wait for it …) the dreaded “Breakfast-for-dinner”!!! Fast n’ easy, bacon and eggs with toast (yum … so easy, … AND, sooooo good)

Sadly, my lovely spouse just doesn’t “GET” the whole “Breakfast-for-dinner” thing !!!

Back to the drawing board.

With the days growing colder, my opportunities to smoke (food, NOT tobacco or that other funny stuff!) are dwindling.  As the outside temperature drops I must add more and more time to my overall cook, since I use an old water smoker. One of these days I’ll invest in a Big Green Egg but, I digress, … again.

Back to dinner. I want to use my smoker tonight but, I haven’t presoaked any wood chips … or have I ???

This whole diatribe has been the reason for my Blog post today.

I have a ridiculously obvious and simple tip I actually fell into by accident to share.

Back in the summer, after  smoking some ribs for dinner, I was cleaning up and realized there was still half a bag of hickory chips soaking in my bucket. Not wanting to drain them, dry them and store them for next time, instead, I put them into a ziplock bag and stuck them in the freezer.

Waiting for wood chips or chunks to soak can be a pain (at least 30 minutes to 1 hour). If you’re eager to begin smoking food as I am tonight, the wood needs to soak before being added to the grill in order to maintain a slow smolder rather than a quick burn, which can impart an acrid taste to your meat.

In my freezer, I have pre-soaked, ready to use wood chips!! By the time I get the old smoker rockin’ , my chips will be thawed and ready to use!

Necessity is the Mother of Invention AND, the end result of many happy accidents around here !!

BTW, … the same tip is great for soaking bamboo skewers as well.  This is a must before grilling since soaking will help keep the wood from burning before the food is cooked.  You can even use frozen chips for your gas grill too.  Just place them inside a foil pouch with holes poked into it for ventilation and add them to your BBQ while cooking your favourite protein.

Chicken leg quarters, brined, smoked and finished in my little water smoker, served with foil wrapped potatoes and steamed, buttered broccoli.

Comfort food for a chilly night … ahhhh the crackling fire.

Honey? … can I pour you some wine ???

All is good.

Until next time Carnivores, stay hungry and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook

What a GRIND !! The PERFECT Ground Beef story.

Greetings Carnivores,

I’m often asked questions about Ground Beef. Which one makes the best burgers? What’s in it? Are there any fillers? Why is it dark on the inside? (please see my Carnivore Confidential post “How ’bout a little love” published 2013/02/06) What’s the fat to lean ratio?

Well, in order to answer those questions, I need to first tell you a little bit about Ground Beef, and how it’s made.

Years ago (and still, in certain boutique Butcher shops) you will see “Ground Chuck” “Ground Round” and Ground Sirloin”. More often than not now though, you will find the terms “Regular”, “Medium”, “Lean” and “Extra Lean” Ground Beef.

Technically speaking … a package “labeled” as “GROUND CHUCK”, cannot have anything but meat trimmings from the Chuck (Shoulder) area of the carcass. The same with “GROUND ROUND” coming from ONLY the Round (Hip) area, and so on with “GROUND SIRLOIN”

The reason ground beef today is generally marked as Regular, Medium, Lean and Extra Lean is because for the most part ALL the trimmings from all the different parts of the carcass are tossed into the same lugs. There will be a mixture of trim from the Shoulder, Hip, Sirloin as well as everything else such as the Brisket, Point, Flank, Neck and Shanks.

As you can see, it’s now a mixture of trim from all over the carcass and hence the name “Ground Beef”. The Regular, Medium, Lean and Extra Lean designations are arrived at by determining the fat content of each one.

In some cases, the store will mix their “house” trimmings with really lean tubes of Cryovaced Ground Beef from the slaughterhouse.

These Cryovaced tubes are usually 80/20 or 86/14 meaning 80% Lean and 20% fat … you get the picture.  They vary depending on the requirements of the meat department for example: during the day the “House Trim” is ground, then a determination is made on how many tubes are needed in order to make it fall within the “Fat Test Range” established by the store. If the package says “Lean Ground Beef no more that 15% fat” then you can reasonably assume a “Fat Test” has been performed, and the Ground Beef has tested “Less than 15%” which allows it to be called “Lean Ground Beef”.

Ok so, what makes the BEST hamburgers??

Well, this will vary from person to person BUT, … I can tell you MY personal favourite is a mixture of cuts beginning with BLADE EYES then, I like to add boneless SHORT RIBS and, BRISKET.


BEHOLD!! The beautiful Blade (Chuck) Eye. Note: the marbling and fat … mmmmmm!



The Blade (Chuck) portion is a hard working Shoulder muscle used for support and mobility

The ratio of fat to lean plus, the benefit of lots of connective tissue and collagen makes this selection of cuts an EXCELLENT, if the not THE VERY BEST choice for ground beef.

The front shoulder is the area of the carcass I ALWAYS use when I’m making Ground Beef for anything … Meatloaf, Spaghetti sauce, Tacos and Burritos, especially BURGERS!!

AND … the ONLY thing that ALWAYS makes this Ground Beef better is … PORK FAT!

Yup,… just ask Emeril Lagasse!


When in doubt … add Pork fat!!

I ALWAYS add Pork fat when I grind my beef mixture … it makes (in my humble opinion) the very BEST Ground Beef, for ANY application you can find (excuse me while I wipe my chin).

Lastly, … I know there are a LOT of people who swear by the “Trinity”, Ground Beef, Ground Pork and Ground Veal.

And I say Hey, … live and let live.

For me … Ground Blade (chuck) eyes, Short ribs, Brisket and Pork fat makes the Angels sing and … why fix what ain’t broke!!

One final thought about the perfect Ground beef and, this is VERY important people.


Keep it loose folks!!!

When making burgers (or anything, really) it’s vitally important NOT to overwork the meat before forming it into patties. Believe me folks, care needs to be taken here or you’ll end up disappointed.

Less is definitely more so PLEASE don’t ‘pack’ your patties … you’ll be rewarded with a much better ‘mouth feel’

Until next time Carnivores, stay hungry and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook

What’s that SMELL ?

Greetings Carnivores,

Today I want to talk about something that happens on a fairly regular basis.

If you discover a sealed package of meat (a fresh steak or maybe some Bologna … I won’t judge) that looks like it’s been blown up with air … don’t eat it. Through a natural order of things, microscopic critters (organisms) are always hard at work doing their level best to cop a free meal. During the breakdown of the food item, these bacterium are releasing by-products, one of which is gas.

Now, without getting too technical, the type of gas (Methane, Carbon Dioxide … the list goes on) is determined by the type of Bacteria and the food it’s consuming. The important point to remember here is: the food is in an advanced stage of spoiling.

Best before dates are really only a “Guideline” for you to consider ie: the item ‘should’ be consumed BEFORE the BB date, other wise it should be frozen for consumption later.

I’d LOVE to tell you about my canned Lobster story but … I digress.

Until next time Carnivores stay hungry and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook

Stay hungry Carnivores