Basic No Bones Home Butchering

Home butchering is always going to be messy, but the author's "no bones" technique makes it much less complicated.

| November/December 1984

  • no bones home butchering - hindquarters and midquarter meat cuts
    The professional butcher would begin by cutting down the spine to split the carcass in half lengthwise. Each half is then divided into hindquarter, midsection, and forequarter. Each of these three main sections can then be butchered into large portions. The smaller drawings indicate a few, but by no means all, of the serving-size cuts and dishes that can be obtained from each portion. In contrast, the no-bones method of home butchering divides muscle groups into meat sections and avoids cutting bone as much as possible.
    Illustration by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • no bones home butchering - forequarters meat cuts
    A professional butcher would carve the forequarters this way.

  • no bones home butchering - hindquarters and midquarter meat cuts
  • no bones home butchering - forequarters meat cuts

My first successful big-game hunt came at the age of 14. I learned then how to field-dress and skin a deer, but I wasn't quite ready to take on the formidable task of butchering such a large animal. (Besides, the Thanksgiving holiday was over by the time I got home from the hunt, and I was due to return to my duties as an eighth-grade delinquent.) So after I'd properly prepared the field-dressed carcass by removing the hide, head, and lower legs, my dad hauled it to the neighborhood butcher, who cooled it in his meat locker for a few days, then converted it into neatly wrapped and marked packages of meat ... all for the very fair price of 3 cents a pound.

Things have changed over the quarter of a century that has elapsed since that first hunt, and these days, in the Colorado Rockies where I live, it would cost me more than ten times as much to have a deer or other big game animal processed professionally.

So I don't.

Instead, I do it myself. Have been for several years now. And so can you. I'll tell you my method of no bones home butchering, but first, take a few minutes to study Figs. 1 and 2 and read the accompanying brief description of professional butchering techniques. That way, you'll be in a better position to see how my somewhat unorthodox method differs from the norm.

Let me begin by drawing a couple of broad generalizations: In general, professional-style butchering involves producing cuts of meat that look like those you're used to seeing in the grocer's meat cooler: T-bone steaks with those T-shaped bones right there where they should be, for instance. But to produce such aesthetic cuts of meat takes skill and a lot of tedious back-and-forthing with a bone saw: A task that a professional butcher, working in a commercial meat-processing shop, can whiz through in a matter of seconds with a powerful electric band saw would take you or me a good deal longer to accomplish by hand. What's more, unless you're careful and have at least a smattering of knowledge about what you're doing, you're likely to wind up with bone dust polluting those hard-earned steaks.

My butchering technique is totally different: I remove the meat from the bones. That eliminates the time- and energy-consuming sawing chores, but at the same time produces some rather odd-looking cuts. (Visualize a T-bone steak with the T deleted and you'll have an idea of what I mean.) Of course, they taste every bit as good as their professional-looking counterparts — and, what's more, they take up less space in my cramped deep freeze.

12/14/2007 9:30:52 PM

no otherway to do gets no better Ive done this method for years.tried and true works excellant everytime.sounded like i could have written this myself


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