The process of butchering and cooking meat has slowly evolved since prehistoric times. Breaking down large creatures into smaller, manageable portions, preparing the cuts for immediate consumption or preserving them for later — it sounds simple. But there’s a world of techniques to master, and infinite recipes to explore. After learning the basics, practice and experience hone the perfect knife strokes and the proper salt ratios. Whether you’re exploring butchering techniques or delving into regional cuisines, the following books offer the best education in tackling a diploma in meat.
Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing
Michael Ruhlman explores the world of cured meat in this book for the home chef. From proper salting to stuffing sausages and understanding the different types of terrines, Charcuterie is your resource.
Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto
Aaron Franklin, the owner of a wildly respected Austin BBQ joint, explains the art of meat smoking and the techniques of Texas-style BBQ. Smoking meat well takes decades of practice, but this book offers Franklin’s experience to cut years off of the learning curve.
Koreatown: A Cookbook
Deuki Hong and Matt Robard explore the meat-centric culture of Korean cooking in America through recipes and stories from L.A. to New York City, Atlanta to Chicago. The book explores protein’s starring role in popular dishes like bulgogi and kalbi, especially its powerful blend of sweet, savory and umami flavors.
Meat: Everything You Need to Know
Pat LaFrieda’s meat-packing business has been at the top of the game for three generations. In this book, he shares trade secrets — the inexpensive and less-known flavorful cuts to buy, the knife work for preparing various cuts and some time-tested family recipes.
Meat: A Kitchen Education
James Peterson’s book is study of the fundamentals: an encyclopedia of 175 recipes for cooking a wide range of meat and poultry cuts. Peterson examines nearly every type of meat consumers can source from the butcher, and, in the final section, explores the basics of making sausages, terrines and broths.
The River Cottage Meat Book
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ode to meat focuses on three main sections: sustainable meat production, sourcing and storing meat, and how to cook various cuts. Recipes in The River Cottage Meat Book cover roasting, barbecuing, preserving and how to get the most from your leftovers.
Primal Cuts: Cooking with America’s Best Butchers
Marissa Guggiana profiles 50 butchers from around the country, and shares their favorite dishes and cooking techniques. The knowledge is golden: from unconventional meat cuts to the best way to order at the meat counter, the book is an insider’s guide to the art of butchery.
Whole Beast Butchery: The Complete Visual Guide to Beef, Lamb, and Pork
For full immersion in an old craft, Whole Beast Butchery by Ryan Farr can’t be beat. With 500 step-by-step photographs, a primer on tools, techniques, and meat handling, along with master recipes for main cuts, this is the manifesto for new butchers everywhere.
Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat
Key terms like “grass fed” and “free range” are commonplace on menus across the continent, and Good Meat explores sustainable meat, and how to source and enjoy it. The book also includes 200 recipes for pork, beef, lamb, poultry and game.
The Complete Nose to Tail
Fergus Henderson, the chef of St. John in London, compiled two previous cookbooks into one with The Complete Nose to Tail. A joining of Whole Beast and Beyond Nose to Tail, this book is the guide to eating part of an animal — and enjoying every bite.
Crafted Meat: The New Meat Culture
Crafted Meat is a visual compendium of new developments and products in the craft meat scene. It’s backed by a number of profiles along with recipes and answers to questions like, “What should be served with blood sausage?”
Au Pied de Cochon: The Album
Au Pied De Chochon, fronted by chef Martin Picard, is an iconoclastic Montreal restaurant with a knack for indulging. Meat-centric is an understatement. Baked pie stuffed with a hare, duck, beef marrow, quail and pork shanks? Beans and meatballs made with piglet heads? Multiple takes on pig feet? They’re just the tip of the iceberg.