With any type of cuisine, the cut of the meat makes the difference in the outcome of the dishes that are being prepared. While some recipes may call for lean cuts, others are best with a thick layer of fat left on the cut. Here are examples of how the cuts make all of the difference in southern food preparation.
Soul Food and Undesirable Cuts
Soul food is a type of Southern cuisine that has its origins among poor populations during the time of American slavery in the Southern states. Many of the traditional dishes that are now popular were created out of necessity because of the scarcity of food and the poor cuts of meat that were all that were available at the time. This amounted to the need to prepare meals with scrap meat that consisted mainly of a few sparse chunks of meat attached to a bone. Ham hocks are one of the more common meats found in soul food and are used to flavor bean and pea dishes. Although considered a discard meat in former times they are now held in high regard as a superior source for flavoring certain dishes.
Southern Ham Dinner
Thick sliced ham portions that cover an entire plate are typical examples of southern home-style cooking. Large cuts are what make the slow roasted ham steaks so appealing. People from all walks of life can appreciate the taste and texture of a dinner featuring a ham that has been brined, smoked and baked to perfection.
Beef Tips with Gravy
This dish features slices of beef cooked in a gravy sauce and simmered until tender and juicy. It practically melts in your mouth. Generally, tougher cuts of beef are used in this dish and cooked until they practically fall apart.
Pay attention to the instructions for preparing cuts of meat
When following vintage southern cooking recipes, you’ll notice that many of them will give fairly detailed instructions about how the meat should be cut and prepared. There may not be any indication of how much you should use, but you’ll know if you should use a full cutlet, if it should be pounded or if it should be cut into bite-sized pieces. This is a common thread in older recipes. Some of them get fairly detailed about ingredient measurements while others call for a pinch of this or a handful of that. It’s absolutely wonderful.
Modern Southern Cooking
Some of the more modern versions of Southern dishes call for gourmet cuts of meat. While these are a departure from many of the old time recipes, they are hitting the mark in upscale markets. It helps to show the evolution that this cooking style has undergone in the past several decades. One thing is for certain. Southern cooking has made its mark in America and in whatever form it may become, it is here to stay.