Andrew Zimmern Wants You To Eat These Discarded Cuts Of The Meat - Exclusive

As a lover of foods that are often thought of as bizarre or outside of the box, Andrew Zimmern has dedicated much of his career to educating audiences about culinary preparations from around the world to help foster understanding through eating. He recently joined Tasting Table for an exclusive interview at this year's New York City Wine & Food Festival (NYCWFF) and told us the discarded cuts of meat he wishes more home cooks would warm up to — specifically, animal necks. 

"People are afraid of them, but to me, they're just a working cut of the animal ... When you say to someone 'brisket' or 'shank,' it sounds fantastic. It's almost like we created a culture of deliciousness around those muscles," he explained. "There are other working cuts of the animal, like necks and shoulders and butts and feet. In some cases, those require more cooking and they require a little bit more work ... but the results are twice as delicious."

Less popular cuts can be more flavorful and economical

Andrew Zimmern's passion for unsung cuts of meat is so strong not only because he finds them more flavorful than the traditional cuts of meat many of us have grown accustomed to seeing on restaurant menus and in our local meat markets, but also because those cuts are more economical. "A lot of people enjoy throwing a luxury steak on a grill. These days, most people can't afford that," he told us. "This food that's born of poverty — what the Italians call 'cocina povera' — are the things that a lot of people are now turning to again." 

As is often the case, when certain foods suddenly become highly sought after, market prices adjust to reflect that. "You pay a premium for [these cuts] in restaurants [now]. The steak is $35, the short ribs are $45, because we've driven up the price of them. But those short ribs were the things our grandparents made. Our great-grandparents used necks and shanks and feet," he said. And while Zimmern readily admits that these cuts can be a little more work — a bit of a trade-off for the lower price — he was happy to share his advice for cooks willing to give them a try.

Cooking with necks

Of all the parts of an animal Andrew Zimmern most recommends trying, he has a clear favorite. "If you said to me, 'You have to take one cut, but from all animals — what's it going to be?' I go neck," he said. "Every animal moves its head to eat, [so the neck] has some of the best flavor on any animal." 

If you're eager to give cooking neck a try, Zimmern's primary guidance is: "Be patient." Cooking neck takes time, but the results are worth it. "Obviously, a fish neck doesn't take that long to cook, but a lot of times if you're using a lamb neck or a hog neck, it's [about] patience," he explained. "It is going to cook all day long. It'll braise for eight hours. It'll roast for 10 hours. It'll go on the smoker for 14 hours, but the results are really second to none." So if you're not sure what to cook for dinner this weekend — and you've got the time — you might consider giving neck a try. Your palate (and wallet) will thank you!