Understanding the basic anatomy of one mammal—a cow, a pig, a woolly mammoth, or a rabbit—will help you develop an instinctual sense for which cuts of meat to use in almost any situation. Most of us already have a general awareness of how animals move, and, in order to determine which cuts are which, it's helpful to think about how certain muscles may have had to work throughout the animal's lifetime: Was it a hard-working, high-activity muscle (legs, cheeks), or a lazy, low-activity muscle (back, loin)? If you can answer that question, it will help you determine how long to cook it, and at what temperature, in order to achieve a whole range of results. In general, muscles that work harder will be tough, while muscles that work less will be tender. Watch to familiarize yourself with tough and tender cuts, so you can head to the butcher confident in your protein-picking prowess.
Learn more about decoding meat at ChefSteps.com