Butchers appreciate an open mind. “The customers that we like the best are the ones that just come in and say ‘What looks good today?’,” says Dickson. Instead of ordering old standbys like New York strip and sirloin, try less-known butcher cuts, like the flatiron or the top round, which are often just as tasty—and significantly cheaper.
Ask for recommendations
Your relationship with your butcher, says Dickson, should be a bit like the one you have with a sommelier in a restaurant: “You can say ‘Look, I don’t know a lot about wine, but here’s what I like…’ and he should be able to help you out. Same thing with a butcher.” Tell your butcher the qualities you look for in your meat—gamey, juicy, tender—and over time, he’ll get better at recommending cuts that match your taste.
After you’ve tried a cut of meat, tell your butcher what you thought—and don’t be afraid of saying you didn’t like a particular cut. “Butchers love if you come back and say, ‘You know what? That wasn’t my thing. What else do you have?’” Dickson explains. “When we see a customer didn’t like something, but came back anyway, that’s when we know we’re building a relationship with them.”
Ask about provenance
Asking your butcher where his meat comes from—and how it’s raised and slaughtered—doesn’t make you a character in a Portlandia sketch. “In a supermarket, that might get a defensive reaction,” says Dickson. “But if you’re visiting a specialty shop, that’s a thing your butcher is going to care about to.”
Spread the word
Nothing ingratiates you to your butcher like giving him a shout-out on Yelp.