How 9 Cuts of Meat Got Their Names

Ever find yourself standing in front of a butcher's counter and wonder where in the world certain cuts and preparations of meat got their names? Here are the stories behind a few popular meals.

1. Boston butt

Don't be too grossed out when you hear this name; it doesn't mean "butt" as in "rear end." Instead, the cut comes from the front shoulder of the pig. So why "butt"? During colonial days New England butchers tended to take less prized cuts of pork like these and pack them into barrels for storage and transport. The barrels the pork went into were called butts. This particular shoulder cut became known around the country as a New England specialty, and hence it became the "Boston butt."

2. Porterhouse steak

The origin of the term "porterhouse" is surprisingly contentious, as several cities and establishments claim to have coined it. The name might have originated on Manhattan's Pearl Street around 1814, when porter house proprietor Martin Morrison started serving particularly large T-bones. The Oxford English Dictionary lists this etymology as the likely origin of the steak's name while noting that there's no contemporary evidence to support or contradict the tale.

This origin story gained traction in the late 19th century, but other carnivores contend a Cambridge, Mass. hotel and restaurant proprietor named Zachariah B. Porter lent his name to the cut. Still others claim that the steak takes its name from the Porter House, a popular 19th-century hotel in Flowery Branch, Ga.

3. Filet mignon

The term filet mignon is French for "dainty fillet." Somehow this makes eating one seem a bit less manly, although no less delicious.

4. Canadian bacon

When you chomp into a slice of pizza with Canadian bacon on it, are you sending a little bit of culinary support to our neighbors to the north? Not quite. Canadian bacon is simply a leaner, brined type of bacon that comes from a loin cut further back on the pig. Americans started calling this type of pork "Canadian bacon" because we were under the impression that Canadians particularly loved their back bacon.

5. Swiss steak

At least Canadian bacon has some theoretical tie back to the Great White North. Swiss steak, the bane of school cafeterias everywhere, has nothing to do with Switzerland. Instead, the term "Swiss steak" refers to the meat having gone through a process called "swissing" before being cooked. Swissing, which is also used in textile production, refers to a process of hammering, pounding, or rolling a material to soften it up. In the cast of Swiss steak, butchers take tough cuts of beef and pound them or roll them to make them tender.

6. Hanger steak

The bistro favorite is so named because it "hangs" from the diaphragm between the rib and the loin of the steer from which it is cut.

7. Chateaubriand steak

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This preparation for a thick cut from the tenderloin allegedly takes its name from the first diner to enjoy it, Vicomte Francois-Rene de Chateubriand (1768-1848). Chateaubriand was a foodie, but he got quite a bit done away from the dinner table, too. He served as France's ambassador to Prussia, and his writing earned him praises as the father of French Romanticism.

Chateubriand enjoyed a good steak, too. At some point during his life, the writer's personal chef whipped up a dish of a very large peppered beef tenderloin topped with a buttery wine-and-shallot sauce, and a new meat sensation was born.

8. 7-Bone roast

Don't let the name fool you; this isn't a particularly bony piece of beef. The 7-Bone roast actually comes from a cross cut of a cow's shoulder blade, which leaves a large bone shaped like the number seven in the meat. Although it's not as bony as you'd think, it's not a particularly easy cut to cook. It's generally so tough that it's best for braising.

9. Flat iron steak

Mike, Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This trendy, tasty cut is a fairly recent development. In the early 21st century meat science professors at the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida searched cattle with a fine-toothed comb in the hopes of finding an exquisite new cut they could bring to market. After much research, they found an underappreciated muscle in the shoulder that would provide a delicious, well-marbled piece of beef if cut correctly. The new cut was dubbed the "flat iron steak," supposedly because it is shaped somewhat like an old-fashioned flat iron.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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How Did Apple Pie Become an Iconic American Dessert?

Apple pie isn't as American as you may think.
Apple pie isn't as American as you may think.
Dilyara Garifullina via Unsplash

Many staples of American cuisine originated outside the United States. German immigrants brought over the modern hamburger, and Italians were the first to combine cheese with macaroni. Apple pie—a dish that commonly follows the words “American as”—has a reputation for being one of the rare dishes the country can fully claim. But as it turns out, the history of the iconic American dessert isn’t so simple.

The earliest known recipe for apple pie comes not from America, but from England. It dates from the late 1300s and lists multiple fruits as the ingredients, including figs, raisins, and pears, as well as apples. Unlike a modern pie, there was no added sugar, and it was baked in a “coffin” pastry crust meant to contain the filling rather than serve as an edible part of the dish. Though the first concoction resembling apple pie may have come from England, the recipe itself wasn’t wholly English. Its influences can be traced back to France, the Netherlands, and the Ottoman Empire.

Apple trees had only been cultivated in Britain for several centuries by this point. An early ancestor of the fruit originally sprouted up in the Tien Shan mountains of Kazakhstan millions of years ago and was later cultivated in Central Asia before spreading across the globe. Before apple pie could take over America, someone first had to plant the right apple trees on the land. The only apples native to North America prior to British colonialism were crab apples. When colonists arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in the 17th century, they brought with them the Old World seeds and cuttings they needed to make cider, creating new varieties of American apples.

U.S. residents enjoyed apple pie throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, but it didn’t gain its all-American status right away. The dessert’s transition from British import to American classic may have started during the Civil War. In his book Apple Pie: An American Story, author John T. Edge describes Union and Confederate soldiers scavenging for apples and raiding the hearths and flour bins on farms to make pies. The memory of the sweet treat during a time of national turmoil may have “fixed the taste of apple pie on the palate of generations to come,” Edge writes.

The patriotic symbolism surrounding apple pie was fully established in the early 20th century. A 1902 New York Times article kicked off a new era for the dish, dubbing it “the American synonym for prosperity.” The Times may also be responsible for creating the myth that apple pie is an American invention. A 1926 headline from the paper read: “The Tourist Apple Pie Hunt Is Ended: American Army Abroad Has Failed Again to Find in Europe ‘the Kind They Make at Home.’”

The dish's patriotic popularity continued to rise. A 1928 New York Times article called First Lady Lou Henry Hoover's homemaking skills “as American as apple pie.” Several years later, fighting “for mom and apple pie” became a common slogan among World War II soldiers. During the Second World War, apple pie was linked to a certain image of domesticity and the perfect American housewife.

Apple pie may not be 100 percent American in origin, but very few foods are. Many of the most iconic American dishes include contributions from various cultures and parts of the world. Apple pie—with its Asian apples, Middle Eastern wheat, and European recipe—is no exception.