Guide: Camas Davis
A Cut Above
The founder of Portland Meat Collective, a modern butchery school, reveals four budget cuts with luxurious flavor.
This underutilized cut from the top of the pork shoulder, behind the neck, is best known in its cured form, with marbling that melts in your mouth. Daring gastronauts can do a simple salt cure for a DIY charcuterie plate, but Davis recommends having your butcher roll and tie it; then braise it in milk, fennel, and aromatics for an unbeatably juicy roast.
2. Boneless beef ribs
These “faux ribs” are actually strips of meat cut from the chuck-eye roll. Davis opts for a simple Chinese barbecue at home: “Throw them into a Dutch oven or a Crock-Pot with ketchup, five-spice, rice vinegar, Korean chile flakes, onions, garlic, ginger, and water. It’s much cheaper than ‘rib ribs,’ but just as good.”
3. Denver Steak
Cut from the chuck, this increasingly popular steak is ideal for grilling, with tons of fatty striation and a powerful beefy flavor. Davis loves to marinate Denvers in an “enzymatic marinade”—acids like kiwi, vinegar, wine, even yogurt—to tenderize and infuse flavor before browning the meat.
4. Lamb Neck
“Lambs spend all day grazing, which gives their necks a muscular, concentrated flavor. On the bone, lamb neck makes amazing broths and fabulous braises for Middle Eastern feasts,” Davis says. You can also ask your butcher to bone out the neck for a flat piece of meat; roll cumin, fresh herbs, and pork sausage inside it for a unique roast.
HOT TIP: Call your butcher at least a day ahead to ensure they have the cut in stock, and to give them time to prepare it.
HOW TO: Grill grass-fed
Eyes on the Prize
Pasture-raised beef has its advantages, but it’s a challenge to cook correctly. Expert Lynne Curry shares three grilling tips from her book Pure Beef to keep your bovine investments perfectly juicy.
Because the animal works harder and is slaughtered at an older age than grain-fed cattle, grass-fed beef is less fatty. Less fat means more heat sensitivity. Curry recommends using a thermometer and a timer. And whether you’re a pit master or a first-timer, she warns you to never walk away from the grill.
Go by Temp
Because of its diet, grass-fed beef retains a redder color than normal steak, so gauge doneness by temperature (130 degrees for medium-rare) rather than color.
Easy Does It
Sustained high heat is the enemy of these lean steaks. Keep your steak over high heat for no more than 3 ½ minutes for a good char, then move it to an indirect heat source until cooked to desired doneness.
How to build the ultimate Portland charcuterie plate
1. Hot Spicy Pickles
These snappy gherkin cukes, mixed with fiery whole chile peppers, dill, and garlic, go just as well in a Bloody Mary as on your charcuterie plate.
2. Sourdough Grissini
(Skin and Bones)
This maverick bistro’s take on traditional Italian hand-rolled bread sticks brings unique sour notes to the plate—not to mention a fantastic crunch.
(Fino in Fondo)
From McMinnville’s masters of authentic Italian salumi come these hunks of indulgence, aged for three months. Slice thin to reveal musky Umbrian black truffles.
(Tails and Trotters)
It might not technically be charcuterie, but we can’t resist this “pork brisket,” brined, rubbed with pepper and coriander, then smoked. It may be the best sandwich meat money can buy—and it’s a thriller on a plate.
5. Whole-Grain Brown Mustard
The local mustard-maker spikes its whole-grain seeds with Upright Brewing’s Dark #6 Rye beer, giving it a depth and richness that elevates these fatty meats.
6. Saucisson D’Arles
This purist’s salami is made only with pork and salt, lusciously unadulterated to allow Oregon’s porcine terroir to shine through.
7. Balsamic Fresh Fig Jam
(Three Little Figs)
Made with fresh kadota figs and a hit of rosemary, this small-batch jam packs a fruity punch with sweet, sour, and herbal notes.
8. Bourbon Chicken-Liver Mousse
(Chop Butchery & Charcuterie)
With an addictive infusion of mascarpone, this super-smooth mousse is blended with apple, curry, bourbon, onion, garlic, and bacon.
ADVANCED SHOPPING: Ruling the Roost
These farmers market birds aren’t your everyday supermarket roasters. Exposed to the elements year-round and nourished by bugs and grubs, heritage breeds have a deep, succulent flavor that makes average poultry pale by comparison.
Pine Mountain Ranch
(PSU, Beaverton, Hollywood, St. Johns, Hillsdale, Nike, Milwaukie, King)
This wild game preserve in Bend offers a variety of poultry and a slew of heritage birds, from turkeys to guinea fowl, ducks, and geese.
Dancing Chicken Farm
(PSU, King, Lake Oswego, Shemanski)
Dancing Chicken’s products run the gamut of eggs, quail, game hens, and turkeys, with heritage breeds like Buff Orpington and Barred Rock striding about their southern Washington farm.
Deck Family Farm
(PSU, Hollywood, St. Johns, Montavilla, Woodstock, King)
Based in Junction City, this full-scale farm raises old-world Cornish Cross chickens and broad-breasted, bronze, and white turkeys.
In addition to Thanksgiving turkeys, farmer Mark Anderson raises heritage-breed laying hens that produce irresistible, nutrient-rich eggs in a full spectrum of sizes and colors.