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Tips from the butcher’s block

Advice from a pro on seasoning, cooking, storing meats

Cassie Weber, a butcher at Western Meats in Tumwater, has been with the company for seven years and knows how to choose, season and cook a nice piece of meat. Nikki Talotta

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"For steaks, my personal preference is the New York, because the marbling dispenses throughout and makes it nice and tender," says Cassie Weber, butcher at Western Meats in Tumwater. "And I cook everything on the BBQ. It just tastes better."

Weber has been with the company for seven years, following in her father's footsteps, and she knows her meat.

"We grind and stuff and make everything here," she says.

As we break from our interview so Weber can expertly handle a customer, I browse the shop. The display cases are full of fresh cut meats, pink and hearty. Rib Eyes, tenderloin and pork chops wait, ripe for the picking. Homemade specialty items like chicken cordon bleu, piroshkies and twice baked potatoes are available, too. There are freezers full of pre-packed burger patties, sausages and chicken. There are leftover animal parts such as beef knuckles and pig snouts for man's best friend and the shelves are stocked with custom spice and sauce blends.

Everything the carnivore could love is packed thoughtfully into the shop.

Weber returns from her customer and I ask what her favorite spices for steak are.

 "Our best seller is Snider's Seasoning," she says. "But what I use at home - and it's really the cat's meow - is Western Meat's Robust Rib-Eye."

Looking at the jar of coarsely chopped spices, I can see why. It's got salt, pepper, dill, coriander, red pepper and garlic. My mouth begins to water.

Now that I know how to season my steak, I want to know how long to cook it.

"The average is four minutes per side on the BBQ," says Weber. "If it's tenderloin, maybe five or six."

And storing?

"It depends," she says, "If it's just sitting on a plate in the fridge, five days. If it's wrapped and packaged tightly, it can go longer. Beef ages; we get all ours aged to 21 days for tenderness and flavor."

In the freezer, depending again on how well it's wrapped, beef can be stored six to eight months.

Another customer comes in, this time a regular.

"I usually get steaks for my son and I," says Mike Sundberg, meat enthusiast. "New York and a Rib-Eye, and today I'm getting some bacon."

"They have a good variety, friendly people and reasonable prices," he adds.

Friendly and knowledgeable, I think as I muse over Weber's information and advice.  Without further ado, I decide to grab a couple New Yorks to take home.

Weber picks me the finest, and wraps them up tight.

I bring home the prize cuts and offer them to my husband, as well as a few tidbits from Weber.

To my delight, he cooks them just right.

(Western Meats Wholesale, Retail and Custom Cutting, Mon-Sat 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 4101 Capitol Blvd. Tumwater, 360.357.6601)

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