It may sound strange to start an article about meat with a nod to veganism, but hear me out. Even if movements like Veganuary or Stoptober haven’t convinced you to completely cut out animal products or alcohol from your diet, they have made us all think more about what we’re eating and why. And when it comes to meat, should you still be a committed carnivore, what’s important is to ensure it’s of the highest possible quality – and that you know how it’s produced, from farm to fork. So, with that in mind, I’ve rounded up the best butchery and curing courses in the country, so you can fully understand the hunk of protein that lands on your plate. If you’ll pardon the pun, you’ll be an expert in the field in no time at all.
Makin’ Bacon at London Smoke & Cure
Get to grips with this king of meat with the dedicated Makin’ Bacon course by purveyor of fine meats London Smoke & Cure. Based in Crystal Palace, the half-day course is led by founder Ross Mitchell, in his own personal smokehouse. You’ll start the morning by enjoying a bacon butty cooked right in front of you in the outdoor space, before getting down to the nitty-gritty of bacon making. From learning which cuts of pork are best and the butchery techniques to use, to how to smoke flavour into the meat, this hands-on course is a must for anyone wanting to know more about their favourite breakfast sarnie.
£95 for a half-day course, londonsmokeandcure.co.uk
Cannon & Cannon The Pig weekend masterclass
For those of you looking for a meat deep-dive, Cannon & Cannon has teamed up with Tempus Charcuterie on this two-day masterclass that takes you through how a whole pig is butchered to create delicious charcuterie. Tom Whitaker and Dhruv Baker, founders of Tempus Charcuterie, run the class from their Surrey headquarters, teaching not only the step-by-step processes of butchery and production, but the science behind curing and ageing, too. At the end of the weekend, students’ creations will left to slowly age to perfection, before being sent to them to enjoy at home. Lunches and tasting are also included as part of the weekend course, too.
£490, Tempus Charcuterie, Unit 7, Trade City, Avro Way, Brooklands Weybridge, Surrey KT13 0YF, cannonandcannon.com
Curing and Smoking at the School of Artisan Food
Love charcuterie? This in-depth, one-day course at the Nottinghamshire-based School of Artisan Food is a great introduction to the artisan methods behind your favourite pancetta, prosciutto and salt beef. Led by expert butchers and charcutiers Chris Moorby and Rich Summers, the day will start with a demonstration on how to butcher a side of pork, so you can understand which cuts are best for curing. The course also includes an introduction to the science of curing, the range of methods you can use, including dry salt curing and brining, and the hot and cold smoking of meats. A lunch is provided by the school’s artisan chefs, and you’ll be able to take home a selection of hand-crafted products.
£190 for a full-day course, schoolofartisanfood.org
Empire Farm sausage making course
If you’ve ever felt the urge to escape the rat race, you need to head down to Empire Farm in Somerset for a real taste of the good life. The farm is the venture of Sally and Adrian Morgan, who bought it in 2004 and have set up organic smallholding with expert courses on everything from cider making to lamb butchery. Their full-day sausage making course is a hands-on workshop that teaches you how to prep various cuts of pork, stuff sausages and design your own recipes. And the best part is that you won’t have to wait to test out your creations, but can cook them up for lunch there and then.
£150, Empire Farm Throop Road Templecombe Somerset BA8 0HR, empirefarm.co.uk
Butchery Classes at The Ginger Pig
The Ginger Pig has become a bit of a meat-lover’s institution, with their expert cuts, succulent meat and handmade pies. Run by The Ginger Pig’s experienced butchers, their dedicated evening classes offer the chance to step behind the curtain. Students are able to try their hand at light butchery, learn more about where their meat comes from and how to get the most from each cut. You can also choose whether you specialise in pork, beef, poultry or feathered game – whichever takes your fancy. To round it all off, there’s a two-course meal to finish, and a joint or sausages to take home with you.
£165 for an evening course and dinner, thegingerpig.co.uk
Meat The Steak at Meat London
The most advanced of the dedicated London butcher’s courses, Meat The Steak is for more experienced meat handlers. An intensive four-hour course for two people only, it starts with an explanation of British beef: different breeds, animal husbandry and how to shop for a really good slab of the stuff. The expert butchers from Meat London then take the ‘roasting’ – the section of beef that includes the rump, sirloin, fore-rib and filet of beef – and cut it into its constituent parts. You then get to de-bone and prepare the remaining cuts, ready for the final talk on how to properly cook a steak. Don’t worry, there’ll be meat to eat at the end of it all – you get to cut two of each steak to take home.
£165 for a 4-hour course, meatlondon.co.uk
Wild Game Butchery at Hands On Bushcraft
Fancy something a bit wilder? Buried in the depths of woodland in either Gloucestershire or Wiltshire, the Wild Game Butchery course is run by outdoor experts Hands On Bushcraft. The day starts by learning how to skin, butcher, de-bone and joint up a deer, before going on to explore the best venison marinades. After a hearty wood fire lunch of the venison cuts you prepared, you’ll go on to learn how skin and joint a rabbit, as well as how to pluck and prepare a pigeon. You’ll leave with a selection of recipes to try at home, as well as the venison, rabbit and pigeon you butchered yourself.
From £199 for a one-day course, handsonbushcraft.co.uk