The Butcher’s Lingo – by Mercedes Escudero

by Patty Ryan posted on 18 March 2014

Mercedes Escudero writes a column for INC members  called  Tips and Hints for Expatriates. Here she provides tips on how to ask for certain meats when visiting a spanish butcher. This may come handy as we all try to order the same cuts that we are all familiar with back home. As Mercedes says, “A cow is a cow.” Right ? Not always. Take these list of tips with you on your next visit to the butcher !

The primary things that make us at home are our senses.  The things we see that are familiar to us, the sounds and smells, but also the tastes. In an attempt to bring our home to wherever we go, and right after unpacking, we go to the supermarket in order to fill up the fridge and the pantry with all the stuff we need to ‘home-conquer’ the empty kitchen.

The most popular topic in your e-mails is the ‘Butcher Lingo’, paraphrasing our fellow expat Kelly P. The reason why it is so hard to find equivalences for our favourite pieces of meat is because in Spain, we do not have the same meat cuts as in England, the USA or Argentina. Some cuts might coincide whereas others might not. But don’t worry.  After all, a cow is a cow everywhere, isn’t it? I will give you the tips and hints you need to enjoy your favourite beef dishes here in Spain. This time, we will get focused on the equivalences between British and Spanish beef cuts in Veal “ternera”, Cow “vaca” or Ox “buey”.

You may want meat for braising steak “carne para ragout”, mince meat “carne picada” or stewing steak “estofado” from the neck “pescuezo”, the chuck “aguja”, the blade “espaldilla, the clod “pecho” or maybe from the silverside “contra”. For a good stew I would recommend the meat from the shin “morcillo”, great for the Cocido Madrileño as well, but you will also find it in the supermarket from the thin flak or brisket “falda”.

In England, there are many types of joints “piezas enteras” for pot ”olla , oven ”horno” or grill roasting “asar”. In Spain, the most common parts are the eye of round “redondo”, from the back part of the animal and the thick flank “babilla”, knuckle “corazón de babilla” or even topside “Tapa” or Rump “cadera”. The term Rolled is “enrollado” as in Rolled Brisket “falda”, also corresponding with thin flak.

When it comes to the word ‘Filete’ in Spain we refer to a thin sheet of meat for stir-frying ”plancha” or to fry “freir”. Depending on the part of the animal, the “filete” will be class 1st or 2nd , A or B, and you will see this in the price. For instance, sirloin “lomo” is A, and heel muscle “contra” is usually B.  For the thick ones we use sirloin “lomo” but you can also ask for Rump Steak “filete grueso de cadera”.

The ribs’ world is not so big in Spain. We don’t have as many different cuts from the ribs portion of the animal, but the most popular one is the part of the thin flak “churrasco” which is good for BBQ. So if you want short ribs you will have to explain it to the butcher and see whether he can get that cut for you “ costillas superiores con tendon y espina dorsal cortadas en corto” or just say  escalera de Jacob”.  The general term for our ribs is rack “costillar de ternera” or slab “tira de costillas”.

Finally the noble parts are: the fore rib with the single rib “chuletón de llomo alto” or Forerib Roast “pieza de lomo alto con costilla”, rib eye steak “chuletón deshuesado”. The sirloin steak “entrecote de lomo”, the tender loin “solomillo” and the fillet steak “medallón de solomillo” are the good ones. However, the T-bone “chuleta de costilla con lomo” and the Fore Rib “chuletón de lomo alto con parte del costillar” are not common cuts.

Now that you know it all about meat cuts, make yourself at home and Bon Apetito !

Thanks for all your e-mails. For further questions on this subject, feedbacks or new concerns I’ll be more than happy to receive all your inputs with subject “ tips and hints” at”


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