Washington butcher Kristina Glinoga explores the art form of butchery
written by Charyn Pfeuffer | photography by Jim Henkens
Longtime Washingtonian Kristina Glinoga says there’s a theory that whole animal butchery literally made us human. “Nutrition from cooked meat enabled homo erectus to evolve into homo sapiens,” she said. “If that doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what will.” This wasn’t the first thing she learned about butchery, but awe-inspiring discoveries like that kept popping up as she’s studied the craft over the last seven years.
“You have to kind of chase butchery education these days,” said Glinoga, so she’s stitching her repertoire together with books, YouTube videos, the occasional butchery class and a few mentors. During her line-cook days, she learned the value of free labor in exchange for knowledge. Although she’s found a couple restaurants with whole animal butchery programs, they’re not common.
Glinoga, who butchers at Matt’s in the Market, compares her career to a noncompetitive sport, or studying music. “Every iteration, every shank or loin, is another opportunity to learn something new or hone something old,” she said. Heavy lifting is the hardest part of the job. “I’m pretty short and not super strong, and there’s a lot of awkwardly shaped heavy stuff to move around,” she said.
If you’re a curious carnivore aspiring to learn more, start by shopping at a real butcher shop, with real, knowledgeable butchers. “Once you’re there, it’s the butcher’s job to make the counter approachable,” Glinoga said. “Like a sommelier, but for meat!”
“We often think of tenderness as the best measure of quality and value, but there are tons of traits that make meat wonderful,” she said. “Even if you only consider texture, there’s all sorts to enjoy; snappy skirt steak, sticky-icky gelatinous oxtail, nearly all of which are fantastic when cooked properly.” She says shoulders and offal are the most underrated cuts of meat.