This week, ButcherBox is releasing its first book, The BB Kitchen Handbook. Featuring recipes, cooking advice, and more interesting information on meat than you ever thought you’d need. The Handbook is both informative and — we believe — inspirational for both aspiring chefs and for moms and dads with only a few minutes to spare and the urge to make a delicious, healthy meal for their clan.
I recently sat down with Marie Ee, ButcherBox copywriter and the creative genius behind the book, to talk about the challenges of gathering all of ButcherBox’s favorite recipes and cooking advice in one place — and making it a great reading experience.
For Marie, the book was a labor of love. After discussing the book with her, it is evident how much she was driven to get our members not only the best grass-fed beef, heritage-breed pork, and free-range chicken, but also the best advice on how to turn that — literally — raw product into something delectable and easy to cook.
Here is our talk about what went into the development of The BB Kitchen Handbook, which will be available soon:
Roam: Can you tell me what served as the inspiration behind the ButcherBox Handbook?
Marie: So I think that the way it originated was because we really wanted to live the idea of being member obsessed and giving our members a hearty welcome to the ButcherBox family.
While everyone loves our meat, there is a lack of awareness around what to do with some of the cuts. People just wanted some kind of guidance. A guide on meat and how to cook it made sense because we always had a lot of queries from customer service about how to cook a certain piece of meat or how not to overcook a cut or what the best recipes might be.
Roam: Can you talk about some of the first iterations of the book and how it evolved?
Marie: Basically, it was going to be super simple — half the amount of pages it has now — with an overview of our cuts and maybe a couple of descriptions, like how our cut profiles are written on our recipe pages.
Along the way, we realized that it was going to be a shame not to have full picture spreads with a special recipe for each cut, which really took the handbook to a different place than we first imagined.
One of the things ButcherBox co-founders Mike Salguero and Mike Filbey decided after the first iteration of the book was that we needed to make it extremely useful for our target customer, “Pam.” We wanted “Pam” to be able to cook immediately and confidently upon receiving the book.
Roam: What was the research process like? Where did you find all this information about the cuts?
Marie: Getting that education was a really tough part for me. But it was also quite interesting. First I had to figure out the big picture stuff, like where each cut comes from and how it is best used. So I would go to our meat experts and our Head Chef Yankel Polak and ask questions like, “Why would you use a slow cooking method for brisket?”
And so I’d learn that the brisket comes from a well-developed muscle because it’s a heavily used part of the cow, etc. Asking those questions helped me to figure out what I should be zooming in on regarding my research.
Roam: Was there anything you used as a model or for inspiration?
Marie: I actually found a lot of inspiration from books about meat that had a lot of diagrams and that explained things precisely because that’s where I felt the readers would most benefit from that information. It also ended up being more of a cookbook than we intended. But that turned out to be a good thing.
But what we ended up with is some incredibly relevant information that will assist anyone to cook their meat right away. If you get a box of meat, there’s going to be something in there that you can cook that is in the book.
Roam: What are some of the most interesting things that you learned?
Marie: I learned a whole lot from Chef Yankel because we were always discussing how to turn someone from an average chef and push them to a more “gourmet chef” level. Getting to that level takes the right tools. I don’t necessarily mean that someone needs to have the best tools, but they have to have the right ones, used in the right way.
There are also some cooking tips that I had never known. For instance, I didn’t know that you are supposed to drain the liquid from ground beef before finishing it off. But Chef Yankel told me that was a pivotal step to get rid of excess fat and to keep your other ingredients from getting soggy.
But I wasn’t sure if he was right. And I tried it, and now I am never going back to not draining my beef because it makes a huge difference.
One thing that was challenging was putting together diagrams of all the different cuts of beef, pork, and chicken. There are different opinions across the world what to call various cuts and primal. It is all very confusing. So I had to average out the sources and talk with the meat experts to figure it out.
Roam: What were some steps that you weren’t aware of as you got closer to publication?
Marie: Working with a publisher that you trust is essential. This is key because it turns out, that as you near the end of the project, all these small adjustments need to be made. There are details, like the size of the margins, that we had to think about that we hadn’t anticipated and going through those processes can take a long time.
The other thing, quite honestly, was the sheer amount of time it took to proofread the book. Once you’ve been looking at it for so long, you need a separate set of eyes on it. And someone else reviewing it then takes a long time. It is especially true when you have to wade through all the minute details.
The recipe writing, for example, took a long time to check for accuracy. You have to make sure all the ingredients are consistent, and amounts are correct. After you’ve written about 20 recipes, you start to ask yourself if the instructions even make sense.
Roam: Now that you’ve finished the book, how does it feel?
Marie: The best part was finally feeling it and getting to hold it, because part of the way that we conceptualized the whole project was to create a tactile experience for our members. And we did.
We are excited to have members open their box and get one of the books and have that physical experience.
But since it’s been done, I am definitely still wary of looking too closely at it in case I find a typo. Haha. That might bother me forever.
But overall, creating the ButcherBox Handbook was very satisfying. Once we got a final version and could interact with it, we immediately knew that it would be a game-changer for our members.