Every part counts: embracing nose-to-tail cooking at home

Every part counts: embracing nose-to-tail cooking at home

Every part counts: embracing nose-to-tail cooking at home

by Great British Chefs11 June 2024

It’s time to take our nose-to-tail cooking to the next level. We speak to the experts at family-run butcher HG Walter to understand how we can respect every part of an animal.

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Every part counts: embracing nose-to-tail cooking at home

It’s time to take our nose-to-tail cooking to the next level. We speak to the experts at family-run butcher HG Walter to understand how we can respect every part of an animal.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

There are few movements that have revolutionised how we eat as much as nose to tail. Pioneered by St John chef Fergus Henderson in the 1990s, his 1999 book Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking inspired a generation of chefs to pay more attention to which parts of an animal made it into their kitchens, and, more importantly, which didn’t. It’s fair to say the approach, which encourages us to use as much of an animal as we can, has taken hold since then, its influence only heightened by our increasing awareness of sustainability, waste and animal welfare. Today, we’re au fait with traditionally less desirable cuts like pig’s cheek and oxtail, while saving surplus like bones and trim for stocks is now standard for plenty of home cooks, many of whom have been inspired by butchers like the family-run HG Walter. Their close relationships with not just their customers but also chefs at some of the country's best restaurants mean they are able to share their wisdom when it comes to making the most of every part of the animal. That education has paid off – in restaurants today, menus are filled with parts which butchers might have previously struggled to shift – St John, for example, still has the likes of tongue, liver and its famous marrow bones on its daily menus, while plenty more have embraced its ethos, championing their zero-waste credentials.

As nose-to-tail took hold in restaurant kitchens, it began trickling down into our own. Offal and lesser-used cuts were nudged off the sidelines and into the spotlight as we realised that they’re not only delicious, but also budget-friendly. Despite this progress, plenty of us still plump for prime cuts as default, or choose pre-cut options rather than getting to grips with breaking down bigger joints. While few have the space or know-how to tackle whole carcasses, we can all seek out butchers who do, and start adding less familiar cuts to our shopping list. Doing so not only reduces waste and supports a more eco-friendly food system, but also unlocks countless new recipes. It’s something that’s hugely important to HG Walter, which works with some of the most talented chefs in the UK, who are drawn to its zero-waste ethos and fifty years of experience. ‘Nose to tail is so important,’ agrees Charlie Hinds, its head of sales. ‘So much time and care goes into rearing the animals – we need to do our due diligence to make sure every part is respected and not wasted. As well as being more sustainable, it’s also exciting for people to try new things in the kitchen, and that too develops a deeper appreciation for the animal.’

HG Walter’s butchers buy whole carcasses so nothing is wasted. They make their own bacon, burgers, pies and sausages, cure and smoke their own meats and prepare their own stock, using surplus products in the process. Charlie says the team also has an important role in educating customers – that might be giving shoppers advice on cooking different cuts, or pointing out alternatives and swaps to chefs. ‘We are very lucky with our chefs; they’re incredibly talented,’ Charlie says, ‘but they do still come to us for advice. We tell them about lesser-used and secondary cuts and how to make the most of them.’ He points to London restaurant Fallow as an example – it uses HG Walter’s baby back ribs (a by-product from boning out their ribeye joints) in their beef rib snack, instead of the more common choice of short rib. ‘They’re equally as delicious, but it’s just a different way of doing things,’ Charlie says.

So where should we start? We asked Charlie for some inspiration using the example of lamb. He starts off by reminding us not to overlook older animals like hogget (older lambs, between one and two years old) and richly-flavoured mutton, before introducing us to lamb cuts we might be yet to try.

Nose-to-tail eating: Lamb


Often overlooked, lamb neck is enormously versatile and has a huge depth of flavour (it’s also usually very affordable). It can be treated similarly to steak, pan-fried or grilled, rested and served pink, or slowly braised until tender. We’ve opted for the first method in our lamb neck caesar salad, in which it pairs perfectly with anchovies, but it’s also the star of our beautiful braised lamb neck, aubergine and tomato stew.

Bones and feet

 ‘Most people make their stock from chicken, beef or veal, and lamb bones aren’t as popular,’ Charlie says, ‘but lamb stock is equally as delicious.’ He recommends chopping the bones so the marrow is exposed, and turning them into rich stocks, sauces and gravies. The same can be applied to lamb’s feet, which can also be the base of gelatinous stocks.


The pancreas and thymus glands, sweetbreads are classed as offal, with a delicate flavour and soft and creamy texture. They might seem daunting, but after some preparation (you’ll need to peel the membrane and soak them), they’re surprisingly simple to cook. They can be barbecued, pan-fried, grilled or coated or fried – Shaun Hill cooks them with morels and nutmeg in a rich pie, while Galton Blackiston lets them shine with earthy mushrooms and sweet peas.


Charlie suggests lightly dusting lamb liver in flour and pan-frying it until it’s blushing – expect an earthy, ever so slightly sweet flavour. Alternatively, he says it can be added to lamb mince, which creates a deeper, gamey flavour and is a great strategy for those unsure on offal.


Another overlooked cut, kidneys are rarely spotted outside pies in the UK, but have plenty of potential. They are simple to prepare (ask your butcher to core them first), and have a richer flavour and aroma than other cuts, with a smooth, buttery texture. Geoffrey Smeddle pan-fries and glazes his before serving them with broad beans, lemon and capers, while Tom Noest plates up a warming British breakfast classic – devilled kidneys on toast


Lamb belly is a hugely underrated cut, Charlie says. There are two main ways to cook it; firstly, by boning and rolling it to slow-cook as an easy carving joint, which, with its layers of fat and meat, becomes fantastically unctuous and crispy (it’s similar to pork belly). It can also be left on the bone and chopped into ribs – slow-cook them and finish them on the barbecue, Charlie says (they’ll be reminiscent of short ribs). Or take James Mackenzie’s lead and turn it into satisfying, crispy lamb belly fritters


Lamb brain might not be for everyone, but if you brave it you’ll be rewarded with a delicate, almost sweet flavour and creamy texture. They’re similar to sweetbreads in that they also need some preparation (ask your butcher for pointers) and can be fried, grilled or pan-fried. Charlie says it’s delicious on toast, or stirred in with scrambled eggs for a particularly luxurious breakfast.