Breaking down a pig at Lincoln Cafe

There’s a reason Matt Steigerwald and the Lincoln Cafe crew won the pork extravaganza that was Cochon 555 in Des Moines: they know how to deal with a whole pig.

Recently, I witnessed Steigerwald and his sous chef, Andy Schumacher, break down a 250-pound pig (that’s on-the-rail weight, or the pig less guts, hooves and blood).

While they are certainly no master butchers (they occasionally would stop and double check with each other before making key cuts), they have more practice than most cooks in Iowa.

The restaurant started buying whole hogs last fall, Steigerwald said, because he wanted to learn how to break them down and Schumacher was interested, too.

“It’s given me a greater respect,” said Schumacher.

Steigerwald points out that the financial risk is pretty low, too. The scraps, turned into sausage and served as a lunch special, for example, can pay for the $330 pig.

But it’s also the only way to get a lot of specific pig parts. Want to make head cheese? Pork-liver pate? You better buy yourself a whole hog and then figure out what to do the rest of it.

“There are a lot of good parts that aren’t being utilized,” said Steigerwald. Well, at other restaurants, anyway.

The story I wrote about Lincoln Cafe for Corridor Buzz has been posted.

4 thoughts on “Breaking down a pig at Lincoln Cafe”

  1. It disgusted my wife to learn that the prominent ridges were actually the ridges along the roof of the pig's mouth, not teeth.

    I misidentified those ridges the first time I saw a pig split open, too.

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