meat cookie cutter

Breaking two cardinal rules in my kitchen–versatility and real-world functionality–my favorite new toy is silly, beautiful, and fun. It can only do one thing: make cookies in the shape of an obscure cut of lamb. A while back, while checking out the display cases at the excellent little butcher shop, Avendano’s, my friends spotted a batch of hand-crafted, limited-edition, copper cookie cutters. For some reason, they thought of me.

The packaging was gorgeous. Each form is hand-stitched to a card painted with a watercolor depiction of the actual cut of meat. I am now blessed with a “Middle Cut Rib” of lamb, which, to be honest, does not resemble any overly trimmed product that I’ve seen at most meat counters. My favorite part is the tiny tag, hanging off the cookie cutter like some exclusive designer label and engraved–by hand, of course–with the maker’s phone number.

This past weekend, I finally had a chance to give it a try. Since royal icing is one of my least favorite foods, depicting meat with only cookie dough became the challenge. An old recipe (adapted from Vanilla Refrigerator Cookies in the 1976 edition of the Joy of Cooking) and a bit of red food coloring leftover from making velvet cake came to rescue. I debated incorporating demi-glace or bouillon for meaty flavor, but decided to stay simple for the test run. Next time.

Here are some photos and notes from my first stab at meat cookies:

meat cookie dough
The red-colored dough, with a bits of white dough aka fat marbling left from the mixing. The color will lighten with baking, so make it darker than the final shade you want.

meat cookie shaping
While still warm and soft, shape the dough into a thick piece that roughly follows the contour of the cutter. Basically, you’re making a lamb loin, or the meat before the butcher saws it into steaks or chops. Make it slightly smaller than the outline of the cutter, though, to allow for the fat layer…

meat cookie fattrim
…with some reserved, uncolored dough, build up a thin (or thick—your preference) layer of “fat” around the lamb loin. I started off with an offset spatula, and then figured out it’s much easier just to flatten pieces of white dough between my palms and press then right into the red dough. Press down firmly on the dough to avoid air pockets, which will later become cracks and gaps. Any breaks later are easy to fix, though, with extra dough.

meat cookie sheetpan
After chilling for a few hours, I sliced the loin thinly with a chef’s knife and transferred the cookies to a parchment lined sheet pan. Final shaping with the cutter happens right on the pan. (The two front cookies have been cut).

meat cookie trimmings
Sweet meat trimmings. I mushed them together into a log, chilled again, and then sliced into pretty, round, marbled cookies.

meat cookie baked
Be sure to cool the cookies completely on a wire rack before storing them in an airtight container.

Layered between parchment, the cookies traveled very well to a weekend picnic in the park. If there’s a meat-lover in your life who happens to like baking or who deserves a batch of meat cookies…well, I think there’s a gift out there waiting to be made.

Red Meat Refrigerator Cookies
Makes 12 large cookies, plus trimmings.


  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest or 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 – 4 teaspoons red food coloring

1. Beat butter until creamy. Add sugar gradually and beat until pale and fluffy.
2. In a separate small bowl, lightly beat together the eggs, vanilla, lemon, and almond. Drizzle into the butter-sugar mixture and beat until smooth.
3. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir into the butter mixture.
4. Remove 1/4 of the dough to a separate bowl. Adding gradually, blend the red food coloring into the remaining dough. Leave the coloring slightly streaking, to keep the cookies tender and to mimic marbled meat.
5. Shape into logs or lamb loins. Chill thoroughly, or at least four hours.
6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Working quickly, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. Re-chill dough, if needed, to keep it firm. Arrange on parchment paper and bake just until lightly golden around edges, or 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

Meat Cookies 14 April,2008Thy Tran

  • Amy

    Love it! I’ve always been curious about bacon cookies:

  • Amy, I have a recipe for bacon cookies too! But I haven’t had a chance yet to bake them. Sounds like chocolate chip cookies, only with crispy bacon bits. Yummm. And then there’s candied bacon, bacon ice cream, bacon brittle, and–my favorite crafty project–bacon weaving. Hmmm… I think this calls for a bacon post….

  • I was the lucky recipient of a gift of these cookies from Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, and I can attest that they are fantastic.

  • Jen- Thanks for the link to recipe — Can’t wait to try these!

  • Cindy

    I’m so glad you and your gift pay the meat forward. Thanks for sharing the cookies. So appropriate and yummy!

  • Wow! These are so stinkin’ cool…I’d love to make these for some of my “meat and potatoes” friends while cooking them a vegetarian meal. Thanks for the post!

  • Thy

    My friend, Cat, who recently fell off the veggie wagon, reminded me of the “guy may beng” (literally, chicken ends cookie) from her childhood. They used to come in plastic bags of 3 wrapped in a twist-tie right at the register of the small Chinese grocery in Sac. Also, there’re lots of sweet treats with pork fu a.k.a shredded dried pork a.k.a. pork floss, the latter being one of the worst names I’ve ever seen for food. I see yet another post in my future about pork fu….

  • Thy,

    I think you have just made my entire week by introducing me to these cookies.


  • Bryan

    what a novelty! meat cookies.
    i can almost overlook the fact that they’re cookies shaped like meat. but i cant overlook the fact that you have to use food coloring to do it.
    sorry… barf.
    and i hope you’re kidding, but next time, i’d forego adding bullion flavor as a test. just eat some meat instead.

  • Amy, I have a recipe for bacon cookies too! But I haven’t had a chance yet to bake them. Sounds like chocolate chip cookies, only with crispy bacon bits. Yummm. And then there’s candied bacon, bacon ice cream, bacon brittle, and–my favorite crafty project–bacon weaving. Hmmm… I think this calls for a bacon post….


Thy Tran

Thy Tran writes literary nonfiction about food, the rituals of the kitchen, and the many ways eating and cooking both connect and separate communities around the world. She co-authored the award-winning guide, Kitchen Companion, and her work has appeared in numerous other books, including Asia in the San Francisco Bay Area: A Cultural Travel Guide and Cooking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Fine Cooking and Saveur. A recipient of a literary grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, Thy is currently working on a collection of essays about how food changes in families across time and place.

Though trained as a professional chef, she works on cookbooks by day, then creates literary chapbooks by night. An old letterpress and two cabinets of wood and lead type occupy a corner of her writing studio, for she is as committed to the art and craft of bookmaking as she is to the power of words themselves. In addition to writing, editing, teaching and printing, Thy remains active in local food justice and global food sovereignty movements. Visit her website,, to learn more about her culinary adventures.

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