Tools for processing skin-off cuy.

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Oct 10, 2017
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Texas Zone 8
In this thread I will discuss the tools that I reference in the how to prepare western cuy. In this thread I can allow myself space to write about my tools and why I chose them. This post will be a reference to my skin-off cuy preparation how-to post. After my how-to is written and I get more input from the community, I may add or remove tools from the list as my technique evolves.

I come from a tech background, so I tend to prefer a larger selection of tools. Many homesteaders my prefer to have a small number of tools. As I get more experience, I may decide to use fewer tools for the process. One of the main disadvantage to using a large tool-set is having to clean and maintain tools the can easily become dull and unsanitary when processing animals.

My organization skills along with my remembering to clean things "right away" are not the best. I also take months off between processing animals. I taken these facts into account when selecting tools. I have chosen tools with good handles and disposable blades. If a blade is left uncleaned, it can get rusty and dull, if that happens, I choose replacement. The handles that I have chosen allow me to either boil them in water or sanitize them by soak in bleach. I also have a jar with mineral oil to store disposable blades protecting them from moisture. The jar of mineral oil I use can be heated over 100C/212F and sealed with a lid. Which is a good way to sanitize them and drive away water. I am especially interested in reusing blades that cost over $1 apiece. I try harder to remember cleaning these. I use drug store mineral oil (not the same as baby oil) that qualifies as a medical grade laxative. If I were to consume a small amount of oil on the meat, it would be 1000 times smaller that a laxative dose.

Because my skin-off preparation is a form of open skinning, you will need some sort of curved blade to cut the connective tissue that holds the hide to the muscle/fat layer under the skin. On the instructions I will refer to this blade as your curved blade. Some people here prefer to use disposable scalpels for their curved blade. I have chosen to use exacto blades for mu curved blades.exacto-blades.jpg

Exacto blades come in a verity of standardized sizes and shapes. Pictured above I have labeled the #23 #22 and #10 blades. All three are curved blades that will work. The #22 and #23 are larger blades that require a larger #2 handle, while the #10 uses a more common smaller #1 handle. I feel that the larger size works best for skinning. I prefer the #23 because it is sharp on both sides and allows me to work in tight spaces. The #23 is harder to find than the more common #22 and #10. It must usually be mail ordered and usually cost 8-20 USD for a 5 pack including shipping. Because of the rarity and cost I will remember to clean these blades first. I also avoid cutting against bone. I also have a strop (straight razor sharpening leather) that I can use to keep it at peak sharpness.

Note: I am using the term "exacto" as a generic version of X-acto®, Excel® and Techni-Edge® along with no-name version of similar blades. The company X-acto along with the others have a sort of de facto standard. In this standard, a #20 blade from X-acto will be approximately the same size and shape as one from Excel and will fit on the same handle as a #20 manufactured by Excel.

For a few cuts I have found it advantageous to use a blade with an extreme point. In the instructions I refer to this as your pointy blade. exacto-11-blade.jpg
I find it particularly useful when I want to cut the skin but avoid cutting into the meat below. I can insert the tip of the blade under the skin and cut while pulling away from the meat. I have chosen to use the #11 exacto blade as my pointy blade. The #11 is what most people consider to be the standard exacto blade and most handles come with this blade. As always, you can use a scalpel for your pointy blade instead.

To serve as a gut hook and to cut the hide without cutting the underlying tissue I prefer to have a hook blade. trapiziod-knife.jpg

I really like this handle for disposable trapezoid and hook blades. I found it in the discount bin at Tractor Supply. For now I do not use trapezoid blades, I am only using hook blades in my knife.

What I like the best is that it comes open completely and does not have nooks and crannies that can trap bits of blood and animal tissue that results from the butchering process. After I have finished processing I can remove the blade open it up and spray it out with a hose. To sanitize the handle I boil it in water for a few minutes and remove it while the water is still hot so it dries faster. After drying, I use a bit of mineral oil to suppress rust. The blade can be removed and given the "hot oil treatment".

I good tool for cutting between bones and through tends is a sturdy set of sheers. Some people use poultry sheers. I prefer to use EMT shears sometimes called combat shears.sheers.jpg
I found a pair at Walmart for about 4USD. I also found them in Harbor Freight under the name "Super Sheers". They can be found on eBay, but beware, many are made of flimsy metal.

Due to the combination of metal and plastic, I use boiling as my sanitation method. So as to avoid melting the plastic handles, I heat the water to boiling then remove the water from the heat. I then submerge the shears. So far they haven't melted.

There are a few times when processing cuy that a flat blade can come in handy. For this I went all-out cheap.knife-9mm.jpg At my local grocery store I found a 9mm snap-off blade and knife for under 2USD. I was also able to find a 10 pack of replacement blades on eBay for $1 including shipping.

There are two drawbacks. One is that the blade can be flimsy and even break if you cut too hard. This where you would use the shears instead. The blade holder can also be a bit wonky when the blade is fully extended. The blade does have a tendency to move around inside the holder. So I only recommend it when precision cutting is not needed. The plus side is that these blades are so cheep, I am not so worried about cutting against/near bone. Also I can clean them, but it is not the highest priority.

Edit 03/27/20: Removed seam ripper; added #11 blade; grammar

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