Making your own homemade jerky is an excellent way to enjoy a delicious, healthy snack. As we’ve talked about before, there are some important tips to keep in mind when it comes to how to make jerky in a smoker to ensure you end up with a flavorful and tender final result. One of those tips is to start with the proper cut of meat. However, with so many different types of cuts of meat available, it can be difficult to determine which are the best cuts of meat for jerky.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll break down some of the best options to go with.
But first, it is important to understand exactly what happens to the meat in your smoker when you are making jerky. This will make it more clear why looking for certain characteristics in cuts of meat is so critical to jerky success.
When making jerky in a smoker, the meat is exposed to low temperatures and smoke. The low temperatures cause the water in the meat to evaporate, while the smoke helps to dry the meat out further and add flavor. The smoke also helps to kill any bacteria and preserve the jerky. The jerky will be cooked at a low temperature for several hours until it is completely dry and firm.
The goal is to properly dry out the moisture in the meat while still enabling it to remain tender and flavorful. The best way to do this is to select a cut of meat that is lean and has very little fat. Fat does not properly dehydrate like the muscle fibers in the meat do and it can even cause your jerky to spoil.
It is also important to note that to ensure you end up with enough jerky, you should start with a large fairly cut of meat. This is because the meat will lose between 50% and 75% of its weight during the dehydration process.
So, with all of the above in mind, let’s take a look at some of the options for the best cuts of meat for homemade jerky.
The following five cuts make perfect options for homemade jerky that will yield a delicious flavor and the perfect amount of chew:
Many pro smokers and jerky aficionados will agree that Eye of Round is the preferred choice when it comes to the best cuts of meat for beef jerky.
This cut comes from the elongated muscle in the upper rear leg of the cow and is taken from the Round primal cut, which is located in the hip and upper hind region of the cow. Because it comes from a frequently worked muscle on the cow, the Eye of Round is lean, slightly tougher compared to other cuts, and affordable. Even though it is lean, it is the most tender of all the beef round cuts. It also has a mild flavor that stands up to the flavors of marinades and seasonings. These characteristics, along with being easy to slice into thin pieces, make it a perfect choice for homemade jerky.
Though it is one of the lesser-known cuts of meat for jerky, the Sirloin Tip is actually one of the more desirable roast cuts from the round.
This cut comes from the posterior region of the Round primal. Slightly less tender than the Eye of Round, this cut still does very well during the jerky-making process. Compared to the other cuts in our list here, the Sirloin Tip Roast will be harder to find in your everyday grocery stores but will usually be available at your local butcher shop.
Most professional beef jerky makers/companies use the Top Round cut, more commonly known as the London broil. This cut comes from the upper inside leg muscle, which is located opposite the bottom round. The Top Round is not as tender as the Eye of Round or Sirloin Tip but is more tender than the Bottom Round. It will also usually be slightly cheaper than an Eye of Round cut.
Due to its large size, consistent shape, and ease of use, this cut makes for efficient and effective large-scale production. Hence why it is the favored cut for commercial jerky producers.
(London Broil from Wilson Beef Farms)
The Bottom Round cut of beef comes from the upper outside of the rear leg of the cow, just below the sirloin. This cut does contain quite a bit of connective tissue so it is the toughest of the Round cuts.
But, with good, natural beef flavor, ease of use, and a very economical price for meat, it does make for another good option for beef jerky.
Taken from the abdominal muscles towards the rear of the cow, the Flank Steak cut can be another good option for the best cuts of meat for jerky. This is especially true if you prefer a big, bold, beefy flavor.
It is important to note that this cut is packed with long, tough muscle grains so it is critical to cut against the grain when you are prepping the meat to make jerky. This will help ensure your jerky still ends up with a tender bite.
Beef is traditionally the most popular type of meat used for jerky, but there are several other varieties of meat (and even seafood) that can make good jerky. These include:
Remember, as long as the cut of meat is lean, it will usually do well as jerky. Pork and elk do have a higher fat content compared to some of the other above choices, so make sure to select the leanest cut and trim away as much exterior fat as you can. Also, keep in mind the venison, elk, and moose will have a gamier taste than you’ll get with beef.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your local butcher and ask them questions. They can be a great resource for your jerky-making endeavors. Your butcher will be happy to help you select the best, leanest, and most affordable cuts of meat, provide tips on how to properly prepare the meat, and give you ideas for marinade ingredients.
In many cases, if you ask them, they’ll even slice the meat you select into the thin, even slices you need to make great jerky. Thus, saving you time in having to do this yourself at home.
Like with many other smoking and grilling scenarios, when it comes to making homemade jerky, selecting the proper cut of meat is the most important beginning step of the process. As you can see from the options above, starting with a lean yet flavorful cut of meat is key to success for delicious jerky.
Remember, it is important to trim any excess fat or connective tissue from the meat before putting it in your smoker to avoid any rancidity in your finished jerky.
Make sure to also check out our article on pro tips on how to make great jerky.
Try out one of the above cuts today for your next jerky smoking session! If you do, leave a comment below and let us know how it goes. We want to hear from you!
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If you are planning on smoking or grilling for a crowd, one of the most important things to figure out is exactly how much BBQ per person you are going to need. The last thing you want is for people to start loading up their plates and you quickly realize that there is not going to be enough food for everyone. And, alternatively, you don’t want to waste money by overbuying and having too much leftover.
But, trying to figure out exactly how much to cook can sometimes get complicated fast, especially if you are going to be cooking multiple types of meat and having sides as well.
To help make things easier, we’ve put together this quick guide on properly planning how much BBQ per person to cook.
There’s no exact, one-size-fits-all answer to exactly how much meat you’ll need for each person. It is largely dependent on factors such as what type of meat (or seafood) you are cooking, the time of day of your get-together, if you are going to have one or two sides or a whole spread of sides, if it is just adults or if kids are included also, etc.
But, generally speaking, when roughly three side items are being served along with the main dish, most adults will eat 1/3 lb of meat total and kids will eat roughly 1/6 lb of meat.
This gives you a starting point to think about when you start planning how much meat to get. But, there are some specifics to keep in mind when it comes to each particular type of meat:
(Important note: The amount of uncooked meat you buy will be more than the cooked amount you need to end up with. More on this below)
Smoked brisket is a popular BBQ favorite and a great way to show off your outdoor cooking skills. But, remember that brisket loses roughly 40%-50% of its weight once you trim off the excess fat and cook it. So, it’s better to play it safer and plan for a 50% weight loss.
For example, let’s anticipate a 7 lb brisket cooking down to roughly 3.5 lbs pounds when it’s ready to serve. If you’ve got three to four sides, this brisket will serve about 10 people.
Similar to brisket, you can count on losing roughly half of the weight of your pork shoulder or pork butt when it is cooked. And, again, most adults will eat about 1/3 lb of pulled pork. But, when served as a pulled pork sandwich with a bun and paired with other fairly heavy sides, smaller servings of pork can go a long way. In this case, you could safely plan for 1/4 lb of cooked pork per person.
So, if you buy a 6 lb pork shoulder, you’ll have enough pulled pork for 9 to 10 people.
With ribs, rather than planning by the pound, it’s safer to think about the serving sizes in the number of actual ribs. For reference, a full rack of ribs is 12 ribs. But remember, some types of ribs are bigger than others. For example, beef back ribs are larger than pork spare ribs.
So, if ribs are going to be the main meat you are cooking, you can usually plan for:
As with all of these recommendations for the specific types of meat, also take into account the age, gender (it’s a simple fact that men usually eat more than women), and any inside info you have on your guests’ appetite to adjust your quantities as needed.
Besides smoking or grilling meat in your cooker, a seafood boil is another fun and delicious option you can do to feed a crowd. To help ensure that you have enough of the ingredients for everyone to get a fairly even amount, if you are doing a traditional shrimp boil, for example, you would plan for every 1 person you are serving:
Most BBQ pros know that it’s a safe call to always have a package of beef burger patties and brats or hotdogs in the fridge just in case. Then you’ll be prepared in the event of unexpected guests and/or picky kids.
With the above portion size recommendations, you’ll have a good idea of how much meat to plan for each person. But, there are some additional things to keep in mind that may mean you have to slightly adjust those amounts up or down. These include:
Make sure to check out our article on cooking multiple pieces of meat at the same time to get your timing right and have everything finish at the same time.
With the information we’ve provided above, you should have a good idea of how much BBQ per person you are going to need to ensure a successful get-together. Remember, proper preparation is key. This not only includes the meat you’ll need but sauces, sides, etc as well. Do as much as you can ahead of time (even the day before!). Then you won’t be rushed the day of your get-together and you can focus on cooking while confidently knowing that you’ve already got everything you need.
Pre-planning properly will ensure that everyone gets enough food and that you have time to enjoy the event as well.
Have another tip to share for planning how much BBQ per person you’ll need? Have any other specific questions when it comes to planning the amount of meat for your get-together? Leave a comment below!
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There’s no doubt that one of the key factors in a deliciously tender steak is the level of fat marbling throughout it. And if you are looking for one of the highest levels of marbling that you can get, Japanese Wagyu beef is definitely a great option.
As we’ve detailed in our in-depth article on Wagyu beef, cuts from these premium cattle are often found in Michelin Star-quality restaurants or in the smokers of some of the top BBQ pitmasters in the game. Fans of Wagyu beef rave that it is the best-tasting and most tender cut of beef you’ll ever taste.
In discussions about Wagyu beef, you may have also heard or seen the terms “Kobe beef” or “Ozaki beef”. These terms are often used interchangeably (especially Wagyu and Kobe) and, understandably, can cause some confusion. So, in this article, we’ve broken down Wagyu beef vs Kobe vs Ozaki beef to explain the differences and try to clear things up.
In comparing these three types of beef, we’ll start by quickly summarizing what Wagyu beef is exactly. True Japanese Wagyu comes from a specific breed of Japanese cattle that have special genetic features. Due to a genetic predisposition, these cattle metabolize fat internally, so the fat integrates with the muscle tissue itself. This leads to an extremely high level of fat marbling and a finer meat texture. Specific breeding conditions and a special diet also aid in the characteristic marbling that Wagyu beef is so known for.
So, true Japanese Wagyu beef offers a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and an unmatched taste exploding with umami. No other type of livestock does this the way these specific cattle do. So, even if they are raised in the same conditions as Wagyu cattle by award-winning Wagyu cattle farmers, no other breed of cattle will produce Wagyu beef.
The next common question is what is Kobe beef versus Wagyu beef? Kobe is actually one specific type of Japanese Wagyu beef. It originates from the Tajima strain of Japanese Black cattle, raised in the capital city of Japan's Hyōgo Prefecture, Kobe. So, all Kobe beef is Japanese Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe. There are a few other stipulations for the meat to be considered actual Kobe beef.
First, the cattle must meet strict grading requirements and are fed to a minimum of 26 months. Furthermore, 499.9 kilograms of beef production cannot be exceeded per one individual Tajima cow. Also, the meat has to be rated an A4 or A5 on the Wagyu Beef Grading Scale.
Finally, everyone who has a hand in the production of the meat, from the farm to the restaurant it is being served in, has to be licensed and/or certified by the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association. When you are purchasing Kobe beef to cook yourself, genuine Kobe Beef will always have a Japanese Chrysanthemum logo on the branding and packaging.
If you are in a restaurant and see American Kobe on the menu, don’t fall for the marketing gimmick! As you can see now, true Kobe is not able to be produced in the U.S. So, American Kobe beef does not actually exist.
There are currently only 37 restaurants in the US that are certified and sell imported, authentic Japanese Kobe beef.
While Kobe beef definitely has the tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture that regular Japanese A5 Wagyu does, it does have a deliciously unique flavor profile. More specifically, Kobe has a creamier taste and texture in the mouth compared to “regular” A5 Japanese Wagyu.
As far as the exterior appearance, Kobe usually has extremely wide veins of intermuscular fat (aka marbling) running through the meat. Many people agree that Kobe beef takes Japanese Wagyu to an even higher and more delicious level.
Similarly to Kobe beef, Ozaki beef is a specific type of Japanese Wagyu beef. But, it does have its differences compared to Kobe beef.
Considered the premium upgrade on regular Wagyu, Ozaki beef comes from the Kuroge Washu genotype of Japanese Black cattle that are located on one single farm in Japan’s Miyazaki prefecture that is run by Mr. Muhenaru Ozaki. He is the only Japanese cattle farmer that is allowed to use his own name when marketing his beef.
This unique beef has acquired the nickname “the phantom of Wagyu”, largely due to the fact that Mr. Ozaki only produces 30 cattle a month (very low compared to the average Japanese Wagyu farm).
Much of the secret of the premier qualities of the meat lies in the cattle’s diet, which Mr. Ozaki perfected over almost two decades. The cattle feed production process is a labor-intensive two hour process that happens daily. The feed contains up to 15 different ingredients, including seaweed and algae, and is free of antibiotics or preservatives. Several of the ingredients help stimulate more blood circulation in the cattle.
Apart from the diet, the Ozaki cattle are matured 4 to 8 months longer than regular Japanese Wagyu cattle, allowing them to age to between 29 and 36 months. Mr. Ozaki believes that the flavor of the meat in these cattle only gets better with age.
As the nickname implies, compared to other types of Japanese Wagyu, Ozaki beef is harder to find but extremely worth the hunt for it.
The flavor profile of Ozaki is savory and complex, while offering the perfect level of umami that Japanese Wagyu is famous for. But what sets Ozaki beef apart is what happens during the aftertaste. You’ll enjoy subtle hints of sweetness as the meat’s flavor evolves in your mouth. Don’t worry though, it’s not an overpowering sweetness and offers just a gentle hint that gives Ozaki beef an extra layer on an already outstanding flavor profile.
Regarding the texture, you can expect a fantastic melt-in-your-mouth feel just like regular A5 Japanese Wagyu. But Ozaki takes it to another level. The fat melts in your mouth quickly and is easily digested. Allowing you to eat a whole cut of the beef without being overpowered by richness.
Choosing the best between these three options for Japanese beef will really come down to your personal tasting preferences. As you can see, all three are going to offer a delicious, tender bite. So, if you have the opportunity, try regular Japanese A5 Wagyu, Kobe beef, and Ozaki separately and discover which one is your favorite.
If you want to give it a go with cooking this delectable beef yourself, there are some great high-quality online wholesalers you can order from. Specifically, The Wagyu Shop, Holy Grail Steak Co., and Crowd Cow. Then you can enjoy authentic Japanese Wagyu beef that is shipped straight to your front door.
Have you recently tried Wagyu beef for the first time? Do you have a favorite type of Wagyu beef? Leave a comment below and tell us about it, we want to hear from you!
If you’re ready to grill a Kobe steak or smoke a Wagyu brisket like the pros, check out the one-of-a-kind online grilling classes and online BBQ pitmaster classes taught by Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. You’ll learn everything you need to know to cook a perfect cut of Wagyu beef.
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Even though you may have never tasted it before now, bison meat has been a big part of North Americans’ diets since before European settlement. After going nearly extinct in the 1890s due to overhunting, bison meat has been steadily making a comeback over the last several decades. This is due to the efforts of forward-thinking and health-conscious ranchers and farmers.
If you are considering trying bison out on your grill or smoker, you absolutely should! But, you may have questions about this meat. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Here is everything you need to know about bison meat including its taste, health benefits, and tips on how to cook it properly.
If you are asking yourself this, you are definitely not alone. This is a very common question. Bison meat and buffalo meat are frequently confused for each other and referred to as the same thing, but NO, technically it is not the same.
The North American bison that today’s meat comes from is a totally different animal from a true buffalo. Both are part of the Bovidae family of animals, but bison are native to North America and Europe, while true buffalo (Cape buffalo and water buffalo) are native to Africa and Asia.
As another type of red meat, bison does have some similarities to good quality beef in its taste, texture, and the most commonly used methods to prepare and cook it.
But, bison is leaner, darker in coloring, and has a richer flavor profile compared to beef. Unlike other exotic animals, the naturally-flavorful bison meat does not have a strong "gamey" or wild taste to it. It is actually often considered to have a slightly sweeter flavor profile compared to beef.
As a very tender and naturally flavorful meat, bison is interchangeable in just about any red meat recipe.
Compared to other options, bison is one of the healthiest meats you can eat. It is a fantastic source of protein while also being low in saturated fat and relatively low in calories. Thus, making it a great option for those on a heart-healthy diet or who are looking to follow a more primal way of eating.
As recapped by Healthline, bison meat is also an excellent source of iron, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and zinc.
Here’s a more in-depth breakdown to put the health benefits of bison meat in perspective. A 4-oz serving of bison has:
That 4-oz serving also includes:
The biggest difference between bison and beef is that bison is significantly leaner. With less fat marbling running throughout bison meat, it does make it healthier and lower in calories, but that also means that it will be slightly harder to cook with. Bison takes a little bit more care and attention than beef does to ensure that it does not overcook.
Another difference is in the price of the meat. Bison will be more expensive than beef due to the difference in supply and demand, with not as many bison as cattle. Farmed beef is less expensive due to the amount of large-scale cattle farming across the country. In many cases, grass-fed bison is going to be more costly than grass-fed beef, though this can vary based on demographic area.
Compared to bison, beef is also more easily available for purchase. Not all grocery stores will sell bison. But, there are still plenty of places you can buy good-quality bison, it might just take a little more conscious effort than you are used to for beef. (See more on buying bison below.)
Even though bison meat may cost more and take a little more effort, the taste and health benefits of the meat are worth it.
Source: Beck & Bulow
Ideally, the best place to try and buy bison meat is in your area at your local butcher shop. If for some reason you don’t see bison in the cold case, don’t be afraid to ask the butcher. They will be happy to help and will more than likely have a good local source they can get bison meat from. In these cases, you will be supporting local ranchers, farmers, and butchers with your purchase— as well as reducing the environmental impact of your food choices.
If you don’t have any local options or would prefer to buy meat online, there are plenty of good options. The internet has given ranchers and farmers a wide-reaching platform to sell their high-quality bison products.
Here are a few good options to check out:
Bison makes for a delicious and healthy alternative to fattier beef cuts for your grill or smoker. Find your source for high-quality bison today and try a couple of different cuts to pinpoint your favorite. By following the tips we covered above, you’ll be well on your way to cooking it perfectly every time!
Have you recently tried bison for the first time? Or do you know of some other good tips to add to what we covered above? Leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!
If you want to level up your backyard cooking skills like never before and learn how to cook a variety of different things perfectly, join the BBQ Champs Academy Championship Backyard Cooking Classes today! Taught by Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters, these in-depth online BBQ cooking classes will show you step-by-step how to cook 20 delicious grilled or smoked recipes!
And if you want to dive into the world of competition-caliber smoking and grilling, make sure to grab the BBQ Champs Academy All-Access pass today! These online BBQ classes, taught by the Champion Grillmasters and BBQ Pitmasters, are unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else and will show you exactly how to master four different cuts of meat in your smoker or grill. You’ll also get all the insider cooking secrets and tips straight from the pros.
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On average, a full-sized steer will yield approximately 490 pounds of “retail” cuts. When you think about it, that’s a whole lot of meat. And that meat will be cut into a variety of different cuts, all dramatically different from each other.
Chances are, you can probably think of the names of a bunch of beef cuts off the top of your head. But, two things that aren’t as widely known are the primal cuts of beef and the sub primal cuts. More specifically, exactly what they are.
Ready for quick beef cuts 101? In this guide, we’ve broken down exactly what the primal and sub primal cuts of beef are:
The term “primal cut” refers to a piece of meat that is one of the first to be removed from the carcass of an animal during the process of butchering it. These cuts of meat are very large compared to what we’re used to seeing sold in the store.
When it comes to a cow, there are 8 primal cuts of beef. Starting from the front and working to the back, these cuts are:
The chuck comes from the forequarter of the cow, which consists of the front chest area up through the shoulder and part of the neck.
The brisket cut is taken from the front breastbone part of the cow, below the chuck. This is the only primal cut that is often sold as the whole cut, which is known as a full packer brisket. Though you can still buy it in its smaller sub primal cuts as well (see below).
The rib primal cut consists of the upper part of the 6th through 12th ribs, located at the central back area of the cow.
Also known as the short plate, the plate cut is located on the underbelly of the cow directly below the rib cut and in front of the flank cut.
The loin cut also comes from the top of the cow but more towards the lower back area, just behind the rib cut. The meat in this area is extremely tender and marbled and is where some of the highest-quality sub primal cuts of beef come from.
The flank primal cut is a boneless cut of meat located at the underbelly of the cow, below the loin.
Taken from the back end of the cow, the round cut consists of the rump and upper part of the hind legs.
The shank cut is the upper part of the cow’s legs. So, four total shanks come from a cow: two taken from the front legs below the brisket and two taken from the back legs below the round.
When the large primal cuts are then cut into smaller pieces, these are what are known as sub primal cuts, aka secondary cuts. So, those 8 primal cuts from above become many more different cuts.
Most of the cuts of meat you buy at the grocery store or your local butcher shop are going to be sub primal cuts of beef. They may even be sub primal cuts that are cut down into smaller individual portioned cuts.
The sub primal cuts that come from each primal cut are:
Ground beef can come from a variety of different prime cuts, with the most popular being ground chuck. But other sources that are often available include the plate, flank, and shank.
As you can see, there is a huge array of different cuts of beef. But it all starts with the primal cuts. Even though all of these beef cuts come from the same cow, they can differ dramatically in their fat content, leanness, bones (or not), etc. Hopefully, this article has helped make the terms “primal cuts” and “sub primal cuts” more clear and you have at least a little better understanding of the dizzying variety of cuts available at the store.
Make sure to also check out our article on how to buy great beef to know exactly what to look for when selecting your cuts.
What primal section do most of your favorite beef cuts come from? Have you broken down a whole primal cut yourself? Leave a comment below and tell us about it!
Do you want to elevate your backyard cooking skills and learn how to perfectly cook a variety of different things including prime rib, tri-tip, and beef ribs? Grab your access to the BBQ Champs Academy Championship Backyard Cooking Classes today! Taught by Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters, these video classes will show you step-by-step exactly how to cook 20 delicious smoked or grilled recipes!
And if you want to take it up a notch into BBQ competition-level smoking and grilling, make sure to grab your All-Access pass today! These in-depth online BBQ classes, taught by the Champion Grillmasters and BBQ Pitmasters, will show you exactly how to master several different cuts of meat in your smoker or grill. You’ll get all the insider cooking secrets like nowhere else!
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If you are looking for a cut of beef that is easy to cook quickly (compared to other cuts), is a lean cut, is an economical choice, and is still large enough to feed a few people, flank steak checks all those boxes. This cut offers a big flavor that will make for a delicious option on your grill.
In this article, we’ve broken down what you need to know about flank steak, including what exactly it is, how it’s different from another similar cut, the best way to cook it, and some tips on how to cook it perfectly.
Chances are, you’ve probably eaten flank steak before, and you may not have even known that you did. So, if you are wondering, where does flank steak come from, you are definitely not alone.
Flank steak, sometimes also referred to as London broil or jiffy steak, is an abdominal cut that comes from the lower stomach part of the steer, directly below the loin. Because of its location, it contains a lot of strong muscle fibers and is a very lean cut compared to other steak cuts. If not prepared properly it can end up being a very tough piece of meat. But, when it’s cooked and sliced right, it can still be very tender and is an extremely flavorful cut exploding with delicious beefiness.
One common misconception is that flank steak and skirt steak is the same thing. Yes, they are both flat, long cuts that come from the underside of the steer. And they are also often used interchangeably in recipes. But, they are two different cuts and have several differences that impact their proper preparation. These differences include:
Low and slow cooking with indirect heat is not recommended for cooking a flank steak on the grill. Because a flank steak is a leaner cut of meat with a tougher exterior and lots of muscle fibers, it is best cooked quickly over medium-high heat (400° to 450°F) on your grill. You can cook it directly on the grates to get some beautiful grill marks or it can be cooked and seared in a cast-iron skillet on the grill.
A flank steak should only be cooked to medium-rare to prevent it from overcooking and becoming tough and dry. Make sure to keep a close eye on it as you’re cooking and have your digital meat thermometer on hand so you know when the internal temperature of the meat has reached 130°F. This is just below the temperature of medium-rare, which it will reach as it is resting.
When you are ready to serve the steak, it should also be sliced against the grain into pencil-thin strips to maximize tenderness.
Yes, in general, grilling a flank steak is pretty straightforward. But, there are some pro tips you can follow to ensure you end up with a great result every time:
Source: Weber Grills
Flank steak takes well to marinades because of its thinness. Acidic marinades can also help ensure you end up with a tender final result when the steak is done cooking. Of course, there are a variety of different flavors/ingredients that you could combine into a marinade to help enhance the flavor of your flank steak. But, if you are looking for a place to start, check out this flank steak marinade recipe from Weber Grills:
Place the above marinade ingredients in a small bowl and whisk them together to mix thoroughly. Then simply place the steak in a large baking dish and pour the marinade over it, flipping the steak to thoroughly coat it. Then let it marinate for at least 1 hour, turning once or twice during that time. The flavors in this marinade pair very well with caramelized shallots topping the steak.
Another great way to prepare/cook a flank steak on the grill is to stuff it and roll it. This method has been growing in popularity, with a huge variety of creative stuffing ideas that help accentuate the delicious beefy flavor of the meat.
Check out this recipe from Traeger grills which uses a delicious combination of prosciutto, rich goat cheese, and roasted red peppers stuffed into a perfectly seasoned flank steak.
Flank steak is one of the lesser known and lesser used cuts compared to other steaks. But, if you haven’t tried it before, you are definitely missing out. This cut makes for a great lean and affordable option that is packed with delicious beefy flavor. Follow the tips we covered above and you can cook a great flank steak today!
Are you going to cook a flank steak for the first time? Or do you have experience with flank steaks and have a favorite recipe or marinade? Leave a comment below and tell us about it. We want to hear from you!
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As we’ve mentioned before, starting with a good cut of meat is a critical part of ensuring a delicious final result. Knowing exactly how to pick out your meat is just as important as knowing how to properly cook it. Now when we say “good”, that can mean a variety of things (good quality, good marbling, etc.), especially depending on the specific type of meat.
So, if you are going to smoke a pork butt, there are some specific things you should look for when it comes to pork butt selection. We’ve put them all together in this handy article that breaks down exactly how to pick a good pork butt cut.
Before you start looking at selecting your pork butt, it’s important to understand exactly what a pork butt cut is. Contrary to what its name implies, pork butt actually does not come from the hog’s rear—it is one of the two sub-primal cuts from the shoulder. The pork butt is taken from the upper portion of the hog’s front shoulder and sits above the pork shoulder cut.
The word “butt” in “pork butt” refers to the containers that cheap pork cuts were packed in for shipment or storage in the 1700s.
A whole pork butt weighs between 6 and 10 pounds and is a rectangular-shaped roast cut. It is available bone-in (with the shoulder joint bone) or boneless. When sold boneless, the whole pork butt roast is often cut into half portions.
Pork butt does have several alternate names that you may hear, including:
When buying a pork butt from a big box store, you may even see a combination of several of the above names on the label.
Check out our article on the differences between a pork butt and pork shoulder for more information on this particular cut and how it differs from the pork shoulder cut.
Now that you know where exactly on the hog a pork butt comes from, let’s dive into tips on how to pick a good pork butt to ensure you buy a good one for your cooking session.
When picking out a pork butt, you want to make sure that the meat is bright red-pink and has a coarse grain. It should also have a firm, smooth, and bright white fat cap on the exterior. Avoid meat that has a pale color and/or dark spots in the fat. This indicates not-so-fresh meat.
A good pork butt will also have a good balance between muscle fibers and fat throughout the meat (aka “marbling”). You ideally want to get a pork butt that has a good amount of fat marbling in the muscle area farthest from the bone (known as “the money muscle” in this cut). But, steer clear of ones that have a ton of extra fat that will need to be trimmed off.
Also, if the pork butt has come sealed in Cryovac wrapping, it should be nice and tight on the meat. If it is loose and/or has air pockets, that means the meat has been sitting there for a while, has been exposed to air, and will not have as good a flavor.
Lots of supermarket pork butts are injected with an artificial solution of water, salt, sodium phosphate, and other ingredients to make the meat more moist. This is called enhanced meat. Enhanced meat can be identified by reading the fine print on the product label. Look for a phrase that tells the percentage of solution added to the meat and the what the solution ingredients are.
For a better flavor of the meat, you want to get non-enhanced pork. The label will sometimes say “all-natural” and/or “no added ingredients”. Keep in mind that some non-enhanced pork won’t say that on the label. But, if the meat IS enhanced, pork suppliers are required to state that on the label.
If you want the best pork flavor, go for all-natural pork from smaller farms. This meat will usually be found at smaller, specialty grocery stores, your local butcher shop, or a high-quality online meat supplier.
If you have no choice but to buy enhanced meat, because the meat has been injected with a fair amount of salt, reduce the amount of salt that is in your rub so you don’t end up with an overly salty pork butt.
This may be obvious, but fresher is always better when it comes to meat selection. So, you want to avoid a pork butt that’s been frozen for a while. You’ll get the best results from pork that has been recently cut. (Another reason to opt for your local butcher shop!)
Whole, untrimmed pork butts can range from 6 to 10 pounds in size. The 6 to 8-pound range is usually what you’ll find pre-packaged in the store. But, there’s nothing wrong with going for a 10-pound butt if that is what you need based on the number of people you’ll be feeding. A 10-pound one will cook just as fine as a 6-pound one as long as it’s done properly and you are cooking to desired internal temperature.
When trying to determine how much pork butt per person you are feeding, generally speaking, for one serving you’ll need ⅔ lb of raw pork per adult and ½ lb per child. (FYI: Cooked pork weighs half as much as raw.)
You can smoke a good pork butt both ways, but if you can, you ideally want to get a pork butt that still has the shoulder bone in it. This may be harder to find unless you go to your local butcher’s shop.
Leaving the bone in the pork chop will help hold the meat together nicely. Plus, the bone acts as a built-in meat thermometer. With a slight twist, the bone will easily slide out of the meat when it is done. You should still use a digital meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the meat though.
Of course, you can still cook a delicious pork butt without the bone but, depending on the size, it may need to be tied with butcher’s twine to hold it together.
Short answer: Opt for your local butcher versus a big box store for better quality meat with more fat marbling.
In most cases, you can find pork butt (frequently labeled as Boston Butt) in your local grocery store or large wholesale/warehouse store. At the grocery store, it will usually be packaged as half of a whole pork butt and already come pre-trimmed with the entire fat cap removed. If you don’t want to bother with trimming the fat cap, then this is fine. But, when smoking a pork butt, you’ll usually get the best results if the fat cap is not totally removed but trimmed down to just ¼”.
At the warehouse stores, you’ll usually find pork butts vacuum sealed and sold two to a pack (with one slightly smaller than the other). They’ll also often have the fat cap still intact so you can trim it as desired at home.
But, with the grocery store and warehouse store pork butts that are Cryovac-wrapped, you don’t have a lot of opportunity to be selective in how fresh a cut you are getting, the level of marbling, etc.
That is just one of the reasons that the best place to buy a great pork butt cut is from your local butcher shop. There, you’ll have the opportunity to talk to the butcher and find out exactly how long ago the pork was cut, where it came from, and more. The pork available at the butcher shop will also usually be more humanely raised and have a higher fat content, which equals more flavor.
Don’t be afraid to ask the butcher for help. They’ll be happy to help ensure you get the best cut that fits your needs and budget.
As you can see, when it comes to how to pick a good pork butt, there are some specific things to keep in mind to ensure you have a head start on ending up with a delicious final result. It’s important to know exactly what to look for in pork butt selection so you walk out of the store with good-quality, fresh pork meat. The quality of the meat will make a huge difference in the taste of your smoked pork butt.
With the information we covered above, you’ll be able to buy the best pork butt to cook today. And remember, don’t be afraid to talk to your local butcher. They’ll be happy to help and can point you to the best quality pork that meets all the criteria above.
Do you know of something else to look for when it comes to pork butt selection that we left out? Plan on smoking a pork butt this week? Leave a comment below and tell us about it. We want to hear from you!
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There’s no doubt about it, beef roasts make some of the best cuts of meat to smoke low and slow. If you’re somewhat familiar with BBQ and smoking meat, the first beef cut that probably comes to mind is a brisket. This is one of the most popular beef cuts to smoke, especially when it comes to competition barbecue. Another popular option for holiday meals is prime rib. But, there are quite a few other delicious types of beef roasts as well. And some are much more affordable than you may think.
With so many different beef roast cuts, it can be easy to get confused with the different options and where they’re cut from, etc. Plus, some cuts can go by several different names, making it even more confusing. But, we’ve got you covered!
In this article, we break down everything you need to know about the different kinds of beef roasts that are available, going from the front of the steer to the back. Plus, where the best place is to buy different types of beef roasts.
In general, roasts are cut from the steer's shoulder (aka chuck), chest, rib and loin areas, and butt and back leg (aka round).
Starting from the front of the steer and going to the rear, here is a breakdown of 12 of the different beef roast cuts you can find:
The clod roast (also commonly referred to as the arm roast) is cut from the front arm of the steer. It is leaner and usually a little less expensive than the more commonly known chuck roast. Because it is a tougher cut that comes from a more exercised part of the steer, this cut is best when slow-braised/smoked.
This affordable cut is taken from the shoulder, above the clod roast. Between those two cuts, the chuck roast will have a higher amount of fat marbling throughout it. This cut is often the ideal choice for cooking pot roast, whether that is in a slow-cooker or on your grill. (Yes, pot roast can be cooked on the grill!)
One of the most widely-known beef cuts, the brisket is a favorite for meat-smoking enthusiasts and those wanting to splurge on holidays for the family. The whole brisket is a primal cut, taken from the breast or lower chest of the steer, and includes the fatty point (aka the deckle) and the lean flat. As another heavily-exercised part of the animal, the brisket is best cooked slowly at lower temperatures.
When buying a brisket, make sure you specify if you want the whole packer. If you don’t, you may just end up with the flat.
More commonly referred to as the prime rib, the beef rib roast is arguably one of the kings of beef cuts. This cut is made up of the middle seven rib section of the steer and includes a delicious amount of fat marbling, making it a more tender option for beef roasts.
The large end of the rib roast, which sits closer to the chuck is fattier, while the end of the rib roast closer to the steer’s back end (which connects to the strip loin) is leaner. Usually, one rib for every two people is enough meat, so when buying your rib roast, let your butcher know how many people you are wanting to feed and which end of the roast you prefer.
Not to be confused with a top sirloin roast, the strip loin roast is the leaner cut taken from the same muscle as the rib roast but toward the steer’s rear end. Sometimes referred to as a top loin roast (hence the confusion), this is where bone-in Kansas City strip steaks and boneless New York strip steaks are cut from. But, when the strip loin roast is left whole, some argue it is the next best thing to a standing rib roast.
Consisting of parts of the filet mignon, chateaubriand, porterhouse steaks, and T-bone steaks, the whole tenderloin is the most tender beef roast available. Cut from under the spine, along the animal's ribcage, it is tapered in shape with the middle being referred to as the "center cut." This roast, consisting of little-worked muscle, produces mild and extremely tender flavors. The labor that goes into trimming and tying a tenderloin, as well as the waste produced, is what also makes it one of the most expensive types of beef roasts.
Source: Taste of Artisan
The top sirloin roast is a lean but flavorful cut taken from the hip bone. With a fair amount of fat marbling, it would not be considered an “economical” cut but is still more affordable than a tenderloin. This roast is extremely versatile and can be slow-roasted whole, cut into steaks and grilled, cooked in a stew, or stir-fried.
This small triangular roast is taken from the bottom of the sirloin subprimal cut. With hearty beef flavor and a good amount of tender marbling, this roast started as a popular cut in the West and is growing in broader popularity. This cut is great for smoking, grilling, or roasting.
An economical cut that is taken from the inside of the animal's back leg, the top round roast is similar in fat and flavor to the top sirloin. This cut is what's typically used for deli roast beef, sliced thin against the grain. It is also a good option for braising in a slow cooker as a pot roast.
The bottom round roast, another economical cut compared to other options, is cut from the outside muscles of the back leg (aka the “rump” area). This roast will have quite a bit more marbling compared to the top round. It is another good option to cook in a slow-cooker or as a pot roast on the grill. The bottom round can also be roasted, but if roasted for too long it can become chewy and tough.
The eye of round is a circular, very lean roast cut from the elongated muscle located in the center of the bottom round section. Like other rump roast options, this cut offers the best results when roasted and thinly sliced.
A budget cut that is taken from the steer’s front end of the rear leg, adjacent to the sirloin, the sirloin tip roast is very similar to the top sirloin roast. This roast is lean but flavorful. Like most lean beef cuts, it should be braised, stewed, or slowly roasted to break down any toughness of the meat. The sirloin tip roast can also be a great option for kebabs on the grill.
For reference in general, the more fat-marbled roasts will come from the parts of the steer that move the least (think tenderloin and rib roast). While the tougher roasts that take best to braising and slow-roasting will come from the areas that get the most exercise (like the round). These tougher cuts may not normally be considered “special-occasion” cuts but they can still be very delicious, while also being much more affordable.
You’ll usually be able to find several of the above beef roast cuts at your local supermarket, especially specialty markets. But, for the largest variety of options and the highest quality meat, head to your local butcher shop. Any good butcher shop will happily cut meat to order. Then you can specify exactly what roast you want, how big you want it, etc. And just by asking the butcher questions, you may even discover other options you never knew existed.
Keep in mind that you should bring your roast(s) home no more than 3-4 days before you plan on cooking it.
Do you have a favorite beef roast cut? Plan on cooking one of these cuts soon? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it. We want to hear from you!
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Pork shoulder and pork butt are two different cuts of meat that are very commonly confused. Especially if you are not really familiar with the huge variety of available meat cuts. It also doesn’t help that “pork butt” is somewhat misleading in the name.
When it comes to pork shoulder vs pork butt, there are a lot of differences between the two. It’s important to understand what these are to ensure you get the cut that will give you the result you are looking for.
In this article, we’ve broken down what exactly each of the cuts is, as well as the variety of differences between pork shoulder and pork butt.
Both the pork shoulder and the pork butt come from the shoulder of the pig, but they are two different cuts entirely. Pork shoulder, sometimes also called a “picnic shoulder” or “picnic roast”, is the part of the primal cut that is taken from the lower shoulder, above the foreleg. The National Pork Board refers to this cut as “the top portion of the front leg of the hog.”
The meat of a pork shoulder cut, since this is a hardworking region of muscle, is fairly tough due to the high amounts of connective tissue. It is also somewhat dark in color due to a large amount of oxygen-storing myoglobin within this area. Even though this section is somewhat lean, it does have more fat compared to leaner cuts, like pork chops. So, when cooked properly, it can be a very delicious piece of meat.
Source: Cook’s Illustrated
The term “pork butt” is somewhat deceiving since this cut isn’t from the rear of the pig at all. A pork butt, also sometimes referred to as a “Boston butt”, is cut from the upper portion of the pig’s front shoulder, above the pork shoulder cut. This is the cut that is used most often for barbecue pulled pork.
Pork butt is usually one of the relatively inexpensive cuts of meat and is one of the top options for slow smoking. This is because the pork butt contains a lot of connective tissue that needs to be broken down through smoking or braising at lower temperatures for an extended period. But it’s also an extremely fatty cut with lots of delicious fat marbling throughout, making it less prone to drying out compared to other cuts.
The pork shoulder and pork butt are sub-primal cuts that come from the whole front shoulder primal cut. But, these two cuts have very distinct differences.
It’s good to understand exactly what these differences in pork shoulder vs pork butt are. Then you can confidently buy the meat you need for the type of cooking you are doing, the texture and taste you are going for, and how you are wanting to serve it.
Here is a breakdown of the key differences between pork shoulder and pork butt:
Usually, butchers will cut a pork shoulder in a tapered, triangular shape and sell it with the skin still attached. If you get a boneless pork shoulder, it will typically be sold with netting around it to hold it together. When you remove this netting, the meat will "unfold" into an uneven layer.
Alternatively, a pork butt will be a uniform, rectangular-shaped piece of meat with the skin off. You can buy a pork butt either bone-in or without and it is often sold with the fat cap still intact.
Don’t be afraid to ask the butcher for exactly what you want/need (bone-in, deboned, fat cap trimmed away, etc.)
Since it comes from more of the working muscle of the lower shoulder, pork shoulder usually has less fat and may be chewy or tough. Pork butt, on the other hand, is well-marbled with more intramuscular fat running throughout, yielding more tender and soft meat.
In general, pork shoulder will usually be cheaper in comparison to pork butt. This is because pork butt is often a larger piece of meat. But, both cuts are considered economical cuts of meat compared to others.
If you’re not sure which cut you want to cook with between pork shoulder and pork butt, it can be helpful to consider how many people you are feeding and then factor in the price that way.
With pork butt, you’ll get the best results by either slowly smoking it or cooking it in a slow cooker. This allows the fat and connective tissues to break down and give you that deliciously moist and tender meat you’re going for. Pork butt is most often smoked and then used to make pulled pork dishes. But it is also very good when cooked in a slow-cooker to make things like Mexican-style carnitas dishes.
Pork shoulder usually does better when cooked at slightly higher temperatures in less time. It is often roasted on the grill to enhance its natural flavors. Also, this cut is commonly cooked with the skin on to achieve a nice crispy exterior and then sliced when it’s done.
Fat equals flavor. So, due to pork butt having a higher fat content throughout, it often tends to be more flavorful than a pork shoulder. But, like with any meat, the flavor also largely depends on how you cook it. Different cooking methods and techniques can be used that all have a different effect on the flavor.
How you cook your pork shoulder or pork butt and what is done to it after it is cooked will determine how long it can be stored. There are big differences in this aspect when it comes to pork shoulder vs pork butt.
If you smoke the meat and leave it whole, it lasts a couple of days if stored properly in an airtight container and be fine. This prevents any moisture from getting in and ruining the meat’s structure.
But, if you plan on using your smoked pork butt for pulled pork, which means “pulling it” right after it is done cooking, then it is recommended to eat it within a day or so for best results. Pulled pork can become tasteless and dry very quickly if left out. If you are going to store some, make sure it is in an airtight container.
It is also important with either of these cuts, after they are done cooking, to make sure that they are completely cooled down before putting any of it in the fridge.
There’s no doubt that these two cuts are two of the most popular cuts of pork, can be used for a variety of different things, and are very often confused for each other. But now that you know the differences between pork shoulder and pork butt, you can make an informed decision on which piece is best for the cooking method you want to do and the result you want to achieve.
If you want to slow smoke a piece of pork and enjoy deliciously tender meat, go for the pork butt. If you want pork with crispy skin and a slightly tougher texture, grab a pork shoulder. Either way, when cooked properly, you can end up with a final result that you’ll be proud to show off.
Do you have a favorite between pork shoulder and pork butt? Have you recently cooked one or the other for the first time? Leave a comment below and tell us about it. We want to hear from you!
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We’ve said it multiple times before, the fresher the meat you start with, the better the taste. This, of course, applies to chicken and other poultry as well. If you are headed to the store, knowing what to look for when buying chicken meat will help ensure you end up with fresh chicken and a great tasting final result. No matter if you are grilling chicken wings or smoking whole chicken.
But, it’s easy to start getting confused when you see labels that say cage-free, free-range, organic, etc. We’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know, straight from the BBQ pros:
One immediate way to pinpoint fresh chicken is its appearance. Fresh chicken will have a yellow tint to the skin and the meat will have a pinkish color. You also want to avoid meat that has any bruising, tears in the skin, or other cosmetic damages, all of which can affect the quality and freshness. Fresh chicken meat will also be plump. If you press against it, the meat should be resilient and resume its shape after a couple of seconds.
When it comes to the smell of it, fresh chicken will not have a scent. If the meat has an odor, it is not good and should be avoided.
Buying frozen chicken in larger quantities may be more convenient, but that’s not going to give you the best tasting meat. To achieve that, you want to go with chicken meat that is fresh and has never been frozen.
If the meat is labeled as fresh, then the internal temperature has never gone below 26 degrees Fahrenheit, the freezing temperature for poultry. Thawing frozen chicken can change the texture of the meat, which can greatly affect its taste after it is cooked.
If you are selecting chicken from the packaged meat in the grocery store, avoid packages that have excess liquid pooling in them. Liquid like this happens when the meat purges fluids picked up from a water immersion process sometimes used to cool chicken to a safe temperature. This excess liquid can cause a soggy texture to the meat and dilute the flavor.
The USDA allocates three letter grades to poultry meat: A, B, and C. So, when you’re shopping for quality chicken, you want to get Grade A meat. This meat will not have any deformities, be well-fleshed, have a generous layer of fat, and won’t have any hairs or feathers still attached to the outside. There also won’t be any tears or cuts in the skin or meat, discolored portions, or broken bones.
It’s important to know that the way the chicken has been processed does affect the quality and taste. Ideally, you want to get chicken that has been cut by a knife and not mechanically separated. Mechanical separation is a high-pressure way of separating meat from the bone and can often result in unwanted items mixing into a paste-like texture.
Buying a whole chicken and processing it and trimming it yourself is an even better move. Doing this will give you more for your money and result in better portion sizes. Breaking down a whole bird is actually easier than you may think.
Keep in mind that processing chicken yourself at home requires diligence in food safety. Be careful not to cross-contaminate kitchen surfaces and utensils.
When looking at the labels for chicken, you may see either “antibiotic-free” or “raised without antibiotics”. You want to go with chicken that is raised without antibiotics. This means that the chickens were never given antibiotics at any point. If the chicken is labeled antibiotic-free, that means that it could have previously been given antibiotics but, according to the USDA, the producer has to follow a withdrawal or waiting period to ensure the antibiotics are not present when it is processed/butchered.
Source: Backyard Poultry Magazine
According to the USDA, chicken is labeled as "free-range" if the producer has proven that the chickens are given access to the outdoors. When a chicken is raised and butchered in a more humane environment like this, the less stress they endure and the healthier they will be. This means better quality meat. Plus, in many cases, free-range chickens will also be fed a good diet.
Speaking of a good diet, you want to look for chicken that has been grass-fed and/or vegetable-fed versus grain-fed. As mentioned above, these chickens will be healthier, resulting in better-tasting meat.
If the label for the meat says grass-fed or vegetable-fed, it means that the chicken was raised on a diet that never included any animal by-products. Sometimes, producers who are trying to cut costs and speed up growth rates supplement their chickens’ diet with animal by-products.
It is highly debated among chefs and nutritionists whether there is a difference in the taste between organic and non-organic chicken. The USDA’s National Organic Program, the provider of organic certification, requires producers to implement and follow strict ongoing compliance with standards and practices that are much cleaner and environmentally friendly.
Many of the best organic producers also go a step further and get the HFAC (Humane Farm Animal Care) certification. This enforces guidelines for humane handling at every step. In theory, if they have this certification, this would mean that the chickens are being fed a healthier diet and raised in a more stress-free environment. Which, as we mentioned above, often results in better tasting meat.
If the chicken is labeled organic, chances are it will also be non-GMO certified. For chicken to have this seal, it has to be raised and fed on a certified organic, non-GMO diet that meets the Non-GMO Project standards. The Non-GMO Project is a third-party non-profit that provides verification and labeling for non-GMO products.
Another important factor to keep in mind is that you should avoid chicken that has been enhanced. Enhanced chicken has either been injected with or soaked in a solution during its processing. This solution can include enhancements like saltwater, chicken broth, nitrates and nitrites, and MSG. All of these things can significantly raise the sodium level of the meat and take away from its natural flavor.
We’ve mentioned it before, but if you want the best quality meat and the best deals, you should make friends with the butcher at your local meat store. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s what they are there for. Your butcher can tell you more about the chicken, like if it’s ever been frozen, or if it’s free-range, organic, all-natural, etc. They can even give you more info about the farm it came from.
When you shop at small, local butcher shops, you’ll get access to the close relationships that the butchers have with the farmers and you can help buy responsibly while also supporting small businesses.
We’ve previously covered how to select quality beef, but, as you can see, there are also some poultry-specific things you also need to know. It’s important to know what to look for when buying chicken to ensure you walk out of the store with good-quality, fresh meat. It can make a huge difference in the taste of the final result, no matter if you’re grilling or smoking chicken.
The things we covered above will help you buy the best chicken to cook today. And don’t be afraid to talk to your local butcher. They’ll be able to point you to the best quality chicken that checks all the boxes above.
Know of something else to look for when it comes to buying chicken that we left out? Plan on cooking chicken this week? Let us know about it and leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!
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