HOW TO: Cutting Meat at Home… the Right Way!

cutting meat at homeWidely cited in recipes of all kinds, prepared meat is to be cut “against the grain.” While it may come natural to some, others may be robbing themselves of the perfect bite of meat by making an unfortunate error. The secret to cutting meat at home (…the right way!) is brought to you by the experts here at D’Arcy’s Meat Market. Read on for our explanation of: the grain!

THE GRAIN

What is it? “The grain” is the direction of the muscle fibers in a cut of meat. Not to be confused with grill lines or fatty cracks on the surface, the pattern of the grain becomes more evident as the protein cooks. If you are unsure of how to identify the grain, feel free to ask a friendly D’Arcy’s staff member for advice!

Why cut against it? When cutting perpendicular or “against the grain,” you are shortening the muscle fibres. This phenomena creates a more tender bite of meat! Remember to always use a sharp knife and line it up 90 degrees to the lines of the grain– even a slight angle can lessen the tenderizing effect.

What if I cut with the grain? If you did the opposite and cut parallel or “with the grain,” you will find the muscle fibers are long and stringy. This will cause your sliced meat to be chewy, no matter how carefully you tenderized the dish. Not convinced? Try slicing both ways on your next cut of meat and taste the difference for yourself!

Cutting against the grain is as simple as that– one easy step to follow before serving your next meat masterpiece. There really is no secret! And there is no substitute for experience, so practice carefully with a properly sharpened, appropriately-sized knife. Questions? Concerns? Ask us! No one has more experience than D’Arcy’s!

BBQ BATTLE ROYALE: Dry Rub vs. Marinade vs. BBQ Sauce

dry rub vs marinade vs bbq sauceWhether you are dining on meat or vegetables, there are countless ways to season them– especially if they are headed for the grill! Since cooking over open flame is volatile, it is important to seal in flavours as thoroughly as possible. With that in mind, world famous chefs and pitmasters have settled on three methods of preparation: dry rubs, marinades and barbecue sauces. You may know some of the differences, but do you know how each should be used? Read on for D’Arcy’s BBQ Battle Royale and settle the score once and for all!

DRY RUB

The term “dry rub” is simply an umbrella that covers an infinite number of spice blends. These mixtures contain no liquid (“dry”) and they are worked into the raw ingredients by hand (“rub”). The hands-on approach means every crevice is coated with your chosen flavours; keeping the seasoning dry means less liquids will drip onto your cooking surface. An intense first-bite and blackened crust are some of the biggest attractions of meat or veg cooked with a dry rub.

MARINADE

Originally from the Spanish mar for sea, the term “marinade” was introduced into French cuisine at the start of the 18th-century– it meant to be pickled in a salty brine. Since then, marinade has evolved into a modern home cooking term to describe any seasoning (containing at least one liquid ingredient) used to infuse flavours into meat or vegetables. The key behind using a marinade is including a vinegar or another fluid with a chemical property that breaks down and softens food. A well-made marinade will produce fork-tender results while imparting a rich flavour and depth to the dish.

BBQ SAUCE

For many of us, the first time we encountered barbecue sauce may have been as a dipping sauce for chicken fingers… But of course, BBQ sauce is best used: on the barbecue! While suitable for a marinade, BBQ sauce typically has high sugar content– so it can burn easily if left over an open flame for an extended period. Ideally, you should apply your chosen BBQ sauce right at the end of high-temperature grilling. Alternatively, you may use BBQ sauce as a basting liquid if you are cooking for an extended period over a long temperature. Another tip is to boil down or reduce BBQ sauce to create a glaze!

AND THE WINNER IS…

…Your tastebuds! All of these methods are delicious on their own, but they can even be combined for mouthwatering results. The only limits is your imagination and the Laws of Thermodynamics– any questions and concerns can be answered by the experts at D’Arcy’s Meat Market. Contact or visit us today!

PATTY PARTY: 5 Burger Ideas, from Classics to Instant-Classics

5 burger ideas from classic to instant classicAh, the humble hamburger– a North American innovation that has since taken the world by storm. Once strictly the realm of the eaters of red flesh, a burger’s golden ratio of carbs, condiments, veggies and protein has been championed by all cuisines and diets. Whether you enjoy a grilled chicken breast on a multigrain bun or you stack up multiple beef patties smothered in cheese or even if you eat cruelty- and gluten-free… There is a burger for you! D’Arcy’s Meat Market is proud to present our five burger ideas for the summer, from classics to instant-classics!

#1: We heart Alberta beef.

Since we all live in the heart of cattle country, we believe it is our duty to support the ranchers around us. Considering the quality we have access to in exchange, it is hardly a fair deal! Alberta beef is used in elite kitchens worldwide, but it is just as at home sizzling on your grill. The classic burger is made of ground chuck with relatively high fat content, something D’Arcy’s carries daily– but we can always grind a custom mix tailored to your needs. Consider combining three parts ground beef with one part ground veal; the added fat and flavour will give your backyard burgers a gourmet flair!

#2: Shades of red.

Alberta’s agricultural economy supports a huge diversity of livestock, which is also supplemented by legal hunting: bison; mutton and lamb; venison, elk, boar and other “game” meat; and even rarer delicacies, such as hare or horse. While most of these meats are too lean to form a juicy burger on their own, adding in a portion of fattier ground chuck will have your diners asking for your secret ingredient. D’Arcy’s carries many of these varieties regularly, but we can also handle special orders– hunters: we are happy to butcher your latest catch or kill.

#3: Plant-based patties.

You may be a vegan or vegetarian that cooks for meat-eaters, you may be an omnivore that cooks for a herbivore… No matter the situation, D’Arcy’s cares about you too! Portobello mushroom caps, grain-based patties (store-bought or made from scratch), falafels, cauliflower or sweet potato “cakes,” even a hefty pineapple ring are all great options to grill and serve on a bun. Feel free to browse our wide selection of seasonings and sauces– it doesn’t have to taste like meat, but it does have to taste good!

#4: Sustainable sandwiches.

Whether you are looking for a healthier or more sustainable option, many people enjoy building a burger around grilled poultry, pork or seafood. These meats are leaner in fat and still go well with many of the classic hamburger toppings and condiments. Further to that, they can be customized to their own flavour in innovative ways! Try a grilled pork patty on french bread, topped with bahn mi fixings like cilantro and hoisin sauce. Expand your horizons with a Tex-Mex inspired chicken bacon ranch burger or dive into flavour with a salmon steak burger dressed with tartar sauce and seaweed salad.

#5: Grill like a gourmet.

If you have tried all of the above and you still crave fresh options, D’Arcy’s can help! Why not try a cheeseburger? Oh, not just a slice of cheddar on beef– try grating it and packing it inside your patty… when the molten cheese oozes out: it’s ready! From herbed butter to habanero peppers, there’s no limit to what can be mixed into a ground meat patty. If you are using a chop, steak or other thick cuts of meat and vegetable, do not underestimate the power of marinating it overnight in bold flavours. Finally, always experiment by completing your burgers with new sauces, in-season fruits or veggies, sour or sweet pickles and any variety of bread (as long as it’s fresh).

The five ideas above are only a sampling of the infinite varieties of burgers you can create– the sky’s the limit! D’Arcy’s is ready to help you craft your perfect burger, no matter your tastes or dietary needs. Contact or visit us today with any questions you might have… Then get grilling!

What Types of Meat Can I Cook on a Smoker?

what types of meat can you cook in a smokerFor a long time, a backyard smoker was viewed purely as a luxury item for the obsessed gourmand or the bored retiree. Thanks to heightened public awareness of smoking food, everyone and their neighbour fancies themselves as a down-home, slow-cooking pit boss! Access to both high- and low-end smokers has increased, as well as a desire to cook with fresh, locally sourced meat, seafood and produce. If you want to know what is best to cook on a smoker, read D’Arcy’s short guide below and visit or contact us with your questions today!

PORK.

Pork is undeniably the most popular meat when it comes to cooking with smoke. Smokers are often said to be the only way to get truly tender yet flavourful pork ribs, commonly referred to as “falling off the bone.” The fat content and marbling of a pork shoulder makes it both an affordable and ideal cut perfect pulled pork on the smoker. Also, home smokers can make their own woodchip blend and customize a signature bacon that will beat anything from the supermarket.

POULTRY.

Chicken, turkey, duck, game hens– almost any poultry or fowl can be done to juicy perfection in a smoker. With leaner or smaller birds, smoke them whole and watch their temperatures closely so they do not dry out. Fattier and larger birds can be halved or even quartered with more confidence, as they will retain juiciness when cooked long over low temperatures.

BEEF.

If your smoking beef: brisket is king! There are few cuts of any smoked meat that are as prized as a perfectly-done beef brisket. Originating from the chest of the cow, brisket meat is tough and nearly inedible unless cooked at minimal temperatures over as long a period as possible. This is why you do not brisket served any other way than smoked or braised. After your cookout, sliced brisket is the key ingredient in the ever-popular Montreal smoked meat sandwich.

SAUSAGE & SEAFOOD.

While seemingly different, sausages and seafood options are a great choice to cook together on a home smoker, especially as an appetizer course. Sausages are usually pre-cooked and only need a short time to be brought up to temperature– plus they are available in a wide range of local meat sources and bold flavours (even custom blends). Similarly, most seafood only needs a few minutes on a cooker to achieve proper doneness– oysters, shrimp and salmon are all popular choices.

FRUIT, VEGETABLES & MORE.

A cookout with a smoker often features one or more meats as the main dish, sometimes with even more meat as an accompaniment. Take a cue from professional barbecue restaurants and add some plant-based sides to the menu, but don’t be afraid to try smoking your favourite vegetables and fruit– pineapples, peaches, tomatoes and potatoes are good options. Additionally, many people enjoy smoked cheeses, olives, nuts and even hard boiled eggs!

The above article is only scratching the surface of the diverse and delicious world of cooking with smoke. For a full rundown of all our smoking favourites, contact or visit D’Arcy’s Meat Market today! Our friendly staff can offer advice, whether you are a smoker newbie or a down-home, slow-cooking pit boss!

How To Use a Smoker

how-to-use-a-smokerThere are many regions in North America that dub themselves “barbecue country,” but we here in Alberta enjoy a diverse mosaic of open-flame cooking styles and seasonings. From a charcoal hibachi to a propane grill with all the bells and whistles; from egg-shaped kegs to professional rigs that need to be towed behind a truck– barbecue can be done on any platform. And not just any barbecue, you can achieve the highly sought after technique of indirect cooking with smoke. If you are investing in smoking tools, read our introduction below and bring any questions to the pros here at D’Arcy’s Meat Market today!

SEASONING

You can smoke almost anything, but smokers are most popular for dishes with fat that must be rendered slowly and steadily. Thanks to this, the chef is free to make a bold seasoning– most often as a rub or marinade. Sauce should also be basted regularly throughout the smoking process to achieve the stickiest, tenderest results. Each of these steps is essential to imbue the flavours you want to bring out in the final dish.

TEMPERATURE

Your smoker will likely have an ambient thermometer, but to get the best results: it is wise to invest in an instant-read probe that can be reinserted at regular intervals. Both meters should be monitored closely and kept a steady, low threshold– peaks and valleys means you are risking burnt or raw spots. Inevitably there will be cold and hot spots however you cook, so always rotate your food throughout the process.

FUEL & WOOD CHIPS

The cooking method you choose will dictate what type of fuel you need to invest in beforehand. Lump charcoal, briquettes, wood and even propane can be adapted to create indirect heat necessary for smoking (whatever you need, make sure you have extra). Wood chips are the next thing to consider when smoking a dish– they add flavour and moisture inherent to their variety. Apple, hickory, cherry… There is almost no end to the available choices!

TIME

Our most valuable tip for smoking? Give yourself plenty of time and be patient! Most go by the rule of thumb “long and low,” referring to an extended cooking time exposed to low heat. This process can take hours for your food to achieve ideal ‘doneness’ and the earlier you start– the better!

The above tips are only a summary of the many important details of barbecuing to perfection. Ask our friendly staff for their favourites and many other helpful recommendations.