Smoking Meats at Home

smoking meat at homeCooking food with indirect heat is an ancient practice, but you don’t have to follow sacred texts or carved tablets to make delicious smoked meats at home. More than just adding a smokey flavour– when done correctly, this type of cooking can tenderize even the toughest of cuts. Brisket? Ribs? Pulled or shredded meat? If you want fall-apart, fork-tender results… the only choice is smoking! D’Arcy’s guide will walk you through traditional smoking, as well as do-it-yourself methods for cooking with indirect heat.

TRADITIONAL SMOKING

There are as many smoking methods as there are cultures that practice this type of cooking, but most of them agree on using charcoal as the fuel source. Whether you use lumps, briquettes or a mixture, your meat should be placed above and away from the hottest coals in your smoker. Water-soaked wood chips or chunks are then added to create fragrant smoke as they smoulder slowly– you can experiment with different varieties such as hickory, apple or cherry. Smoke should be allowed to circulate and escape the cooking chamber, so the meat neither cooks too fast nor too slowly.

**NOTE** Traditional or not– smoking meat can take up the better part of 24 hours, depending on the quantity, size and fat-distribution of each cut. Professional smokers will always advise amateurs to allow plenty of time and to be patient. Remember: slow and steady wins the race… of deliciousness!

NO-SMOKER SMOKING

If you don’t have a fancy, dedicated device for smoking– don’t worry, you can still achieve amazing results with non-traditional methods. Some of the best barbecue comes from brick ovens, converted oil drums or even literal holes in the ground. Considering this, converting your standard backyard grill to an indirect heat smoker is easy by comparison.

  • For a gas grill, simply turn on one side of the burners to low and place a pie tin full of soaked wood chips over the heat– with the meat on the other side, keep the hood closed and the temperature steady.
  • For charcoal grills, push your hot coals to one side and follow the same practice as the gas grill.
  • Smoking can be even done in the kitchen! You need good ventilation and a reliable oven with racks that can be separated to upper and lower positions. Place the wood chips at the bottom on one side, place the meat at the bottom on the other side and keep it slow and low– allow for a long cooking time at a low heat setting.

The methods above– both traditional and D.I.Y.– only summarize the many nuances and intricacies of cooking with indirect heat. Commonly known in North America as smoking or barbecuing, there are few other techniques that result in such tender, flavourful meat. While the learning curve may seem steep, the first step is trying and D’Arcy’s Meat Market is here to help guide you with our own tips and answers to any questions you might have. Contact or visit us today!

BEEF BRISKET: A Cut Above

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WHAT IS BRISKET?

Between the rising popularity of BBQ restaurants, cooking shows on TV and gourmet food at home– beef brisket has become more commonplace these days. The term “brisket” can actually represent a few distinct food items, all of which are made out of beef cut from the cow’s chest. Tougher than most cuts, brisket is generally available in two different boneless cuts or brined in salt and sold as corned beef:

  • Flat half (aka thin cut, flat cut, first cut or centre cut): Leaner, more expensive cut of brisket.
  • Point half (aka front cut, point cut, thick cut or nose cut): Fattier, less expensive cut. Often the more flavourful of the two cuts.
  • Corned beef brisket: 
    Cured or injected with salt brine. Popular as deli or sandwich meat.

HOW DO I SERVE BEEF BRISKET?

Depending on how familiar you are with the cut, preparing a brisket can seem like an intimidating process. Luckily, there are two simple keywords that will always save the day: low and slow. Brisket is best when cooked over a low heat over a long period of time, most of which can be unattended. Try the following preparations next time you tackle a brisket:

  • Slow cooker or crockpot: The old stand-by… Slow cookers keep food at a very accurate, low heat and can be left alone for hours at a time. The combined effect produces an incredibly tender and flavourful result– even better: it’s almost impossible to overcook!
  • In the oven: Another simple option that can be customized to any taste. Combine your favourite chopped vegetables, two or three complimentary spices and enough liquid to cover the brisket in a deep pan. Roast for a few hours until tender and serve sliced to rave reviews.
  • Stovetop: Best done over an even heat in a deep, heavy pan (such as a Dutch oven). First, sear or brown the beef; then, add and caramelize vegetables; top with wine, broth, water– almost any liquid– and bring to a boil; finally: reduce heat, cover and simmer for a few hours. Serve as above and retain liquid to reduce into a sauce.
  • Smoked: For the truly ambitious! If you own a smoker, you may already know the process– but not all of us have a dedicated smoker. Alternatively, place a tray of wood chips over one element in your BBQ or oven. Dry rub your brisket with spices and place it off of the heat, allowing it to cook in the smoke and low heat for many hours. Do your research! There’s a reason BBQ pitmasters spend lifetimes perfecting the art of smoking a brisket.
  • Corned: Corned beef is widely available prepackaged or premade, but you can also brine your own brisket. A longer process that preserves the meat with salt, corning produces a flavourful and long-lasting brisket that is used in many traditional recipes.

Let your brisket stand after cooking to desired tenderness. Use your sharpest knife and slice against the grain, producing thin and even portions. Leftover brisket is perfect for sandwiches and keeps well in the freezer.

Ready to braise a brisket like a boss? Come on into D’Arcy’s where we provide only the highest quality and freshest beef, cut to your specifications. We can offer guidance, recipes— even our favorite BBQ sauce— to help you master the perfect beef brisket.

Pot Roast 101: Choosing The Right Cut of Meat

pot roast 101: choosing the right cut of meat

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t love the comforting taste and smell of pot roast cooking. Pot roast is inexpensive to make, yields a ton of food and did I mention it makes your house smell amazing?! Read on as D’Arcy’s Meat Market dives into the actual definition of pot roast, and how to choose the right cut of beef to make sure your next roast is a success!

What IS Pot Roast?

Pot roast is a braised beef dish, made by browning a cut of beef and then slow-cooking it in a liquid in a covered dish. The cooking method is more important than the recipe itself. The spices and liquids may change, but cooking pot roast low and slow is critical to its success. Slow cooking will ensure the meat gets tender, juicy and aromatic.

The Key to A Great Beef Pot Roast? The Cut of Meat

The best beef pot roasts come from the cooking it “low and slow”, otherwise known as braising. Tougher cuts of meat are better for braising, as they have a high collagen content, little fat and see a lot of movement on the animal. When cooked properly, the collagen will break down into gelatin and help to tenderize the meat. When selecting a cut of meat for your next pot roast, choose one of the following:

  • Chuck: This is taken from the front portion of the cow and consists of the neck, shoulder blade, and upper arm. While tough, this cut of meat is packed with flavour.
  • Brisket: The brisket is the breast or lower chest area of the cow. Even though this cut has a higher fat content than other cuts, it still needs lots of time and low-temperature cooking to break down and tenderize.
  • Round: This is taken from the rear leg area of the cow. This cut is fairly lean but tough as it gets a lot of exercise. There are three main areas of the round: top, bottom, and the knuckle.

Contact D’Arcy’s Today

D’Arcy’s Meat Market carries only the highest quality Alberta beef. Stop by the shop and one of our experts will help you pick out the perfect cut for your next pot roast.

 

RAISE THE STEAKS: Choosing & Preparing the Right Cut

Steak!

Okay– what did you just think of: A t-bone on the grill? A five-star, bacon-wrapped filet at a French bistro? The classic steak sandwich? They all have one thing in common: steak! Steak seems simple at first blush, but it is another thing entirely to face the endless choices and options available in supermarket coolers and menus these days.

Next time you want to raise the stakes, consult the following cheat sheet to make sure you pick the right cut for the job.

RIBEYE

A favourite of the beef-obsessed, ribeyes are packed with flavour thanks to their high fat content and deep marbling. Also served bone-in as the Cowboy steak, ribeyes can withstand longer cooking without losing much moisture or any of their rich, beefy flavour. Cut from near the rib, as the name implies.

Suggested serving: Grill your ribeye with a favourite veggie & a loaded baked potato.

STRIP STEAK

Widely served as a New York or Kansas strip, boneless strip steaks are extremely popular cuts of beef. The all-around champ of steaks, strips have moderate to good size, marbling, tenderness and flavour– not excelling in any one category, but not failing in any either. Fat on strip steaks is easy to trim off and they are also simple to cook and eat.

Suggested serving: Hearty steak sandwich on garlic toast with braised mushrooms.

TENDERLOIN

Also served as the filet, filet mignon or Chateaubriand– the tenderloin is, as its name says, the most tender cut of beef available. Low in fat, it is a delicate cut that is best served elegantly with subtle flavours. Overcooking and overseasoning are major faux pas when preparing tenderloin cuts. High in price, but a staple in high end restaurants.

Suggested serving: Bacon-wrapped filet mignon with roasted seasonal vegetables.

T-BONE

The t-bone and its big brother the Porterhouse are essentially two steaks in one. The bone of its namesake splits the steak into two distinct sections. The smaller, rounder half is a cut from the tenderloin, while the longer, narrower half is cut from the same section as a strip steak. Not just for looks, the two sections of a t-bone offer the differing tastes of each section of beef. Preparation can be tricky, but bear in mind that the tenderloin half cooks faster and you will have the biggest difficulty handled straight out of the gate.

Suggested serving: Grilled, on a plate. Add pepper or a favourite steak sauce. Dig in.

Have more questions about steak? Call or visit us at D’Arcy’s and we will turn you into a steak expert in time for your next big dinner, cookout or even for just looking like a hotshot the next time you visit a steakhouse. All steaks can be ordered and cut to specification for any meal or occasion. Not sure how to prepare your steak? Our employees are expert carnivores and can help with advice and delicious recipes.

HALF A COW, MAN: The Advantages of Buying a Side of Beef

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So you want to buy your beef in bulk. This is a good decision for many reasons, but first some facts.

How is beef sold in bulk?

Beef is generally sold in sides ranging from 300-400 pounds on average, which is almost literally half of a cow. When you buy a side of beef, you are not getting 300 pounds of your favourite cuts– cows are not just all sirloins and t-bones. Steaks, roasts, ribs, brisket and a wide variety of grindable meat and usable bones are all produced out of one side of beef. Consider investing in one or many other households and splitting the cost and sheer amount of beef between the group.

Where do I buy sides of beef or whole cows?

If you are interested in investing in a side or whole cow, consult with us here at D’Arcy’s first. We can give you detailed information on our local, high-quality suppliers and we can clearly outline your options for how the beef will be butchered. Depending on availability, bulk orders of beef need to be ordered in advance.

Now that you know some of the nuts and bolts of buying in bulk, here are some benefits of investing in large portions of beef:

Local

Many local or small-scale beef farmers can only afford to sell in larger amounts. Buying beef directly from the farmer through a reputable butcher like D’Arcy’s will nurture local food development and support sustainable practices.

Affordable

While the initial investment may seem steep, buying in bulk can actually be cheaper over the long term when compared to grocery store prices. Your savings on beef alone could cover the cost of a new deep freeze (including the energy to run it) in a year or so. Splitting a larger investment across more households can also lead to even more substantial savings.

Customizable

Prefer grass fed, hormone-free beef? By choosing your beef provider directly, you can avoid confusing corporate and government labels and have meat raised the way you want it to be raised. Bulk beef orders can also be butchered to specification, down to the very last pound.

Ecological

Buying directly in bulk and eating locally can reduce the scope and need for factory farming, which is extremely harmful to the environment. Use your dollar to support beef producers that raise their animals humanely and responsibly: it benefits the entire planet.

Still unsure if you are ready for hundreds of pounds of beef? Don’t worry, we got you. Come into D’Arcy’s with any questions and concerns you might have of buying local, high quality beef in bulk. We’re happy to help!