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!

I FOWL TO PIECES: Cutting Up a Whole Chicken in 5 Easy Steps

cutting up a chicken in 5 easy steps
Many of us have grown used to the convenience of grabbing a bulk pack of chicken thighs or a pound of wings. While there is a time and place for this, buying your meat as a full bird and separating it yourself can actually save you money! Of course, D’Arcy’s can custom butcher anything to order, but there is a sense of pride when all you need is a whole chicken, a cutting board, and a sharp knife.

#1: Safety First

Begin with the most important piece of safety equipment you can have in your kitchen: a properly sharpened chef’s knife. Any six- to nine-inch blade is usually appropriate for separating a bird– if your knife is dull, choose an affordable sharpening service. Consider safety glasses and cut-proof gloves, it may seem like overkill but it can help if you are unconfident with a sharp knife.

#2: Legs & Wings

Start with the bird on its back, breast-side up. Pull each wing to the side to find the joint, then cut down firmly with a sharp knife. Don’t force it– if you feel resistance, you are cutting through bone and not the joint. Once the wings are removed, pull the legs aside and slice through the skin connecting to the body.

#3: Thighs

Repeat the same strategy you used to find the wing joints to find the thigh joints. Cut through where there is the least resistance and separate the connected thighs and legs from the body. If desired, separate the drumsticks by cutting along the line of fat found between the leg and thigh.

#4: Backbone

Cut away any excess fat, skin or other unwanted parts from the bird. Using either your sharp knife or a set of kitchen shears cut through the ribs on each side and separate the breastbone from the backside. Set aside the backbone and neck to make chicken stock later, if desired.

#5: Breasts

Lay the breasts skin-side down and apply your knife’s pressure along the bone that runs down the middle. Use a firm, even chopping motion to split the connected pieces into two chicken breasts. If you want, you can split the breasts again horizontally into more manageable pieces.

There you have it! If you followed the steps, you should have eight to ten pieces of a chicken and some bones for broth. If you have any concern or hesitation about carving a whole bird, contact or visit us today at D’Arcy’s! Our helpful, professional staff will walk you through any steps necessary for you to lay out the perfect spread.

PARTY FOWLS: Dos and Don’ts for Cooking the Perfect Turkey

cooking roast turkey in the oven

From major holidays to Sunday dinners, a beautifully done turkey is often the most sought-after centerpiece. While preparing and cooking a turkey of any size can seem like a big endeavor, a careful cook can take precautions so they are not frustrated or overwhelmed. So don’t be a birdbrain– just follow these simple guidelines and your guests will gobble up your next turkey dinner.

DO THAW YOUR BIRD

Most commercially available turkeys are frozen, so it is important to totally thaw them out before cooking. Thawing should be done in the fridge and can take up to several days, depending on size. You can avoid this preparation time by purchasing a fresh turkey.

DON’T “GUESS-TIMATE”

So you know how many people are coming to dinner, you can just eye up a bird at the store– right? Wrong! In order to prevent underserving or excessive leftovers, choose your turkey based on weight per person. A good baseline is 1 lb or 0.5 kg of turkey (precooked) per person and increase portions if you want leftovers.

DO CLEAN AND SEASON

For best results, clean your turkey thoroughly– removing giblets and the neck (they can be saved for stock or pets), rinsing it and patting it dry. After this step, season the inside and outside of the turkey with your preferred spices or salt and pepper at the very least.

DON’T BE CONSERVATIVE

Turkeys are extremely versatile. Feel free to experiment with different brines, dressings, seasonings and other preparations. All of these affect flavour and texture, often adding moisture or fat to the meat. If your bird is stuffed, make sure that you increase cook time as needed.

DO USE A STURDY FOUNDATION

Learn to appreciate the art of trussing a bird and invest in a reliable, good-sized roasting pan. Ensure your turkey has room to breathe and isn’t cramped or squished, otherwise it could impact how evenly it cooks. When choosing a pan, try placing the turkey into the pan backside and breast-side up as you will need to do both to achieve a golden brown finish.

DON’T UNDERCOOK OR OVERCOOK

When your oven is up to temperature, tent foil over the turkey in your roasting pan of choice– slide it in and stay near the kitchen. Periodically baste or brush your turkey with olive oil or butter, as well as the juices that drip off of the bird. Roast your turkey for approximately 20 minutes per pound. Remove the foil and flip the turkey to brown the breast over the final hour– it’s done when juices run clear and a thermometer in the thick of the thigh reads 180ºF (82ºC). Take the turkey out of the pan and let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

For every family and every cook, there’s a favourite or preferred way of preparing a turkey. From spatchcocked to deep-fried– there’s unlimited variations on the classic roasted bird. D’Arcy’s tips above are just the start! Consult with our friendly staff to add something special to your next turkey.

SUMMER SCHOOL: D’Arcy’s Guide to the Perfect Burger

Appetizing cheeseburger

For many people, the perfect companions on a hot summer day are a cool beverage and a grilled hamburger. It’s hard to argue: from ballparks to backyards– burgers are a fun way to liven up any meal with bold flavors, diverse tastes and so many variations you might never run out. Read on for D’Arcy’s guide to building a better burger!

LESSON #1: FAT IS GOOD
Yes, you read right: Fat. Is. Good. In fact, when it comes to burgers– fat is essential to creating a juicy, flavorful product. Overly lean ground meats become dry and flaky when prepared as burgers. Choose meats with at least 15-20% fat content to achieve a grill-worthy hamburger patty.
Tip: To produce burgers with varied, complex flavours– try blending different ground meats together or you can even attempt grinding your own meat! Want to try, but don’t know where to start? Ask a D’Arcy’s butcher for the best varieties and cuts.

LESSON #2: HANDS OFF
While many hamburger recipes suggest mixing thoroughly or even rolling the meat into perfect balls or patties– the true secret to a perfect burger is handling it as little as possible. When forming patties: keep your meat mixture cold, your hands slightly wet and shape your burgers quickly.
Tip: Forget about appearances… The prettiest burger isn’t always the most delicious!

LESSON #3: MORE THAN MEAT
Purists might consider it burger blasphemy, but adding ingredients or seasonings to your meat mixture is a great way to add fat, flavour and fun. A lot of recipes rarely vary from the standard meat patty (sometimes adding an egg, breadcrumbs or a dash of cracked pepper). The classic recipe is a delicious standard, but there are no rules when it comes to burgers! Diced onions, grated cheese, herbed butter, soya sauce, crushed chilis– these are only a tiny sample of the textures and flavours that will add a twist to your next hamburger patties.
Tip: Supplement a lean meat mixture with a mix-in that is higher in fat or bolder in flavour– adding diced anchovies to ground turkey patties, for example.

LESSON #4: MEAT MEETS HEAT
Start with a clean grill, oiled generously to prevent sticking and preheated (if you don’t have access to open flame, fry burgers gently in a wide, heavy pan). Salt your patties lightly on either side just before– salting the mixture too early can dry out your burgers– then space the burgers out generously on your cooking surface. Allow the heat to create a rich, well-browned crust on one side before flipping the patties. Cook to taste: medium should be springy to touch, whereas well-done will have very little give… When in doubt, use a meat thermometer!
Tip: There are two schools of thought on pressing your patties while cooking. Some say you lose precious, flavourful juices, while others maintain that a proper burger should be pressed down carefully to produce a caramelized crust on the “smashed” edges. Try both and discover your favourite!

At D’Arcy’s, our only rule about burgers is they have to taste good! Visit or contact us today— our friendly staff will work with you to build your perfect burger recipe. From crowd pleasing classics to gourmet gastronomics, D’Arcy’s has the freshest and most diverse meat available (we can even do special orders), so choose us for your next masterpiece between two buns!

ALL ABOARD: Serving Charcuterie At Home

So you’ve got your favourite meats and cheeses picked out. You have ripe and dried fruit of all varieties; pickles and other condiments abound; bakery fresh bread and even gluten-free crackers– So… Now what do you do?

Not sure? Don’t worry! We’re here to help. Read on for our tips to serving a gourmet charcuterie spread in your very own home.

SELECTION

Vary your selection. Mix and match textures and flavours, without bunching together tastes that are too similar. Consider staggering the selection throughout cocktail or appetizer courses for optimal freshness and diversity.

PRESENTATION

Charcuterie items are most often served directly on cutting boards, arranged loosely but deliberately. Items should not be crowded together or too sparse; make it is easy for guests to help themselves. Labels can be helpful, especially when serving strongly flavoured foods such as blue cheese, aged salami or spicy mustard.

PORTION

Encourage guests to be adventurous by offering smaller amounts in a wider variety. Split up charcuterie items into different arrangements so guests can attempt unique blends of flavours and textures. Portioning 100g of meat per guest is a good rule of thumb, but cater to your crowd’s tastes and appetites accordingly.

PREPARATION

Most charcuterie items are best served lightly chilled, but should not be left standing at room temperature for more than a couple hours. Prepare smaller boards or platters that can be rotated out of a fridge or cooler to keep them fresh and delicious for your guests.

PARTICIPATION

No matter the flavours or the culture, charcuterie is first and foremost about the eater. Let your guests go wild with a wide variety of foods, utensils and dishware. Labeled cheese knives, slate boards with items identified in chalk and exotic, rarely seen condiments are just a few ways to liven up your experience.

INEBRIATION

The subtle, curated tastes of a charcuterie board often lend themselves to enjoying them with wine, beer or cocktails. Do not over serve alcohol with your selection, instead: pick complimentary pairings and serve modest portions. This will help prevent your guests from overpowering the flavours of the board you created. Always drink responsibly and never let your guests drink and drive.

Have more questions about preparing, arranging and serving a charcuterie board or platter? D’Arcy’s experts are happy to help. We can provide you with the high quality items and gourmet guidance to cater to a group of any size or taste. Consider our local and handmade charcuterie options to add another level of authenticity to your next wine night, dinner party or any other gastronomic event!