Finding good beef

Discussion in 'Beef' started by 357mag, Jun 22, 2010.

  1. I went to my local Food Lion and asked the butcher there if he could get me a whole packer brisket. He pointed over to the meat case and said. "one of those?" What he was pointing at was a pre-packaged 2.5 lb. corned beef brisket. I said no, a whole packer. He looked at me as if I had just spoken Farsi. He did not have a clue what I was talking about. I then went to WalMart and right there in the meat case were 8 or 10 packer briskets from 9 to 14 lbs. each. They had good fat and were nice and flexible. Really good looking meat. I was so surprised that WalMart had whole packers.

    Now unfortunately, I do not have my smoker yet. I have told my wife that I want one for my birthday, which is almost THREE MONTHS AWAY. But I am already scoping out places to get my meat.

    How I miss the days when you could go to your local butcher and buy just about any cut of meat that you wanted, and have him cut it, trim it or slice it the way you want. I know that some of you still have butcher shops that you can go to, but here in North Central NC, they are hard, if not impossible to find.

    When I was a kid living in NYC in the early 60s, we had a neighborhood grocery store that probably wasn't 1000sq feet inside, but they had everything you wanted including a full time butcher. He was a big gruff man who could wield a knife and a cleaver with the skill and precision of a heart surgeon. Oh how I miss those days.

    Well, this is enough for my first post here. I am waiting in breathless anticipation of getting my first smoker, and in the meantime, I am reading everything I can about cooking in a smoker.

    Thanks for putting up with my ramblings.
  2. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    With all due respect, unless you are having your smoker built for you just ask you wife to buy it early for you.  She'll understand.

    Welcome to the forum, don't forget to introduce yourself in the new members forum.  We all love meeting new people that share our hobby

  3. tnbarbq

    tnbarbq Fire Starter

    Get the smoker asap.  There are many budget friendly options available.  

    My wife got me a Char-Broil Silver off-set for Father's Day 3 years ago.  I think it was under $200 and I put about $40 worth of modifications in it.  In 90 days it's September and soon after that the weather doesn't cooperate too well. 

    I get my briskets at WMT and have been happy with the product.  Give the wife your best puppy dog eyes, take her to dinner or buy her some flowers.  Then go get the smoker!  You'll never regret it.  Then you are obligated to post pictures of your firts cook. 
  4. ttosmoker

    ttosmoker Fire Starter

    One thing you might want to consider:  My understanding is that a lot of the big chain grocery stores, particularly Wal-mart, use meat that has been injected with water, salt, and additional preservatives.  The claim is that (1) people tend to overcook the meat, so the stores are doing the customer a favor by essentially brining it to make it juicier when overcooked and (2) it extends the shelf-life of meat.  My understanding is also that "natural" or "organic" meats may also be injected. 

    I used to buy my meat at a local Giant.  I diligently read all the labels and, except for the occasional notice that the meat had been "minimally processed," there was no indication of added water, salt, or preservatives.  I keep to a low-salt diet, and yet the meat always seemed to have a (not excessive) salty taste to me.  One time I bought pork tenderloins.  I noticed they seemed unusually plump, and the sell-by date was a month away!  Absolutely no mention of any processing on the package.  I spoke to the butcher, who is normally very helpful, and I saw the tell of a lie.  I called a different Giant and fortunately spoke to a very new person.  She read directly off the box of pork tenderloins that indeed water, salt, and preservatives had been added.  Yet none of the individual tenderloins that the customer sees mentioned anything about it.

    That day I found a real butcher shop -- Wagshal's in Washington, DC, -- near where I live.  I cooked both the injected ones and ones that were absolutely not injected.  Both were good, but I personally prefer the unprocessed meat.  Maybe it's psychological. 

    I don't mean to criticize the quality of Wal-mart's or anyone else's meat.  I think it's wrong to add anything to meat without specifying it on the label.  And it seems to me that one would have to be careful with processed meat when brining or adding salt since it already has an unspecified amount of salt.  With the proper use of thermometers, one should not need the crutch of processing to make their meat juicy and tender.

    Keep searching for a good butcher.  Every city I've lived in has had at least one.  Even my local fishmonger will get any cut of meat I want, and will guarantee it is unprocessed.  I've never compared costs, but it might come out closer to even than one might think:  for the same amount of starting meat, processed meat weighs more but costs less per pound, and vice versa for unprocessed meat.
  5. hdsmoke

    hdsmoke Smoking Fanatic

    I have to agree...there has to be an independant butcher somewhere close to you, they are few and far between but still do exist.  I live in Podunk Ohio (Amish Country) and I'm lucky to have 3 butcher shops within 15 minutes of my house, and 1 is just a couple minutes from work.  He is where i buy most of my meat.  I feel bad for people that dont know what its like to be able to call up a butcher and order EXACTLY what you want.  The best part...the butcher wont look at you like an alien when you tell him you want a full packer, and wont make you feel like an idiot for asking questions about a particular cut.  Good experience all around. 
  6. mythmaster

    mythmaster Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    I agree that you should be able to find a butcher *somewhere* around where you live.  While the nearest butcher is 30 minutes away from me, I'm fortunate enough to live in "cattle country", and I can buy fresh meats directly from an Angus rancher who also raises hogs.  You can probably find a rancher in your area, too, that will at least sell you meats in bulk.  They rarely inject their meats with an "enhanced" solution.
  7. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    First off welcome 357 to SMF. You'll like it here cause there are alot of really good folks that would just love to help you with anything to do with smoking. Now we like having new folks here to give a new prospective on some of the ways we do things around here. You will have a method to your newly found madness and believe me it will be a madness. Then when you start smoking things you will have to learn how to post the pictures / Qview 

    here. So here's a link to a tutorial on how to post your Qview so we can see what your doing.

    Now the next thing you have to do is run out and get something to smoke. Then just smoke it and if you have any questions just post  them here and we will answer all your questions that you might have. Oh yea there's no stupid questions we were all there in the beginning and we just really like to help others enjoy the fabulous smoked foods that we do. So again


    Welcome to Your New Addiction
  8. Oh Snap! I should know better. Google is my friend. I did a search for butchers in my area and came up with about 8 hits. Unfortunately, all but one are in areas of town where I would not go without packing heat. The one that is in a decent part of town is only 20 minutes away. I plan to go by there soon and check them out. They have a great Web site, so it looks really promising. Hopefully their prices are also competitive. Check out the Web site here.
  9. eman

    eman Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member

    Glad ya found a butcher.

     The prices at a good butchers meat mkt. will probably be  higher than wally world or your local grocer. But ya get what you pay for.
  10. ttosmoker

    ttosmoker Fire Starter

    The site does seem to indicate is the good type of place to go.  Good luck.  And remember competitive pricing is a bit nebulous here since the quality of the meat will likely be higher and will contain less water and other additives.

    Another option is to find a good BBQ restaurant and ask if they will let you order meats through them.  IMO, NC has some of the best BBQ in the US, and that's saying something since I grew up in TX.  Oh my, the pulled pork...  They must get good meat from someplace.

    I also suspect that good butchers perhaps follow the same rule as good Tex-Mex:  That which you get in areas of town that you need to pack heat produce Tex-Mex (meat) that you'd die for!
  11. pops6927

    pops6927 Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Another thing to look for is a good meat wholesaler too, when you get to the point of having freezer capacity or several close-by smoking buddies where you can share whole cases of butts, bellies, packers, etc.

    If you can't get your smoker sooner, try a brisket in your oven.  Toss it on the grill first to brown, then into a 220° oven to cook in some mop juice or brisket sauce until it reaches 200°+ in the thickest part of the deckle (point) and starts falling apart when you try to pick it up.  Yummmm.. now just imagine cooking it with smoke too!  Do a few that way and enjoy the beefy flavor; when you do get your smoker you'll be an old hand at brisky and know just what to do!  (Oh, and take a lot of Qview too!  We LOVE to drool!)
  12. caveman

    caveman Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Hello there 357Mag.  Don't recall if I welcomed you to the forum or not but WELCOME!  I was reading your story & was enjoying it with a smile on my face.  I can't wait until you are hooked & start the hunt for meat & tools & such to go with the hobby.  It is a fun one.  Good luck & I AM looking forward to your first smoke & qview posting.
  13. Welcome Mag. I'm fairly new at this myself and am fortunate enough to have quite a few butcher shops close by. (None of which I'm afraid to walk into) I agree with alblancher and tnbarbq, get that smoker asap. You'll almost be outta good weather bu the time you get it. You'll want time to hone that skill. You're in great hand here. So many good people who love to share their experience and lend a helping hand to those in need of great Q. Enjoy the hobby my friend .I know I have.
  14. ryanhoelzer

    ryanhoelzer Smoking Fanatic

    I live in Mooresville and I've actually been to that market.  I was working in W-S one day and I look for butcher shops wherever I'm working all the time.  They didn't have a whole lot of variety the day I was there but I talked to the guy for a minute and I think they do alot and you have to get the good stuff while they have it.  I do remember their prices seemed high but if it's enough better than the grocery store stuff it could be worth it.

    On another note you're in the prime time to buy a smoker.  I bought my MES fairly early in the Spring and prices were high.  They're already coming down on most models and towards the middle/end of Summer is when you'll get the best deals.

  15. hdsmoke

    hdsmoke Smoking Fanatic

  16. chisoxjim

    chisoxjim Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I personally stay away from all large grocery chains when buying meat(pork, chicken, beef).  With the exception of Restaurant Depot who does not mess ruin the product with injections.

    I read labels carefully when buying cryo meat(they have to tell you by law if they have injected the product).   I buy bit of pork from local butchers who buy from local farmers.  Great pork, no adders, and fresh.  I am trying out a new pig farmer this weekend.  Im heading out to his farm to check out his Berkshire hogs(the kobe beef of the pork world).    Fixin' to buy a couple slabs of spares from him for $3/lb from a pig killed this week.  Im also going to look into buying a pig and having him raise it for me.  I found this guy doing an internet search for Berkshire pork,  called him, and talked pork.

    The above effort is worth it,  make some calls, search the internet,  maybe drive a few miles out of your way.  I figure if I am spending all the time I do smoking meat I should be using good product to start with,  not some chemically injected stuff.

    good luck.
  17. ttosmoker

    ttosmoker Fire Starter

    I'm not sure this is quite correct (not trying to pick a fight -- just don't want anyone to accidentally get that injected stuff).  First, for something like pork tenderloins, I think the packer meets the law by putting it on the box containing several tenderloins, not necessarily on the individual ones.  I know -- from personal experience -- that the individual tenderloins were not labeled with the injection in my case even though the box clearly had this information.  In effect, the packer has notified the grocery store, which is their customer, thus satisfying the law.

    Second, my understanding is that the grocery stores themselves do not have to put the info on the label.  So a grocery store might get a big piece of meat that has been injected, chop it up, wrap it up, and put it on the shelf with no indication that it has been injected.

    And I suppose laws may vary by state.
  18. chisoxjim

    chisoxjim Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    you have to know your brands,  Hormel, Tyson, smithfield are all pretty much enhanced.  I read that 70% of the pork carried in grocery stores is enhanced, so odds are thats whatother  folks are getting unfortunately.

    My local butcher, and the local farmers they deal with are not enhanced.  The farms I go to are not enhanced. 

    I am really picky when it comes to pork, and do my research,  if there is a question about the pork/poultry being enhanced I take a pass.  Safest way to ensure you are not getting this stuff is go to the source, or a trusted source. 
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2010
  19. harryho

    harryho Smoke Blower

    My good friend is from Dallas and several years ago, he and his family moved to Maryland and lived there for a few years.

    His main complaint was that BBQ in MD and Virginia was all about pork.....and that there were not much BBQ places that had beef. He says....."I'm from Texas and BBQ means beef".
  20. I went by the butcher shop that I found and it was a really nice, clean store. No bad odors. I have been to places where it smelled really bad. The guy that I talked to was really proud of his store and his selection of meats. Everything looked good. He had some brisket flats, but could get whole packers for me if I wanted.

    They were expensive however. His brisket was priced at $4.19/lb, but it was USDA Choice, not select like you get at most chain food stores.

    I will have to give his meat a try when I do get my smoker.

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