Tips on barbecuing at home from some of Canada's top butchers

These experts will help you improve your grilling game

Corey Meyer of Edmonton is one of Canada's top authorities on meat.

With summer in full swing, everyone is heading outside to fire up the grill and throw some steaks on the barbecue. But, what's the best cut? To rub, or not to rub? We have so many questions.

When it comes to how to get best results on the grill with Canadian beef, who better to ask than some of Canada's best butchers, who also happen to be a part of Canada's butcher team that will be competing in the World Butcher Championships later this year?

From Corey Meyer of Edmonton’s Acme Meat Market expressing his love of skirt steaks to Taryn Barker (owner of The Little Butcher in Port Moody, B.C.) on trusting your local butcher’s advice, here’s what these beef-loving meat experts had to say.

Corey Meyer, Acme Meat Market (Edmonton, AB)

What do you think is the most underrated cut of beef?

Flank and skirt steaks. They both have great flavour, and are tender enough on their own, but certainly have a bit of chew to them, which lends nicely to marinades. Done on the grill and served with chimichurri, it can't be beat! 

What is the ultimate cut for grilling?

Gotta be a T-bone! The beefy flavour of the striploin, and the soft, delicate nature of the tenderloin both benefit from the taste that's brought to the grill by the bone in the middle. So good.

What are the pros and cons to using either a dry rub or wet rub when preparing beef for the grill?

They're both nice for adding different flavors and dimensions to beef cuts, but wet rubs can be messy and a bit of a pain to work with sometimes, while dry ribs are usually salt-based and very easy to over-season meats with. Use both sparingly though, in my opinion.

What should people look for when shopping for beef?

The colour of the meat should be bright and pleasing to the eye, not dull and unappealing. If possible to check, the smell of the meat should be subtle and appetizing, if not, you'll know in a hurry. The nose always knows.

Taryn Barker, The Little Butcher (Port Moody, B.C.)

When people come to you looking for a cut of meat, do you have any pet peeves?

The thing that is the most frustrating is when you have a counter full of beautiful meat cuts and someone will only be interested in the one thing they were looking for, and nothing else will do. I would encourage people to ask the [person behind the counter] for a suggestion on what might be close to their first choice. There are usually a handful of other options that would be suitable for the intended use!

Are there any Canadian beef producers you prefer?

I am working towards purchasing solely B.C.-raised meats. Currently, basically all of our beef comes from Blue Goose Cattle Company. It is also extremely important for me and my business to support other local B.C. businesses.

In your mind, what is the perfect side dish for a grilled steak?

I love being able to do everything on the grill. I have a basket that you can put anything from potatoes to cherry tomatoes into and nothing falls through the grates. Mushrooms, grilled, are one of my favourites as well as grilled yams with a spicy mayonnaise.

Is there a benefit in leaving a steak uncovered well before grilling?

I'm not a dry-aging expert, but I do know that the less moisture on the steak when you take it out to grill it, the better crust you will get on it. I prefer to lightly salt the meat, let it sit for about half an hour and then pat it dry with a paper towel. The salt starts to pull some of the excess moisture off the steak.

Elyse Chatterton, freelance butcher (Edmonton, AB)

What are some tips you can give them when it comes to inspecting cuts of meat for quality?

My first tip is get to the butcher shop! Let us take the hard work of sourcing, aging, trimming and cutting your meat, it's our pleasure and our passion. Look for good marbling and an evenly sliced steak so it cooks at the same rate throughout. Always buy from a counter rather than pre-packaged if you can, so you don't have any nasty surprises tucked under the edges of that meat.

What is the most underrated cut of beef for the grill?

Flank steak is my personal beef hero. It soaks up marinades, but the fabulous beef flavour isn't lost. It's easy to cook and carve, and always a crowd pleaser. It's also a fraction of the price of some of the more common steak cuts.

Is there a local beef producer in Alberta you prefer?

Jeff Nonay at Lakeside Dairy is doing some excellent Wagyu cross beef and is currently building a cheesemaking facility too. Also, Serben Farms in Smoky Lake have some great beef available at their farm shop.

In your mind, what is the perfect side dish for a grilled steak?

Chips! Not Canadian chips, but proper English chips–a.k.a. fries to my Canadian friends–triple-fried and sprinkled with sea salt.

Peter Baarda, J&G Quality Meats (Burlington, ON)

What is the ultimate cut for grilling?

I think the best cut of meat for grilling is the striploin. My family is diverse in what they like as far as fat content and doneness, so the striploin covers all of those bases for us.

What are some tips you can give a person when it comes to inspecting cuts of meat for quality?

I always look for marbling and firmness of the meat. If those two aren't present, I would keep looking.

Is there a benefit to leaving a steak unwrapped in the fridge well before grilling?

One of my customers always puts his steak on a little wire rack in the fridge the day before he grills it and he swears by [this method]. Personally, I don't do it but, he may be right in doing so, as it helps pull out any final excess moisture left in the steak after it's been cut and that can help intensify the flavour.