Choosing the Right Meat for Your Holiday Dinner

Now that we are in the middle of the holiday season, you have probably been busy planning meals, get-togethers with loved ones, and cooking up a storm. While turkey is the centerpiece of many holiday meals, it’s not the only option as a main dish.

Of course, everyone loves the traditional bird, but you can also please the palette with a roast, pork tenderloin, or some other type of meat. As you plan your holiday dinner, here are some tips for choosing and preparing the right meat to get the best results.

Choosing the Right Meat for Your Holiday Dinner

Beef Tenderloin

Choosing the Right Meat

Beef tenderloin is one of the easiest holiday meats because it doesn’t require a lot of prep time. As a general rule, you should estimate about ½ pound (or 8 ounces) of meat per person. This accounts for any shrinking during cooking.

Preparing Your Meal

Season your roast to your liking, which might include salt, pepper, thyme, olive oil, and garlic. Place it in the oven at 350-450 degrees F for about 45 minutes (or 130 degrees internal temperature).

Prime Rib

Choosing the Right Meat

Prime rib is sold in boneless or bone-in, and it’s delicious with a homemade au jus. When purchasing prime rib, plan on roughly ¾ to 1 pound per person. If you choose bone-in, about one rib for every two people is a good option.

Preparing Your Meal

To prepare your prime rib, rub it with olive oil, salt and pepper, the cut several slits in the meat to insert garlic. Roast the meat over indirect heat at 350 to 450 degrees F for about 12-14 minutes per pound.

Pork Roast

Choosing the Right Meat

For every guest you plan to serve, plan on purchasing about ½ pound of raw pork tenderloin. For a large holiday meal with a lot of side dishes, you may be able to get by with slightly less. But don’t forget about those leftovers.

Preparing Your Meal

For the best flavor and tenderness as well as safety, cook pork to at least 145 degrees F for medium-rare. It will still be pink inside but delicious and safe to eat.

Rack of Lamb

Choosing the Right Meat

A luxurious and dramatic cut of meat for your holiday meal, rack of lamb will be sure to make an impression. When grocery shopping, count on about two ribs per person if using American lamb.

Preparing Your Meal

When preparing rack of lamb, season with olive oil, garlic, salt/pepper, and oregano. Sear the meat on direct heat (350 to 450 degrees F) and then turn it once, continuing to cook on indirect heat for another 10-15 minutes.

Turkey

Choosing the Right Meat

The general rule of thumb with turkey is to aim for 1 to 1 ½ pounds per person at your table. This is because a lot of the bird turns out to be bones, especially with smaller turkeys.

Preparing Your Meal

There are many ways to prepare a turkey. If you plan to roast it the traditional way, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, wash it and remove the giblets, season and butter it to your liking, and then roast it for about 15 minutes per pound.

Duck and Goose

Choosing the Right Meat

Duck and goose are “gamey” but also traditional choices for holiday meals that are a welcome departure from options like turkey or ham. Similar to turkey, you’ll want to purchase about 1 to 1 ½ pounds of duck or goose per person.

Preparing Your Meal

Make sure your bird is completely thawed before cooking. Remove the neck and giblets if they are still present, as well as any excess fat. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Rub the bird thoroughly with cut sides of a lemon and coat with salt. Place a garlic clove in the cavity and roast the bird until the internal temperature is about 150 degrees.

Spiral Ham

Choosing the Right Meat

Ham is an excellent option to serve a big crowd. It can be even be served pre-sliced. When purchasing a spiral ham, consider going with about ¼ to ½ pound per person with a boneless hand and ½ to ¾ pound per person for a bone-in ham.

Preparing Your Meal

Spiral hams come fully cooked. So, all you need to do with one is heat it through without drying it out. Preheat your oven to about 250 degrees F and cook your ham for about 13-16 minutes per pound or until it reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees.

Shop at Nick’s of Calvert for the Freshest Cuts of Meat

Whether you are trying something new for your holiday meal or sticking with a family tradition, starting with high-quality ingredients is a must. At Nick’s of Calvert, we work hard to bring you only the highest-quality food at the best prices.

Nick’s offers a full-service meat counter that serves as the centerpiece of our store. We promise complete customer satisfaction and would be happy to help you choose the perfect cut of meat for your holiday meal. Contact us today at (410) 414-7105 or visit our Prince Frederick location.

The Best Way to Prepare Ribs

Who doesn’t love ribs? A half rack, full rack, or some individual spare ribs can hit the spot and impress your friends and family. Preparing and cooking ribs might seem challenging, but it’s not. What is tough is choosing how you plan to approach the task. There are many ways to prepare ribs, whether you have all day, a few hours, a grill, an oven, or a slower cooker. Here are a few options for cooking your ribs.

How to Prepare Your Ribs

Before you can prepare your ribs though, you have to actually go out and buy them. When shopping for ribs, whether pork or beef, look for ribs that have an even layer of meat across the bone so they will cook evenly. Look for meat with some marbling or a light pink pale color. If you need any assistance, make sure you speak with one of our experienced butchers who can help you get the right ribs.

When you get your ribs home, get out a large cutting board and a sharp knife. Lay out your ribs and pat them dry with a paper towel. Trim off any excess fat, silver skin, and dangling meat. If there is still a membrane covering the rib bones, remove this as well so your sauce or rub can get to the meat.

With your ribs prepped, it’s time to apply your favorite rub. There are tons of options for dry rubs. Here is a simple one that will give you remarkable results:

• 3 tablespoons brown sugar
• 1 ½ tablespoons salt
• 1 ½ tablespoons ground black pepper
• 1 ½ tablespoons paprika
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine these items in a bowl, and then rub a generous amount on each side of your ribs. You’ve now successfully prepared your ribs for cooking.

Cooking Your Ribs

How you cook your ribs will be a combination of personal preference and the availability of your equipment. Even though you’ve prepared your ribs with a dry rub, you may also wish to braise them with your favorite sauce before, during, and after cooking. Here are some of the different ways you can cook your ribs to get different flavors and results, in our opinion, all of them are equally delicious.

Barbeque Ribs

Cooking your ribs slowly on the grill is one of the best ways to unlock the meat’s smoky flavor and if you can add wood chips or good old-fashioned charcoal, even better.
When you cook ribs this way, make sure they have plenty of dry rub on them to create a protective crust. Once the crust forms, consider spritzing them with a mixture of cider vinegar and cider, and then finish them off with your favorite barbeque sauce. You’ll want to cook your ribs for up to four hours, repeating your coating about every 45 minutes.

Roast and Grilled Ribs

If you don’t have half a day to devote your quest for delicious ribs, you can put your oven to work to get them cooked, at least initially. After lathering them with your favorite sauce, wrap your ribs in foil and place them on a cookie sheet.

Preheat your oven to 375°F and then bake from 90-120 minutes, until they are tender. Remove from the oven and discard the foil, re-sauce your ribs and cook on the grill over medium heat for about 15 minutes, re-saucing about every 5 minutes and turning once.

Baked and Broiled Ribs

If you want to use your oven exclusively to cook your ribs, you can get some delicious results by baking them, followed by time under the broiler. Using the same method described above to sauce and wrap up your ribs in foil, bake them at 275°F for about two to three hours until tender. Next, put your ribs in your oven’s broiler for just a few minutes until the sauce is caramelized.

Braised and Fried Ribs

If you like your ribs super crispy but not necessarily healthy, you can deep fry them. Again, you’ll want to pre-cook them in the oven using the methods we’ve just described. Then, let your ribs cook to room temperature while you heat about ¼ cup of vegetable oil in a large saucepan. Fry your ribs over high heat for about three minutes.

Slow Cooker Ribs

If you have a crockpot, there’s nothing like a set-it-and-forget-it rib recipe. Toss all your ingredients in the pot in the morning and come home to a delicious meal at the end of the day. After prepping your ribs, add them to the slow cooker with plenty of your favorite sauce. At the end of the day, they’ll be fall-off-the-bone tender.

Get Help With Your Next Delicious Meal

As you can see, you have tons of options when it comes to preparing and cooking ribs at home. If you’re unsure which one to choose, we can help. Nick’s of Calvert offers a full-service meat counter, and we take pride in delivering top-notch customer service. We also offer some of the freshest meats in the areas at the best prices. Visit our Prince Frederick location today or give us a call at (410) 414-7105.

Choosing the Right Meat for the Grill and How to Grill It

Do you get bored with the same meats on your grill week after week? You shouldn’t have to because there are so many different options. A perfect backyard BBQ meal is the result of a combination of the right cut and type of meat and cooking technique.

If you are ready to take your grilling game to the next level, here is what you need to know.

Beef

When most people think of firing up the grill, they choose some type of beef as the main course. Whether you are grilling burgers, flank steak, or a NY strip, the quality of the beef you purchase and your technique matters.

Choosing the Right Cut of Beef

If you are making burgers, regular ground beef will have the most flavor only because it has the highest fat content (roughly 25%). If you want a burger with less fat content, choose something like ground chuck or ground sirloin.

When choosing steaks to grill, you will want to think about how you plan to grill it as well as your budget. For example, flank and skirt steaks and beef tri-tips are budget-friendly and do well with a dry rub or marinade. A NY strip or filet mignon is more costly, but also incredibly flavorful.

When picking out your meat, here are some of the ways you can judge it:

  • Marbling– Pay attention to the fat (white lines) on the meat. This gives the meat flavor and moisture during the cooking process.
  • Grade– Higher grades of meat will generally have more marbling. For beef, look for USDA grades that are Prime, Choice, or Select (Prime is the highest).
  • Color– Beef should dark red or cherry in color, not brown.
  • Cut – Different cuts of beef work better with different styles of cooking. Smaller cuts are better for grilling and larger ones are ideal for smoking.

How to Grill It

Hamburger patties are quick and easy to cook on the grill. Maintain a medium-low heat to make sure your burger cooks evenly and achieves the proper internal temperature before the outside of the burger burns. Your target internal temperature is 160° F. For best results flip your burger once and do not press your burger with you grill tool (i.e. spatula) as it will allow juices to escape and dry your burger out. You will also want to use high to medium heat to cook steaks on the grill, again flipping them just once to lock in the juices and avoid drying them out. And remember, temperature matters.

Pork

If you want to grill pork, most people go for the ribs, but other popular options are pork chops as well as a pork butt or shoulder roast.

How to Choose Pork for Your BBQ

Pork doesn’t come in grades like beef, but certain breeds will have higher levels of marbling, such as Berkshire and Duroc. Pork should be red to pink in color, never green or brown.

How to Grill It

If you are cooking ribs, they need low heat for a long time. When cooking pork chops you should consider two levels of heat. First, sear your chops over a high heat for about 3 minutes per side to create the grill marks on the outside of the chop. Then, lower the heat to medium and cook for about 7 minutes to finish cooking the chops. When grilling pork of any type, make sure you do not overcook it so that it becomes dry.

Chicken

Chicken is excellent on the grill! You can grill chicken wings, drumsticks, or boneless breasts. Or, you could just cut up a whole chicken and put it on the BBQ.

How to Choose Chicken for Your BBQ

Poultry comes in grades A, B, and C, but you are likely to only see Grade A chicken at your local grocery store. Poultry should also be pink, not white, or brown.

How to Grill It

Chicken is one of the easiest meats to grill, and it’s so versatile. You can marinate it with lime juice or teriyaki or coat it with your favorite BBQ sauce for additional flavor and moisture. Grill your chicken on medium heat. Chicken breasts and thighs will tend to cook the most evenly. For white meat, your chicken is done at about 170-degrees and you should aim for 180-degrees with dark meat.

Turkey

Turkey on the BBQ? You bet! Similar to chicken, you can purchase turkey breast cutlets that are low fat and delicious when grilled.

How to Choose Turkey for Your BBQ

When choosing turkey for your next BBQ, simply use the same criteria that you would for chicken.

How to Grill It

Since turkey can dry easily, it’s a good idea to marinate it before grilling to lock in some of its moisture. Grill your turkey similar to chicken and aim for the same internal temperatures.

Get Help Choosing the Right Meat for Your Next Cookout

The good and bad news is that you have a ton of options when it comes to choosing the best meat for your next cookout. If you are still not sure where to start, we can help. Nick’s of Calvert offers a full-service meat counter and our store takes pride in delivering superior customer service. We are also known for providing some of the freshest meats in the area at the most affordable prices. Visit us today in Prince Frederick or call us at (410) 414-7105.

Food Prep – How to Stay Safe When Handling Raw Meat

There is nothing more delicious than a juicy steak, a homecooked chicken, or a pork roast that you leave simmering in the crockpot all day. Meat is rich in protein, and many families include it as part of a balanced diet. But if you handle and cook meat at home, you need to exercise some caution to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

The truth is that various types of bacteria can grow on animal products. Sure, there are safety concerns with just about everything you eat today. But understanding basic food prep with meat is vital. Here is what you need to know about the dangers of handling raw meat incorrectly and what you can do with your food prep to stay safe.

How Dangerous is Raw Meat?

Nothing about raw meat is safe. It can contain harmful bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter that can lead to food poisoning. When cooked correctly, those same bacteria are destroyed and are not a safety concern.

There is a common misconception that you are more likely to get sick from low-quality meat than you are from high-quality meat. If you fail to take the proper safety precautions, either can get you sick, which is why safe handling and proper food preparation are so essential.

Selecting Your Meat

Staying safe with meat begins at your local grocery store. First, never buy meat that is past its sell-by or expiration date. It is also a good practice to purchase your meat at a specialty store with a wide selection of meat choices or the same place you are buying your other groceries, so it reduces the time your food is out of the refrigerator.

Here are some other tips to help you select the best and safest meat:

  • Avoid any meat that has a strong odor, is discolored or brown, or feels slimy or tough.
  • Avoid any poultry that has a strong odor, looks faded, or feels slimy or tough.
  • Avoid any fish that has a strong “fishy” smell or an ammonia-like odor, is discolored or faded, or has slimy or squishy flesh.
  • Avoid any meat that is torn, damaged, or leaking packages since it is likely been exposed to harmful bacteria through the air.

Safe Handling of Meat

When you handle meat, always wash your hands first and continue to do so frequently. Use soap and water, washing your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds before and after handling meat.

The bacteria from meat can spread quickly and easily. To prevent this, separate your preparation area from your other food and cooking items. Be sure to keep vegetables separate from meat, particularly if you won’t be cooking them together.

If you have different types of raw meat that you are cooking, there is no problem if they touch each other as long as they are thoroughly cooked before consumption. The main concern is raw meat touching other foods, like a tomato, and transferring bacteria to those foods.

Always have a separate cutting board for meat. And clean all utensils separately once they have come into contact with raw meat. Use different utensils to serve your cooked food.

Cooking Your Meat Properly

We all have our preferences about cooking meat. Medium-rare to well-done is an age-old argument. But a big part of food safety is ensuring your meat is cooked all the way through.

Different meats have different minimum internal temperatures that are safe.

For example, the minimum cooking temperature for poultry is 165 degrees F and 145 degrees F for beef and pork. You can get a simple meat thermometer to gauge your progress.

How to Safely Store Meat

A big part of meat safety comes down to proper storage. In general, raw meat is safe to store in your refrigerator for about three days. If you plan to wait any longer before cooking it, the best thing to do is put it in the freezer. Frozen meat can last several months.

How you handle leftover meat after it has been cooked also matters. It may be tempting to take a few hours off to relax after all that food preparation, but it is safer to put your leftovers away as soon as possible after the meal. The less time your food sits at room temperature, the better.

Get Your Meat Questions Answered Quickly

Bacteria can grow quickly on bad meat, so it is never a good idea to take unnecessary chances. If you are ever in doubt about something you have in your home, it is best to err on the side of caution.

If you have questions about meat food prep, the highly trained butchers at Nick’s can help. We offer a full-service meat counter and take pride in superior customer satisfaction. We also provide a wide variety of some of the freshest meats at the most affordable prices.