Now that barbeque season is upon us, there really is no better time to talk about meat, because the right cut can make or break your entire meal. Sure, a good marinade will go a long way into transforming that cheap steak into something downright delicious, but if you want to nail it every time, the idea is quality over quantity.
In a pinch, the deli counter at Loblaw's will do (we admit they have a beautiful selection of cured and aged meats), but the next time you want to impress with your prowess, take a trip to one of our top five butcher shops:
Sanagan's Meat Locker (http://www.sanagansmeatlocker.com/)
In the heart of Kensington Market, taking up where Max and Son's left off, Sanagan's Meat Locker will kindle your love affair with cooking. Named for and run by honest-to-goodness chef Peter Sanagan, the four year old shop offers a wide variety of speciality meats and those hard-to-find items (like aged sirloin) that true foodies covet. Be forewarned – the quality of the cuts is high, and so are the prices, but you get what you pay for, and what you're paying for is worth it.
Vince Gasparo's Quality Meats (http://mybutcher.ca/)
You want good meat? Shop where the chef's shop. The chef's shop at Gasparo's on Bloor. Family-owned and operated since the 60s, traditional Italian cuts cozy up to their fantastic selection of local fare (say hello to that fresh Ontario lamb). Bringing generations of history and experience straight from Italy, Vince and his “masters of meat cutting” sons, Pat and Nick, are always on hand to offer insight and advice to even the novice carnivore.
Eddystone Meats (http://eddystonemeats.ca/site/)
You may have to travel a little farther to hit up this North York staple, but it's a trip worth making. Especially if you like porchetta. Forty years and still going strong, the family behind Eddystone Meats have mastered the art of porchetta with their locked-down recipe from the Abruzzi region of Italy. But don't just take their self-proclaimed word for it, get on up there and try it! While you're at it, check out their meat counter, which spans the length of the shop and includes selections of their in-house dry-aged beef. Or with 200 different kinds, go whole hog and supplement your charcutarie board with speciality cheeses from across Europe, and Quebec.
Roast Fine Foods (http://www.roastfinefoods.com/)
On the block for less than a year, Roast Fine Foods on St Clair West might be the most junior member on the list, but that doesn't mean they aren't wise beyond their years. The emphasis here is on top-grade organic or naturally-raised meats, and they share a commitment to ethical practices with their Family Farm partners. If their beautiful cuts, laid out and dressed with sprigs of fresh herbs don't entice you in for at least a look-see, the shelves lined with speciality products are sure to get your motor going. And if you're feeling frisky, a glass wall looks onto the cutting floor so you can watch as their skilled butchers do their thing.
Bloor Meat Market
It's said that the Bloor Meat Market is the oldest shop in the city. It's also said they're one of the best (so great, in fact, they don't even have a website! If you're looking you'll find them on Bloor at Durie, east of Runnymeade). But don't let the kitschy exterior fool you – those painted cows belie the awesomeness within. From house-made sausage to organic salmon straight from Ireland, the friendly staff here is completely unpretentious about their vast selection. Bare in mind not everything at Bloor Meat Market is sourced locally or organic, so definitely ask if you're particular about where your cuts come from.