This is but one installment of 37 Things a Man's Gotta Do This Summer, our annual compendium of everything worth seeing, doing, eating, drinking and generally making time for in your neck of the woods between now and September. Stay tuned all month for more.
You claim to be master of your grill. But those sad supermarket steaks say otherwise.
Same goes for your burgers, chicken and salmon: use mediocre materials, and it doesn’t matter how well you prep ‘em — you’re getting a mediocre product.
So herein, we’ve tallied the 10 mail-order meat purveyors you should be ordering from this summer.
Meat gets an extended definition here: we’re including some exotic stuff (emu), seafood and even a vegan option alongside your favorite carnivorous cuts.
Ready the coals.
Best in show: Porter Road
"We’re not a only a meat company selling you best the hot dog or steak. We’re trying to change the way the meat industry works."
That’s the lofty goal of James Peisker, who (along with fellow chef/butcher Chris Carter) co-founded Porter Road in 2011. After making waves in their hometown of Nashville, the butcher shop started selling beef, pork, chicken and lamb online just a few months back.
The difference with Porter Road? Transparency about where each cut comes from, a lack of middlemen (Porter Road owns their slaughterhouse and distribution center) and working exclusively with local farmers. The guys process all the meat in Kentucky, then hand-cut every piece at their Nashville shop. The cattle are pasture raised, non-GMO-fed and hormone free, and the beef is then dry-aged for a minimum of 14 days before shipping out in biodegradable packaging.
They also tend to use the whole animal and practice the art of “seam butchery,” wherein the guys cut and select individual muscles “in all their glory” and then sell out of each choice cut within hours of putting it online.
Besides their methodology, Porter Road also wins on price (definitely not as eye-raising as some of their competitors) and sheer variety: steaks, “the world’s most perfect burger,” dry-aged beef hot dogs, pork belly, chicken, Korean short ribs, lamb T-bones, bacon boxes, etc.
They also provide extremely crowd-pleasing, simple-to-make recipes, like their recipe for St. Louis Pork Steaks (skip to the end to make it). “It’s pork, half your favorite BBQ sauce, half your favorite light beer,” says Peisker. “How can you go wrong?”
Nothing, that’s what.
A few of our other favorite meats for summer:
Best Ribeye: New York Prime Beef
Our Great Steak Debate people’s choice winner from 2017, this relatively new, Bronx-based beef purveyor dry-ages his steaks for 28 days before they’re hand-picked, custom-cut and then shipped overnight. The bone-in Cowboy Ribeye is two 32 oz. cuts with extra bone and fat to trap the juices — great for an outdoor grill or under a broiler.
Best Value: Omaha Steaks
Operating for over 100 years, this family-owned Nebraska staple offers seafood, appetizers and desserts, but their best choice will forever be their “flash frozen” specialty steaks that can be ordered — and gifted — in nearly a dozen cuts, including strip, top sirloin, ribeye and more. To the shock of the entire room, they also took home the Judges’ Choice award at the inaugural InsideHook Great Steak Debate.
Rarest: Crowd Cow
We’ll explain: bred on a single island in Kawaga Prefecture in Southern Japan, Sanuki cattle are fed a diet of olives that have been toasted and dried from Shodo Island. The resulting beef, dubbed “the rarest steak on the planet,” is said to deliver an umami-packed sensory overload. Sign up on Crowd Cow, a steak purveyor where you can choose cuts from an individual, crowdfunded cow. For the Sanuki, though, previous buyers get first dibs — and the last batch sold out in hours.
Best Vegan Option: The Herbivorous Butcher
The brother-sister duo behind The Herbivorous Butcher have mastered both imitations (All-American Breakfast Sausage) and their own flavors (Sriracha Brats). But whether you're veg-curious or have an eco-conscious kid home from college, you'll want to start with the Summer Grill Pack.
Best Bivalves: White Stone Oyster Company
The folks at White Stone pride themselves on their state-of-the-art aquaculture which produces meaty, flavorful oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. You can nab 50 for $70, or double it and they'll throw in hot sauce and a shucking knife.
Most Exotic: Fossil Farms
Farm-raised game and all-natural meats … just maybe not the ones you’re used to. But if you’re in the mood for emu, bison, kangaroo, well, game on.
Best Seafood: Sea to Table
If you live in Alaska, you can probably throw a line off your back porch and catch a perfectly pink and delicious sockeye salmon. Ditto shrimp if you live on the Gulf Coast. For the rest of us, there's Sea to Table. They provide a channel for independent fishermen all over the U.S. to connect with chefs and customers. You peruse the offerings of said fishermen, place an order and receive your package in 1-3 days. Everything is wild-caught and flash-frozen for maximum freshness; try their Starter Pack (salmon, cod and shrimp) to sample the goods.
Best Lobster: Cousins Maine Lobster
There’s never a bad time for lobster. There’s also rarely an easy way to get lobster fresh. Enter Shark Tank vets Cousins, who deliver live lobsters, lobster roll kits, lobster pot pies and lobster mac 'n' cheese ... along with recipes that come straight from the eponymous cousins' mothers and grandmothers.
Best Poultry: Joyce Farms
Not-so-fun fact: your average chicken is slaughtered at somewhere between five and eight weeks. Why? Because feeding chickens for longer than that would cut into profits. It’s why you should get your poultry from someone like Joyce, who raise “slow-growing heritage breeds” like French Guinea hens that are free of growth hormones and stimulators. And they’re more than worth the price of entry, in terms of both flavor and keeping the ol’ conscience clean.
Best Ribs: Salt Lick BBQ
If you're not familiar with this half-century-old mecca of BBQ outside Austin, you can check out how they do things down there right this way. Until you're able to get down there to Texas hill country in person, however, the best bit of it can come to you in the form of absolutely legendary pork ribs. While Salt Lick is (of course) best at the source, it loses surprisingly little in transit — just throw 'em on the grill, sauce 'em up and be patient. Pro tip: a "Big Game Special" package also nets you some equally top-shelf country sausage and smoked turkey.
And your recipe, courtesy of Porter Road:
St. Louis Pork Steaks
Budweiser or other inexpensive lager
Fire up your grill and season pork with a liberal sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook the steaks over medium/high heat, 4-5 minutes on each side. Err on the side of overcooking — a little char doesn't hurt. Combine beer and barbecue sauce in a large deep pan (foil roasting pans are a great option). Aim for a 50:50 mix. You can use any sauce, but we tend to opt for a sweet sauce, like Sweet Baby Rays. Add cooked pork steaks to the BBQ mixture and cover. Either put the pan in a closed grill over low heat or place in an oven set to 275. Braise for a minimum of 90 minutes.
For the best BBQ pork sandwich of your life, remove the bone and serve on a bun topped with pickles.