Honestly the title says it all.

When I started BBQ’n and making sausage I had no idea where to find good meat. I started by going to the Safeway grocery store by my house and picked up prepackaged Pork Butts and Briskets. Then I went to a specialty butcher which cost two to three times as much. I decided to call the butcher up at the Safeway and order the best cuts from him. 

I though by calling that I could get in good with the butcher.  So I ordered a 8lb pork butt and a 6lb brisket.  The biggest ones that he had.  When I showed up the butcher was so happy.  He spent the last 20 minutes timming the two slabs of meat.  He was so proud of his work.  Then I said that I needed them untrimmed so that I could bbq them.  The look on his face when said this was a mixture of disgust, hatred and sadness.  I kindly asked him about some untrimmed specimens.  He was not too happy with me. 

On a side note, No offense to the butcher but even if I was not BBQ’n I would still want the fat. It is where all of the flavor resides.  Plus, if you get untrimmed pork butts you can use the fat for sausages and you don’t have to order more.

Well after a few minutes talking to the butcher I asked him for untrimmed specimens. He was not too happy to begin with but he went in the back and came out with four vacuum sealed pork butts. I got to choose. It was amazing, you could see the fat and the bone. I got to determine what I wanted. After doing this I BBQ’d all day and took a specimen back to the butcher. It was the best thing that I have ever done. Now I call and he has six to eight different Boston Butts for me to look at. He also can order me full briskets.

My suggestion to you, is to save a buck by looking for deals in the newspaper. Call ahead tell the butcher exactly what you are looking for and make sure to tell him or her that you do not want it trimmed. Finally tell the butcher that it is for BBQ and/or sausage making.

Oh, and it always helps to take a sample to the butcher, because you haven’t seen deals until your butcher knows what you are capable of.

Rex is an avid griller, barbecuer and bacon enthusiast. He is the Pitmaster for the Rex BBQ competition team. Rex was also featured on the TV show American Grilled. If you have any questions or wish to have Rex decode your favorite dish, click on the ASK REX link in the menu above.


  1. Is there some sort of chart I can purchase as to what kind of wood to use with meat etc.

    • Vic – I don't know of any charts but I will list my favorites for you.

      Fruit woods like apple, cherry, peach and grape – produce a lighter and sweeter smoke that is great on Pork, Chicken and Turkey. I sometimes use a little when I make smoked jalapenos and other veggies.

      Hickory – produces a stronger smoke flavor and is good on all pork, beer can chicken, and beef brisket.

      Mesquite – burns quick and produces a lot of smoke and should be used sparingly if at all. I sometimes put a little on the fire when I am quickly making ribs as it produces a lot of smoke fast. If you use it the whole time that you smoke it will make the food inedible. I will also use it sparingly at the beginning of smoking beef ribs and sometimes brisket. Although I would prefer to buy another type of wood than to have to deal with mesquite as it is hard to control.

      White Oak – burns long and produces a pleasant smoke flavor that is not too overpowering. I usually use this in combination with a fruit wood as it helps control the heat in the firebox.

      Pecan – if you can get it, it gives a nice light smoke flavor. It can be hard to find, but it works great on all meats. I like pecan for chicken thighs. This is the all purpose wood. If you like a heavy smoke flavor it would be best to combine this with a oak or hickory.

      Maple – is another light on the smoke wood. This one like pecan produces a pleasant but not overpowering smoke flavor. Maple is great for fish and vegetables.

      Alder – Produces a light smoke that almost matches that of the fruit woods. It is less sweet but can be substituted for any of the fruit woods. Alder is more commonly known as the smoked salmon wood. Traditionally it was used by the Native Americans to smoke salmon and other fish in the great Northwest.

      Bourbon Barrels – If you can your hands on some scraps from old bourbon barrels they are amazing for direct grilling of steaks and burgers. They give the meat a taste that can not be created any other way.

      Overall I like to combine the woods to produce a hybrid smoke flavor that balances smoke and heat. For pork butts, ribs and brisket; I usually use apple, oak and hickory. If I can get my hands on some pecan I like to substitute that for the apple. If you can't find pecan you can also use soaked pecan shells.

      Hope this helps.

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