Labor Day is this weekend and that could mean celebrating with friends and family — and for many that’s cause to cook out.
And what, exactly, gets tossed on the grill varies by person, said a manager at Green’s Grocery in Gainesville.
“It depends on a person’s preference or taste and that kind of goes with any holiday,” said Tyler Strickland, meat manager at store at 971 Riverside Drive.
Strickland said popular meats sold for Labor Day cookouts are Boston butts and baby back ribs — meat choices that take a while to cook. A fair amount of traditional hamburgers and hot dogs are sold, too, as well as chicken salad.
Green’s Grocery store manager Andrew Flanagan said some of the more popular meats the store sells for Labor Day include ribs, brisket and various butts.
“(People) usually have a pretty big crowd. So you can really throw down and do some of those bigger cuts of meat,” he said.
Flanagan’s personal favorite is a brisket.
“It’s a fun thing to do and generally takes about 12 to 16 hours to cook,” he said.
A newer trend Flanagan has noticed is Texas barbecue. He said a lot of times, items will become popular out West and then the trend moves East.
But some home cooks want an easy item to prepare. Therefore, Green’s Grocery offers already-grilled meats.
“We offer any kind of grilled meat from steaks to pork chops,” Strickland said. “Typically we do boneless chicken breasts as one of our biggest sellers and so is grilled salmon.”
The staff at Green’s cooks every single day, Strickland said, starting about 7:30 a.m. when they light the fire. The cooking continues throughout the day, ending around 6 p.m.
While most of the meat choices at Green’s are pretty simple to cook, Strickland said he recommends baby back ribs, Boston butt or even a brisket because of how long it takes to cook. Patience while cooking is important, he said.
“You want to take it slow. You don’t want to over-cook anything,” he said. “More or less you just want to be patient.”
Ribs, butt and brisket are good for gatherings because it allows more time to visit with others while the meat cooks.
“You don’t have to watch it as intensely as cooking a steak where you have to check it every five minutes,” he said.
Flanagan recommends starting out with good meat.
“The better quality you start with, you’re going to have better results,” he said.
Green’s sometimes gets specialty porks at the store as well as high-end beef choices.
“It’s all about what you want to do with the finished product and how much work you want to put into it,” he said.
“For me, it’s all about having fun and relaxing and enjoying it,” Flanagan said. “I tend to do better cooking the more fun I’m having.”
Rae Rogers, owner at Smokehouse Barbecue and Catering in Oakwood, reiterated the importance of choosing a good piece of meat to grill. The woman who has been “smoking meat” for almost 40 years at her business recommends starting with the best quality meat you can find and getting a butcher to cut it for you if possible.
Plus, with plenty of recipes out there to experiment, Rogers advised sticking with using good brands and modifying recipes as necessary.
“If you think a recipe calls for too much salt, cut it back,” she said. “Whatever appeals to your taste.”
Rogers’ other biggest piece of advice is to have a good digital meat thermometer on hand.
“Everybody needs one of those whether you’re grilling or just cooking,” she said.
Meat thermometers can help users check their chicken, pork or steak to ensure they are the right temperature.
They can also be used for all types of food. For example, Rogers has used her meat thermometer for pies.
She also said meat is better if you let it sit out. If you’re going to thaw meat before grilling it, it’s best to let it thaw in the fridge for a couple of days. She sets marinated meat on the counter once it’s finished marinating for an hour or so before putting it on the grill.
When you’re done cooking steak, it’s also important to let it rest. The meat will reabsorb some of the juices that would otherwise run out and be lost if it’s immediately cut.
Another important factor to keep in mind while hosting a barbecue is not to let food sit out too long, whether it’s meat or side items, especially if it’s mayonnaise-based.