The Barbecue Club: The best butchers to buy from for the ultimate beef on the grill
The barbecue season has come early this year. In response to a nationwide dose of cabin fever, the grills are out in every garden and the bottle tops are flying off with reckless abandon.
Beef is the undisputed king of the meats and we owed it to the animals, ourselves and all our readers to take a rigorous approach when cooking them. We sampled three “cuts” – on the bone, off the bone and mince – from those who believe themselves to be the best butchers available in the UK. How did we establish that? We were already familiar with some of the suppliers, whereas others were recommended to us by some of the capital’s best chefs: the likes of Ashley Palmer-Watts, James Lowe, Adam Handling, Gonzalo Luzarraga, Tom Booton and Michele Stanco. (Thank you guys.)
In terms of equipment, we used the reliable Big Green Egg (large) and West Sussex lumpwood charcoal from Green Olive. Each time the barbecue was fired up to the max (400°C), then stabilised around 250°C. The salt was plain Maldon crystals, added after cooking for the burgers; half-way through for the thicker cuts on the bone; and towards the end for the sirloins and ribeyes.
The tastings happened in the same order: burgers first, off-the-bone meat and on-the-bone for the final act. The temperature was mostly medium-rare.
All the butchers listed provide sustainably and ethically farmed meat that’s bursting with flavour without the need of any marinade. That’s the main difference between good and average meat: the former is better for the environment, for the animals and for the taste buds. Welcome to The Upcoming’s Barbecue Club.
The king of dry-aging: Turner & George
In the photos: Porterhouse (1kg), two Black Label burgers
Best meat we’ve tried and why: Porterhouse for a unique dry-age taste
When acclaimed restaurateur Richard H Turner and skilled butcher James George opened their shop on St John Street in 2013, it was clear they were taking the meat business very, very seriously. The aim was to bring the same quality and consistency of meat found in Turner’s kitchens to customers on the hight street. They seek out the best meat from British native breeds ethically reared on independent farms and smallholdings, free from growth hormones, antibiotics or cruelty. On top of that, they sport a fantastic selection of Galician cuts too. T&G dry-age in house on the bone for flavour; make their own sausages and burgers; and combine all of this with contemporary culinary expertise. The Porterhouse is specially sourced from the Hereford beef on Holly Lodge Farm in Cambridge. Cut from the widest part of the beef loin to ensure a large fillet, the sharing steak can be tailored to your appetite (or party size). Turner & George recommend keeping it simple with the side dishes and letting the flavours of this stellar steak sing.
Shop in person in Angel or order directly from their website here.
The global providore (including Basque Txuleta): The Steak Shop
In the photos: Txuleta sirloin, “The Txuleta” rib of beef
Best meat we’ve tried and why: Txuleta sirloin for the tastiest fat you can imagine and truly flavourful meat
The Steak Shop are neither messing around or selling themselves short with the name – they sell steak, and lots of it. Having this kind of focus is probably what ensures such high quality in every order. These sellers are specialists in their field, importing prime beef from around the world and delivering it straight to your door. The result is a meat-lover’s wonderland, offering virtually any cut a person could want at the click of a button, along with tips for cooking all of the different varieties.
We wanted to try their Txuleta. Badly. The literal translation means only “steak”, but it’s actually a Basque speciality, normally beef from old Galician cattle, with high fat content and out-of-this-world marbling.
While the options are endless, you needn’t feel overwhelmed as the site also offers ratings and even a blog exploring the history of steak around the world. In addition, there are meat boxes available which are sure to satisfy any carnivorous cravings.
Order directly from their website here.
The champion of style: Aubrey Allen
In the photos: Tomahawk, Boston rib chop, bone-in fillet, wagyu and brisket burgers
Best meat we’ve tried and why: Boston rib chop for an ultra-tender, melt-in-the-mouth feel
This historic butchers was committed to sustainable practices long before they became fashionable. Back in 1933, Aubrey Allen’s eponymous founder was the first butcher in Coventry to be granted a slaughter licence, and the company have been leaders of industry ever since. The first national catering butcher to offer a boutique butchery service, they have won countless accolades and are now delivering meat and cheese boxes nationwide in eco-friendly, stylish boxes that are perfect for any barbecue. Aubrey’s son Peter came to the company with a very progressive outlook: he invested in butchery training and brought continental “seam butchery” to the UK for the first time, allowing him to purchase and utilise every part of the whole carcasse and only select the best – a philosophy that holds strong today.
Order directly from their website here.
The top chefs’ choice: HG Walter
In the photos: Tomahawk, sirloin, burger
Best meat we’ve tried and why: Tomahawk for a perfect balance of marbling, fat and tenderness
Established in 1972, HG Walter have become one of London’s most respected butchers, supplying some of the best chefs and restaurants (the list would be way too long, but we are talking about tens of Michelin stars) with the very best of British meat rating highly in provenance, welfare and flavour. Their meat is predominantly sourced from small sustainable farms rearing free-range native breeds such as Hereford and Aberdeen Angus cattle and Hampshire Duroc pigs, however a devotion to supplying products of the highest quality means they sometimes look further afield, whether it’s for Dutch veal or acorn-fed Ibérico pork. They intensify their beef’s natural flavour by dry ageing for 28-90 days in a custom-made Himalayan salt room and all pies, scotch eggs, stocks, burgers and sausages are prepared in-house. Their philosophy is not to be the biggest but the best.
Shop in Hammersmith or order directly from their website here.
West London go-to butcher: Parson’s Nose
In the photos: T-bone, sirloin, burgers
Best meat we’ve tried and why: T-bone for being exceptionally tender on both sides of the bone
Parson’s Nose was founded in Fulham in 2007 with the aim of reviving the traditional butcher’s shop. This family-run business pays tribute to fond childhood memories, sourcing the finest free-range meats and artisanal products and combining that with knowledgeable and personal service. They have since spread across the capital as well as opening a well-stocked online store, but despite their expansion, Parson’s Nose have retained their core values: a passion for food, innovation and quality service. The company has been working hard at keeping the high street butcher alive through self-funding outreach projects, as well as constantly improving and innovating their pantry selection and meats with exotic produce like Alcubilla Cebo Iberian Ham and Spicy Chimichurri; and classics such as award-winning handmade British sausages.
Shop in person in South Kensington, Fulham and Putney or order directly from their website here.
The consistency of century-old tradition: Godfrey’s
In the photos: Tomahawk, 45-day-aged club steak
Best meat we’ve tried and why: Club steak for a distinct dry-aged taste and delicious fat
Godfrey’s was founded by in 1905 by Frank Godfrey, who brought with him his already famous Lincolnshire sausage recipe, still celebrated and handmade on the premises today. Butchery skills already ran in the family for many generations previously and that long rich heritage of knowledge, experience and expertise has been passed down through the family to his three great grandchildren, current owners and brothers Jeremy, Christopher and Philip. By sourcing only premium quality, free range, additive-free, slowly matured beef, poultry, lamb and pork, the siblings continue to bring these traditional values to some of the most demanding chefs in Europe. The company prides itself as being very hands-on and delivering only the best produce with the highest standards of animal welfare to the customer’s door.
Shop in person in Highbury and Finsbury Park or order directly from their website here.
The flavour pusher: The Butchery
In the photos: 40-day-aged T-bone (white park cattle), 40-day-aged ribeye (white park cattle), short rib and bone marrow sausage, lamb merguez, bone marrow burger
Best meat we’ve tried and why: T-bone for exceptional marbling and pushing the dry-aged flavour to the limit
Of all the suppliers we have tried, The Butchery was definitely the one that pushed the flavour in the most extreme way. Australian butcher Nathan Mills and his partner Ruth Siwinski believe in butchering meat with respect, which is why they founded The Butchery Ltd, the only establishment in London that buys, butchers and sells the whole carcass. The meat is seasonal (follow their Butchery Block Thinking blog to see exactly where the meat is from each week and what they have in store) and they aim to provide something a little more than is available from most of London’s butchers. Besides being free-range and as chemical-free as possible, the meat is mostly of rare and native breed, pasture-fed and sourced directly from smaller farms or in conjunction with Traditional Breeds Meat Market. They’re always happy to tell you how and where the meat was reared. Check out the rest of the website for some of their favourite regular suppliers and breeds.
Shop in person in Spitalfields, Forest Hill, Bermondsey and Brockley Market or order directly from their website here.
A great all-rounder: Ginger Pig
In the photos: T-bone, rump steak, sausages, burgers
Best meat we’ve tried and why: Burgers for being extra tasty, thickly ground
At the heart of everything Ginger Pig do is good animal husbandry and welfare; they know that livestock that is looked after well in the field simply tastes better on the plate. As the company has grown, they have worked to build a network of like-minded farmers and small producers to help them supply their butchers’ shops with the best produce in the country. Ginger Pig dry-age all of their beef in-house to a minimum of 28 days. A selection of primals with a good coverage of fat are chosen to be aged for longer, producing steaks and roasting joints to cater for every palate. All sausages and burgers are hand-made by a skilled butchery team, who manage everything from mincing and mixing to curing and cold-smoking. Their generous sausage rolls now have their own cult following, topping “must-eat” lists and forming daily lunchtime queues outside shops.
Shop in person in Marylebone, London Bridge, Hackney, Shepherd’s Bush, Clapham, Barnes, Wanstead and Loughton or order directly from their website here.
The salt room specialist: Swaledale
In the photos: Tomahawk, ribeyes, burgers
Best meat we’ve tried and why: Ribeye for a nice balance of dry-aged taste and tenderness
Swaledale are a strictly whole-carcass butcher with a total dedication to supplying exceptional native rare breed meat. They have refined every element, from the breed, feed and age of animal to the length of time ageing and butchery techniques. Their goal is not to achieve the highest yielding carcasses, but to produce products that are exceptional to cook and eat – be it a piece of beef or pork from their Himalayan salt room, a cured pig’s cheek smoked over beech, or something from their award-winning range of sausages, for which they grind whole spices in-house daily. For over a decade the team have been working with some of the best chefs in the UK, and their farming community has grown over the years into a network of like-minded people that live and breathe the Dales, all striving to produce the ultimate chef’s ingredients and make them available to the home cook.
Order directly from their website here.
Classy and reliable: Provenance
In the photos: Bone-in ribeye, grass-fed burgers, Galician burgers, ribeye steak
Best meat we’ve tried and why: Ribeye for being tender and full of flavour
Provenance is more than just a name to this company: understanding where their produce comes from, how it has lived and why it has been farmed that way are the pillars that hold the business up. The teamwork with and support people who farm their animals in a way that is respectful, in tune with nature and sustainable. Their search for integrity and a commitment to sourcing low-intervention, free-range, pasture-reared animals sets them apart from many modern-day food businesses. Though they have fostered long-lasting relationships with local farmers, their barbeque range incorporates flavours from all over the world: options include the Mexican BBQ Box, X’ian-Spiced Spatchcock Chicken and Tandoori Lamb Cutlets. We believe there’s also something to be said for keeping it simple with the rich T-bone Steak with Bone Marrow Butter.
Shop in person in Notting Hill, Chelsea, Maida Vale, Queen’s Park and South Kensington or order directly from their website here.
The Scotch monger: Campbells Meat
In the photos: Côte de boeuf, ribeyes, burgers
Best meat we’ve tried and why: Ribeye for being tender and tasty
Campbells, a family-owned company founded in 1910, supply many of the Michelin-starred hotels and restaurants in Scotland. Crucially, they don’t buy on breed alone, but select the best of Scotch animals for dry aging on the bone – and it comes through in the flavour. Their wide range of Scotch Beef, which has a protected geographical status, is made from cattle that have been born, raised and processed in Scotland while adhering to the highest standards of animal welfare and sustainable farming. All of their products are cut and made by hand fresh for every order, ensuring that customers receive the same quality, freshness and expertise they would from a local craft butcher but with the convenience of ordering online. Their ethos is “cook with the finest”, and you can also expect every home delivery to contain exactly the same products supplied to Michelin star chefs.
Order directly from their website here.
Filippo L’Astorina and Rosamund Kelby
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
We’ve also tried two further meat suppliers. They weren’t part of the same process but their meat boxes are worth trying.
Farmison & Co
Yorkshire-based Farmison & Co sources the finest beef, pork and lamb breeds from across the British Isles, offering direct-to-consumer heritage breed meat and specialist free-range poultry sourced from responsible and sustainable British farms. All meat sold is cut fresh to order once reached optimum maturity using a sustainable and never intensive farming approach. The British farms supplying the artisan butchers are responsible for preserving rare and precious native livestock breeds which may not otherwise exist, providing them with full and happy lives, contributing to local biodiversity as they graze the Yorkshire grasslands. Alongside traditional cuts of meat, Farmison & Co champions nose-to-tail eating, meaning that nothing goes to waste. Their Great British Barbecue Box is a treat for any gathering, comprising juicy Farmhouse Thick Breakfast Sausages and hearty Heritage Breed Flat Iron Steaks alongside Heritage Beef Burgers, Nidderdale Lamb Leg Steak Skewers and Free Range Chicken Drumsticks that fall right off the bone. Shop online here.
The Rhug Estate is spread out across a whopping 12,500 acres in North Wales, meaning that there is more than enough space to make animal welfare a key concern. Their organic farm is a self-contained field-to-plate operation that works to minimise stress for the animals and rear happy livestock on clover-rich, chemical-free pastures, and as a result, the meat is more tender and altogether tastier. Whether you’re camping out in the great outdoors or enjoying your own garden, you’ll find everything you need for the grill in their BBQ Meat Box, from the best cuts of beef to rolls and a drink. Each pack contains two frying steaks, two beef burgers, two bison burgers, four mini chicken fillets, four minted lamb steaks, two pork racks, two pork steaks, two packs of four white baps, ketchup, BBQ sauce, a block of cheese from Snowdonia Cheese Company and a bottle of Belvoir Fruit Presse. The frying steaks offer up a satisfying sizzle, while the patties are bursting with flavour. Order online here.
Photos: Rosamund Kelby (excluding Rhug Estate)