Father’s Day Gift Guide: Best Meats And Seafood For Dad’s BBQ Grill
If Dad is a backyard barbecue hero, he can never have too much meat and seafood to grill. From the gourmet grilling connoisseur to the lazy cook to the guy who loves grilling but burns everything, here is something perfect for every father who cooks with gas, fire or smoke, at many different price points. Having written extensively on food, grilling and smoking for more than 20 years, I have personally tried, enjoyed and can enthusiastically recommend every single one of these providers.
Best All Around: I love Allen Brothers, the venerable Chicago butcher shop – since 1893 and the city’s stockyards days – that supplies many top steakhouses across the nation and has been doing mail order meat for a long time. While justifiably famous for their steaks, from thick T-bones to tomahawks, you cannot beat them for one stop shopping. I’m talking every kind of beef from world-class burger patties to whole tenderloins to bone-in and boneless rib roasts, and many of these cuts are offered in a staggering variety of kinds of beef, from Japanese wagyu to domestic wagyu to dry aged USDA Prime, Aberdeen Angus, and grass-fed cattle. But that is just beef. Allen Brothers also carries an equally diverse and carefully curated high-end lineup of lamb, veal, pork (think heritage breed pork belly, porterhouse cut chops and dry aged chops), bison, elk, and surprisingly, lots of fish and seafood, from half pound jumbo Australian lobster tails to Spanish octopus. I’ve ordered from them several times, they have always gotten it right with great service, and the product never disappoints.
Best Luxury Beef: Holy Grail Steak Company is known as the nation’s premier importer of coveted Japanese beef, offering more regional Wagyu varieties than anyone else (Matsuzaka, Yonezawa, Kobe, Miyazaki, Maezawa, Kagoshima, Sendai, Hokkaido, Omi, Murakami, etc.), and I love what they do. But frankly, Wagyu is for pan searing, not grilling, as it tends to flame up and burn very easily, and the fattiness and high quality would be lost to Dad on the grill. Fortunately, Holy Grail also specializes in another rarefied and very hard to find world-class beef, “Upper Prime” or “High Prime.” Because the USDA grades beef based on visual dispersion of fat – comparing meat to pictures of ideal meat – agricultural scientists have gotten better at breeding cattle that meets the Prime standard – at least in appearance. While the USDA’s highest rating was once reserved for about 3% of all beef, that has grown immensely and you can now find Prime beef in the supermarket and big box stores which was never the case. But the USDA Prime grade actually spans several rating sub tiers and is surprisingly broad, including some meat not as Prime as others. Holy Grail selects its Upper Prime from only the upper echelon of the legal grading range. The offer both individual steaks and several multi-cut tasting flights such as “Upper Prime Dry Aged Flight” (two one-pound strip steaks and two one-pound ribeyes, $249). These would rock Dad’s grilling world.
Best Steakhouse At Home: I’ve eaten at many of the world’s most famous and beloved steakhouses, from modern to classic, and one of my personal sentimental favorites is the Golden Steer, the oldest in Las Vegas and an atmospheric treasure that was a regular haunt for Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, who each kept their own tables. The family-owned Steer is frozen in time, evoking the glory days of Rat Pack era Vegas, complete with uniformed waiters, seafood towers and tableside Caesar salad. It is refreshingly not part of any casino resort or corporate group, and it is great to visit in person, but also recently started a unique way of shipping its specialties across the nation, including dinners so complete they come with tablecloths, cloth napkins, cocktail recipes and music playlists.
Full dinners include side dishes like twice baked potatoes, creamed corn and even maître d’ butter, for a real steakhouse-style meal at home. But for the grill, they also sell just their USDA Prime steaks (NY strips, filets, bone-in ribeye), hand carved in-house from primal cuts, on their own or in assortment packs. The Father’s Day Grill Box is a pair of one-pound NY Strips steaks and a large (22-ounce) bone-in ribeye, enough for six, and comes with twice baked potatoes, seasoning salt, flavored steak butter and signature house old fashioned mix to make your own cocktails, all for $249. But to me the ultimate steakhouse at home experience cooked on Dad’s grill would be surf and turf, and they have that too in the Vegas-themed “Pocket Aces” box, featuring your choice of two Prime filets or ribeyes plus two lobster tails – huge12-ounce Australian ones, each a meal in itself.
Burgers, Hot Dogs and Sausages: Dad does not have to be a skilled amateur chef to enjoy grilling, and many folks like to keep things simple with the classic American backyard barbecue. But you can elevate this way above supermarket commodity brands by shopping at one of my favorite e-tailers, Nashville-based specialty butcher Porter Road. The online whole animal butcher shop focuses on sustainability, using only pasture raised animals from small family farms in Kentucky and Tennessee that are hormone and antibiotic free, raised outside, and fed vegetarian, non-GMO feed. Yet compared to most mail order fine meats, the prices are extremely reasonable – the same or less as you’d pay at local butcher.
Porter Road offers gourmet versions of backyard grilling standards, including a real rarity, hot dogs made from dry aged natural beef, as well as dry aged burger patties, house made bratwurst Italian, and other sausages (kielbasa, Memphis BBQ, andouille, chorizo, breakfast links), both whole and bulk or patties. These kinds of supermarket sausages are hardly ever made with such high-quality meats. They also have all sorts of dry aged steaks, plus pork, and chicken. Everything here is a good value, especially with free shipping on all orders over $100.
Fish From Hawaii: When I make sushi or sashimi I get my fish from Honolulu Fish Company, a mail order-only specialist that has been supplying top chefs around the country for more than two decades. Every fish is hand inspected and selected straight off the boats at the docks daily, and they offer more than a dozen species (because it’s all fresh, the less common offerings change daily) of sustainably caught fish (HFC does not allow its buyers to purchase fish that have not reached reproductive maturity). The seafood is immediately processed, packaged and shipped fresh in custom insulated packaging that reaches you unfrozen within 48 hours of oceanfront selection.
This is top quality stuff, and they are known for sushi cuts of salmon and tuna, but they also have great grilling options including Ahi, Swordfish, Opah and Ono. Ono, a delicious Hawaiian fish, is known for its ability to convert non-fish eaters, with a tuna-like texture and buttery taste, best grilled or seared. In addition to individual filets and steaks, they offer an ever-changing assortment of samplers based on availability, like a Hawaiian BAR-B-Q fish kit with sugarcane skewers, one pound of ahi tuna, one pound of ono, and Hawaiian-favorite barbeque sauce.
Fish From Alaska: Salmon is everyone’s favorite grilling fish, and the best salmon in the world is wild caught in Alaska. Launched by 30-year-old fisherman Kyle Lee, Alaskan Salmon Company focuses on sustainably sourced wild Alaskan seafood, headlined by prized Copper River salmon, both sockeye and coho, from one of the most acclaimed terroirs in the seafood industry. The salmon is skin-on, better for the grill, and precut into perfect portions, 6–8-ounce filets. But more recently the company introduced customizable seafood boxes and added Alaskan Black Cod and Halibut, both even easier to grill than salmon, and you can mix and match your own selection. It’s a box of 12 or 24 filets, with your exact choices ($189 and $378).
Lobster From Maine: High-end restaurants from Vegas to Tokyo to Dubai love to boast of stocking the world’s most famous lobster, which comes from Maine, and deserves its global reputation for excellence. But while grilling seafood can be trickier than other meats, one super easy but decadent and delicious exception is split lobster tails. Brush some melted butter on the exposed side, cook, watch and flip, and bravo, you have a luxury main course, appetizer or for the ultimate Dad indulgence, add steak for surf and turf. Cousins Maine Lobster is a great source, a company that was featured on Shark Tank as a startup food truck and is now a cult brand with dozens of food trucks and brick and mortar locations across the country. But all lobster is sourced from, and for their mail order division, shipped directly from, Maine. You can get live whole lobsters, “lazy man” picked meat, lobster ravioli, fresh lobster roll kits and more, including clam chowder, lobster bisque, crab claws and meat, lobster mac n’ cheese and lobster pot pie. But for Dad’s grill, the best bet is the 4–5-ounce Maine lobster tails, sold in two packs, shell on and ready to go!
All Other Fish: Seafood can be tricky on the grill, but the easiest things to do are substantial steaks (like tuna and swordfish,) or whole fish, the grilling favorite at restaurants all across the Mediterranean basin (branzino, snapper, etc.). Fresh fish this diverse and high quality is very hard to source, but one place that is pretty much a guaranteed win is New York City gourmet market Citarella. When I was asked by a TV show to shoot a “how to buy great fish” segment based around my New York Times Bestseller “Real Food, Fake Food,” I chose the seafood department at Citarella, and it is where I buy fish in person when I visit the Big Apple. But they ship as well, and have a tremendous selection, including whole pink snapper, John Dory, Arctic char, rainbow trout, striped bass, Spanish mackerel, blackfish, black cod, branzino, red snapper, grouper, red fish, the little-known but delicious butterfish, and many more. All of these are also available as filets, along with wild swordfish and tuna steaks, skate fillets, huge shrimp, langoustines and for the more adventurous grilling Dad, all kinds of oysters and clams. One easy choice is the Seafood Party Pack, curated by Citarella owner and fishmonger, Joe Gurrera, which includes everything Dad needs to host a feast – large cold-water lobster tails, Norwegian salmon, tuna steaks, shrimp, Citarella 100% Sicilian Black Label Olive Oil, bamboo skewers, cedar planks, recipe cards – and a pound of Joe’s famous ceviche to enjoy while you grill for just $199 (serves 6).
Best For Bacon & Steak Lovers: Want to make Dad’s backyard the hottest ticket in town? Then read on. There may be no better delicatessen in the country (or world) than Zingerman’s, a legendary Ann Arbor, Michigan institution, that has wowed generations of University of Michigan grads with its sandwiches featuring house cured and roasted meats on breads from an unbelievably good bakery that puts many in Paris to shame. Zingerman’s also offers one of the best online gourmet shopping catalogs in the country, with impeccably sourced cheese, oils, vinegars, breads, and much more from their own kitchens and all around the world. I have been to the original location several times, bought my parents tehri bread of the month club, ordered tons of stuff, and previously featured their mail order Reuben kit here at Forbes, which has won all sorts of awards and accolades.
I know what I am talking about when I say that the quality at Zingerman’s is off the hook, and one of its many sub-specialties is bacon, including a bacon of the month club – featured on TV’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate and praised by celebrity chef Bobby Flay – and a dizzying array of artisanal regional specialties, from Irish back bacon to Jowl meat bacon. But for Dad’s grill, the one that will make him the envy of the neighborhood is the “Thick Cut Steak Bacon” from Burgers’ Smokehouse in Missouri, founded 1952. This is the kind of regional artisan product Zingerman’s excels at finding, and these quarter inch thick slabs are sturdy enough to grill like steaks. If you have ever eaten at famed Brooklyn steakhouse Peter Luger, known for its bacon appetizer, you get the idea. These are dry cured in slat for intense flavor, rubbed with brown sugar and hickory smoked, a result that is sweet, salty, a little bit smoky and very, very meaty. You can have these as your main course, app, side passed hors d’oeuvres or breakfast. Anyone who loves bacon will be blown away. Taking the steak concept a step further, Zingerman’s has a full section of its catalog devoted to grilling gifts and actual steaks alongside heritage breed Duroc and Red Wattle pork chops. My favorite is the Caveman Combo Heritage Meat Kit. Dad can free his inner caveman by the open fire with this sampler of pork and beef, entirely from heritage breed animals raised humanely and outdoors with no hormones or antibiotics from carefully selected small farms. It includes an oversized grass-fed cowboy cut ribeye, a pound of ground beef, and two thick cut porterhouse pork chops, all for just $165 with free shipping. Gift shopping done!
BBQ For The Dad Who Can’t Barbecue: While the word barbecue is often used to refer to a kind of backyard party or style of grilling, for many purist it refers to the Southern style of cooking ow and slow with smoke, as in smoked ribs, brisket and pulled pork, the things served at a BBQ restaurant. This kind of painstaking, patience required cooking has exploded in backyard popularity and I’ve written tons on the best smokers and devices for making competition style Southern BBQ, but many Dads still just stick to the charcoal kettle or basic Weber gas grill, and that’s fine. You can actually make good Southern barbecue on either, but it requires effort, and I’ve met many backyard cooks who struggle to not burn or undercook a burger – let alone chicken. So, if dad loves world-class BBQ but can’t be trusted to make it himself, here is the cheat.
Steen Raichlen, host of numerous grilling and smoking TV shows, author of dozenso f cookbook son the subject, recipient of countless awards (including James Beard and Julia Childs) is quite simply the worlds foremost expert on al things cooked with fire, gas and smoke, and his bestsellers BBQ USA, Planet BBQ and The BBQ Bible are quite literally the bibles of the industry. Now Raichlen has his own line of Planet BBQ smoked ribs and fully cooked Texas-style brisket, sold through online meat retailer Crowd Cow. I’ve had them and they are great. They come frozen and designed for reheating in the oven, but can taste even better warmed up on the grill, so good and easy the unscrupulous Dad could easily pass them off as his own efforts and wow neighbors. The ribs can be reheated right on the grill over fire for a crispy finish or indirect heat and brushed with sauce, while the brisket can be done on the indirect heat section of the grill, and comes fully seasoned.
The Best of South America: Americans love their red meat, but no one on earth consumes more than the beef-made South American nations of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, which not only eat more but cook it almost all on the grill. Both Argentine asados and Brazilian rodizio utilize some specific cuts of meat that can be hard to find, which is where specialist Meat n’ Bone comes in. The company offers a full lineup of beef, poultry, pork, lamb and game, but excels at cuts like picanha, hugely popular in Brazil and a staple at Brazilian steakhouse chains like Texas de Brazil, Fogo de Chao and Rodizio Grill. It is similarly known as rump cover, sirloin cap or culotte and is a triangular cut with a thick layer of fat, aka the fat cap. Meat n’ Bone offers five different kinds, from real Japanese wagyu to domestic wagyu hybrids in varying degrees of leanness, to full blooded domestic wagyu, USDA Prime, and G1 Certified Angus. They even have a blog about how to grill picanha. In a similar vein, Meat n’ Bone offers a number of lesser known, very delicious “Butcher’s Cuts” (because only the butcher knew how good they were and kept them for himself) that are perfect for grilling, including Denver steak, flap steak, skirt steak, flat iron and tri-tip, the backbone of California’s Santa Maria-style BBQ. Special combo packages include a South American Asado Special and Grill Stars: The Hottest Steaks You Didn’t Know About.