The Healthy Butcher wants you to eat less meat

But, first, here are some barbecue tips

Spring is here. May is upon us. Can barbecue season be far behind?

Like all cooking, barbecuing demands timing, says Mario Fiorucci, co-founder of the Healthy Butcher. Without it, you can turn a fine slice of meat into a charred hunk. For that, you can go to McDonald’s.

To avoid that fate, Fiorucci has some advice: cook the meat in a water bath.

“What you do is cook a vacuum-sealed food item in a water bath that’s temperature- controlled,” he explains. “So for a steak, you would put it in the water bath set to 129 F. Then leave it for an hour or two – or six. It doesn’t matter.”

The technique is called sous vide or under vacuum.

The water temperature is precisely controlled while the steak steams contentedly in a plastic bag, waiting for the grill.

“When you’re ready to eat, you take it out of the vacuum bag and sear it quickly on a grill or cast iron pan.  The results are perfection every time,” Fiorucci exults.

Barbecue magic

He invites barbecue chefs to imagine a world, where not only steaks, but fish and vegetables can be done to perfection without guessing. The science of barbecuing!

But where do you buy one of these magical devices?

Fiorucci says a number of companies have come out with very affordable immersion circulators. He doesn’t say which ones. So do some googling.

The devices may be hard to come by now, but he predicts they will be household appliances within a few years.

In the meantime, the intrepid chef who goes out and finds one is sure to stand out.

A thermometer is the chef’s best friend

Never put meat to grill without a thermometer in hand. Fiorucci says the ideal temperature for grilling beef or other red meat is 112 to 115F. And the only way to know that the meat has reached the desired temperature is with a thermometer.

“When you walk away from the grill and pour yourself a glass of wine or beer, you have no idea how hot it is exactly on the part of the grill that you have your meat on. So recipes that call for three minutes per side or the like are only estimations.

“Use a thermometer and you can’t go wrong.”

Explore! Discover! Don’t get stuck in a rut!  

When it comes to choosing what cuts to grill, Fiorucci recommends bavette. (They call it vacio at the Healthy Butcher.) The English translation is the unappetizing bottom sirloin flap meat.

“It is a cut you can find in a real butcher shop like The Healthy Butcher that breaks down whole animals.  And it is amazingly flavourful and an amazing grilling cut at a very reasonable price.  You won’t find this cut at 90 per cent of the shops.”

If the translation leave you queasy, try rib eye; that’s Fiorucci’s favourite.

Still, there are more cuts. Fifty of them. Explore! Discover! Don’t get stuck in a rut!

“We eat three times per day our entire lives… that’s a lot of meals.  Enjoy them,” is Fiorucci’s advice.

Goodbye Bay Street, Hello butcher store

Fiorucci, a lawyer, and partner, Tara Longo, an investment banker, spurned Bay Street to open a butcher store where they could offer their customers good quality, organic meat.

The duo opened for business on Queen Street in 2005 then began serving Village carnivores from their Eglinton and Avenue Road store in 2008.

They eventually founded a network of 75 local farms where the animals that wind up on the grills and grill pans of Healthy Butcher customers are treated humanely; they eat what “nature intended them to,” meaning a diet that’s free of antibiotics, growth hormones, drugs, chemicals and pesticides and the soil they graze on is healthy.

To avoid checkout shock, eat less meat

He doesn’t deny that Healthy Butcher meat is pricier simply because it’s costlier to raise cattle organically. But Fiorucci offers a novel antidote for checkout shock: eat less meat.

“I think in general people eat too much meat, and you should eat less meat, but better quality meat.”

He recommends buying cuts of meat that are less costly: flank and bavette. Chicken legs or wings instead of breasts.

“The secondary cuts,” he calls them, “are not only less expensive, but more flavourful. So it’s a win-win.”

For more information, visit or 416-ORGANIC or