Theo Weening, Whole Foods Market’s global meat buyer, has been in the meat business his whole life — literally! A native of Holland, he was born above his father’s butcher shop and grew up helping his parents tend the family store. Later, he attended butcher school and fell in love with the creativity that working with meat requires.
As a butcher’s son, Theo learned the importance of building relationships with suppliers. Today, Theo travels the world searching for farmers and ranchers who share his belief that the best meat comes from the best raising practices.
Watch this video to get a taste of Theo’s travels and get a glimpse of his carving skills.
Since summer is grilling season, we sat down with Theo to ask for a few of his favorite meat tips.
You've talked about how food brings people together. What are some of your favorite meats for summer entertaining?
I love split chickens. I brine them. I like to do it at least twenty-four hours, but you can do it for less. Even eight hours would be good. And then I have a vinegar-based marinade and a brush. The key to it is to keep brushing it on. Every four to five minutes, I brush the chicken and turn it over. You keep it soaked. The vinaigrette gives it a kind of tart flavor, so it tastes really good. It looks beautiful too.
Do you have a favorite quick-and-easy summer meat solution?
I get four different kinds of sausage, like a mild Italian, a hot Italian, a chorizo and a bratwurst. You line them all up horizontally, and then you put four skewers in them vertically. Each skewer goes through all four links. You put that whole thing on the grill, and you cook them whole, with the skewers in. That makes it easy to flip it over. When you’re done, you cut in between the skewers, so you have a skewer with four different kinds of sausage on it. It’s really neat.
Do you have any wisdom that you can share from growing up in a butcher shop?
Appreciate every cut. Growing up, we processed the meat on Mondays. Whatever cut was left on Saturdays, that was kind of like our feast. The filet mignons — they were always gone. The New York strips — they were always gone. So we learned to cook with all kinds of cuts.
Do you have a favorite under-appreciated cut that you would recommend?
I love the chuck eye. It’s at the end of the rib eye, between the chuck and the rib eye. It’s a value cut, but in my opinion it has great flavor. Because it has a little bit more fat than the rib eye, it has more of a sweet flavor. And because of where it’s located, it’s really tender. It’s a really good steak. Usually, the meat cutters know, and they’ll put it aside to buy for themselves. Because it’s like a rib eye, but it’s probably half the price of a rib eye.
So that’s my tip: become friends with a butcher. Ask them for a chuck eye.
Do you have a favorite tip for cooking meat? Share your advice in the comments!