The old-fashioned butcher shop still lives on here in New Jersey and I couldn’t be happier. While the cost of meat has risen significantly there are options at your local butchers that make it worth the trip.

Butcher shops hold a special place in my heart as my grandfather was a butcher in Brooklyn for over 50 years. When he was long retired and he was visiting while I was in college, I would arrange for him to go into our local meat department in the supermarket and pick out a cut and have the store butcher cut it to his liking. We had meat every night he was there. It was outstanding and a great memory. He appreciated the respect and taught me a thing or two about meat and how to cook and cut it.

Here in New Jersey, I don’t mind getting into the car and checking out my favorite butcher shops. The following are my favorite butcher shops and I give reasons why. There are other shops that I have never visited or others that I didn’t find satisfactory to my personal needs. With that said, I’d love to hear about your favorite butcher shop: e-mail me and let me know.

But first ... the Big Joe Wrap!

After you get your wonderful product from your butcher shop and you are freezing product for use at a later date, I suggest you give it the Big Joe Wrap.

When I first showed this to my friend Tom he was shaking his head and thought I was wasting much clear plastic wrap, aluminum foil and freezer bags. After trying my process he admiringly said he was wrong and now uses my process to keep his meats in the freezer.

This wrap will keep your meat perfect for whenever you need to serve it up. The wrap has been tested for up to six months in the freezer and it has no freezer burn, discoloring or crystallization on what you’ve placed in the freezer.

Here’s what to do: Take the individual steak, burger, whatever you are freezing, wrap each one individually with plastic wrap, tightly, then wrap with aluminum foil making sure that the meat is totally covered. After the aluminum foil wrap, place two or three wrapped meat products in a freezer bag, use the bags that have zip locks and try to remove all the air in the bag. Seal it up, mark on the outside with a Sharpie the product and date you wrapped it. You’ll thank me months later when you thaw out your product and it’s ready to go like you purchased it that day. Just a helpful tip from me to you.

Here are my favorite New Jersey butcher shops, in no particular order:

The German Butcher Shop – Forked River, NJ

This favorite shop has outstanding wursts and meats and some good sausages. I have to eat before I put my shopping list together or else half the store is coming with me. I’ve spent some time in Germany and their homemade meats are outstanding and bring back great memories of what I enjoyed in Germany. The selection is extensive and the mustards, and horseradish choices are a favorite.

Pop’s Butcher Shop — West Long Branch, NJ

This is truly a neighborhood butcher that I frequent often, as it is close to my home. I know I can call on the phone and my trusted butcher will set me up. This is a family-owned and operated butcher shop and I like the way they handle your requests. Trust is pretty big in selecting a good butcher and I trust Pop’s to always deliver a great product that’s fresh and on time and they’ll take the time to discuss your cooking strategy. I like that and I like Pop’s — check it out.

Pat’s Market — Lincroft, NJ

Pat’s is a great shop that has outstanding meats and very good prepared dishes. I like the marinades that they use on some meats that are ready to be thrown on my grill. They also have great side dishes ready for you to take home and add to your dinner. The fresh deli meats make terrific sandwiches and they are busy at lunch time. Pat’s is full service with great choices for your dinner and grill. I’m a fan of the choices and meats that I get at Pat’s.

The Union Pork Store – Union, NJ

This is one of my favorites because of the wide variety and excellent quality of German, Polish and Hungarian meats, wursts and sausages. They make in house so many varieties of sausage and wursts that it’s like going into a candy store and trying to pick out 20 of your favorite items. Along with the meats I love the selection of imported mustards and horseradish choices. At the Union Pork Store they cook and smoke everything there so that your product is ready to take home and throw on the grill or good it in some great beer. This is a great store and it is so worth my trip there to get the things I enjoy.

Pulaski Meats – Linden, NJ

The selection of smoked meats is awesome. They have been doing this since 1963 and it shows. Handmade sausages and wursts, smoked hams and pork it’s a Shangri-La for a great selection of what you expect from a family-owned and operated shop. They truly work hard to satisfy their customers and treat them very well. Once you go to Pulaski, you’ll go back. Enjoy the experience and what they have to offer.

Arctic Market & Butcher Shop – Pt. Pleasant Beach, NJ

This is a butcher shop that focuses mostly on meats. I like the wide selection they have of many cuts of beef, pork and other meats. My take on Arctic is that if you want a good cut of meat, you’re going to get it. Check out that selection they’ll have what you are looking for.

Arnie’s Gourmet Butcher Shop & Culinaria - Cherry Hill, NJ

At Arnie’s, they have a good selection of meats, organic choices and some well prepared foods. They’ve been making their imprint since 1985 and they have expanded into other food areas to make them above the cut for good butcher shops. I like the vibe at Arnie’s and I usually don’t like the refurbished butcher shop look but they pull it off, and it works. They have been recognized in area south Jersey magazines as one of the best. I concur. Take a trip to Arnie’s.

Take time to go to a butcher shop, browse the cases and select some good meats, you’ll thank me later.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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