For Tom Ulrich, the best way to attract customers is through the smell of his large smoker slowly cooking several pounds of meat in front of his store.
The mouthwatering scent of barbecue outside Country Store and Catering at 456 N. Main St. in Sycamore draws in hungry customers daily as they drive up and down the busy road.
“We do the real food here,” Ulrich said. “It’s a world of difference.”
As Memorial Day weekend kicks off the grilling season, grillmasters and meat experts like Ulrich and Joe Inboden of Inboden’s Meat Market in DeKalb, will be selling more meat, catering more events and offering more professional grilling recipes and tips.
Many people would agree a successful barbecue hinges upon quality meat grilled to perfection. Whether they’re cooking for five or 50, grillers still can impress their guests with premier cuts of meat without breaking the bank, Inboden said.
“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to go all out,” he said. “Going all out is just getting what you like.”
With more than 36 varieties of meat and 150 different flavors at the meat market, located at 1106 N. First St. in DeKalb, Inboden said there is something for everyone looking to grill out this weekend.
Whether customers are unsure about how to grill their meat or just searching for professional grilling advice, both Inboden and Ulrich said they like to offer helpful tips on how to get the best meal out of their meat.
Ulrich sums up his grilling philosophy in two simple words: slow and low.
He recommends keeping the grill at a lower temperature, allowing it to cook slowly. While each cut of meat is different, he said beef typically should be cooked to an internal temperature of about 130 degrees, pork to 145 degrees and chicken to about 165 degrees.
The internal temperature of the meat is key to the final product, which is why Ulrich recommends grillers use a meat thermometer, which he always uses, to monitor the temperature as the meat cooks.
“We do this professionally and we still always know it’s cooked well,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than stuff burnt up.”
For grilling beginners, Ulrich suggests the barbecue staples of hot dogs, bratwurst and burgers. They’re easy to heat and they don’t take a lot of time, he said.
However, these simple solutions don’t have to be your typical pieces of meat.
The Country Store offers dill pickle or taco-flavored brats and hickory-seasoned bacon cheddar burger patties among their varieties, while Inboden’s newest top sellers are their award-winning cheddar bacon ranch chicken burger and porkchop trio stuffed with southern sausage and wrapped in double-smoked applewood bacon.
Although the Inboden family is always expanding the store’s menu, Inboden said they haven’t deviated away from the classics.
“Ribeye is always king,” he said. “It’s probably the most well-known cut.”
For the more advanced grillers, Ulrich suggested smoking beef briskets, pork roasts or pork shoulders for six to eight hours at 200 to 250 degrees.
Marinating the meat well beforehand is another tip Ulrich offered.
“Always season your product a day before or at least several hours before cooking,” he said.
Both Ulrich and Inboden said they won’t let their customers walk away without knowing the best way to cook their meat. Whether they’re first-time grillers or simply looking for suggestions, customers won’t leave these local shops without knowing what they’re doing.
“All they got to do is ask,” Inboden said. “We’ll walk them through the cooking process; no one will be lost.”
Country Store and Catering
456 N. Main St., Sycamore
H ours this weekend: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, closed Sunday and Memorial Day
Inboden’s Meat Market
1106 N. First St., DeKalb
H ours this weekend: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. today, closed Sunday and Memorial Day