Hugh Maguire, also known as The Smokin’ Butcher, has been practising his craft for years. To find out more about butchery, we decided to ask him for some tips.
Hugh’s started his first butchery shop in 1991 in Navan with the help of his wife and brother. Having worked for years to perfect his technique and products, Hugh has won a slew of awards in the past two decades, including a National Gold Award for his black and white pudding, Supreme Irish Champion for his Polish paprika sausage and Supreme Champion Award for 2017 at the Great Taste Awards in London.
The Smokin' Butcher brand was created by Hugh in 2016 to tie in with the purchase of his new smokehouse. Since then, he has worked hard to boost the profile of Irish meat, creating innovative new products and experimenting with flavours. His sweet dry-cured smoked collar of bacon is one of his best products, utilising a once-overlooked cut of pork to create an exciting new product.
When we spoke to Hugh about The Smokin' Butcher's future, meat trends, butchery and more, he gave us great insight. Read on to find out what he had to say.
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On the future of butchery
"Butcher shops have to be very careful, a lot of them are running with the supermarkets and trying to keep up with them. They just have to stop and stand still, put a halt in that and go back to their roots because the supermarket can’t do what us butchers can. We need to go back to what previous generations have done in butcher shops and carry on that old tradition because the supermarkets can't compete with what we really can do. It’s a different level of quality completely and we should stick to that as we have expertise and knowledge base that they will never get."
"I would be interested in bringing more pork products to the market, like what I did with the smoked pudding. So maybe smoked bacon in a different way or different types of smoked sausages. Both chefs and regular customers want to hear that we have different varieties of products available, then they can give us advice and we can help to perfect our products. Chefs love working with butchers, so that’s why I travel around to see if I can learn something different."
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Tips and tricks
"Organic pork and chicken are far superior to non-organic. It's just to do with the way they're reared, so if you can, try to buy organic.
"First of all, buy your meat from your butcher who has the skill set to help you pick the best meat and prepare it properly. Once you get home, refrigerate your meat straightaway. If it's steak or beef, bring it to room temperature before cooking. With chicken, it's important to keep it cool right up until when you're cooking it so it's safe to eat."
"The best tip of all is that everyone should have a cooking probe. I would encourage everyone to buy one. People think that just because they have been cooking meat for their whole lives, they know what to do with it, which isn't always true. The probe will help people to know exactly what temperature to cook it to in order to make sure it's perfectly cooked."
"People seem quite scared about handling a whole chicken and the like, so I would always recommend they use everything for stock. At Christmas, use the turkey giblets for stock and you'll get amazing flavour. It's so simple to make. If you haven't got giblets then use up every other part of the animal, like the backbone, all the bones, the legs. The stock makes a beautiful soup, but at this time of year, I like to add in wild garlic or nettles as they're so beautiful when they're in season."
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The Smokin' Butcher in 2019
Butchery is a craft that Hugh has been working at for over 25 years. This means he has a wealth of information about meat and the quality of his products reflect this. While he has already received various awards for his products, Hugh hopes 2019 will bring The Smokin' Butcher even more success.
"We have entered the Great Taste Awards and Blas na hÉireann this year again, so hopefully we'll do well there again. We'll also be at Bloom Festival in Dublin this summer, as well as demos at Savour Kilkenny later this year. The plan for this year is to keep developing our brand and keep creating tasty products."
You can find The Smokin' Butcher products in Hugh's store in Ashbourne, Avoca Monkstown and Ballsbridge, Donnybrook Fair stores, Sheridan's cheesemongers in Dunnes Stores, as well as The Smokin' Butcher online store.
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