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Ask a Meat Expert: Chef Matt Abdoo dishes on creating extraordinary memories with quality pork

April 2, 2024

In 2015, chef Matt Abdoo left the world of elite Michelin-star restaurants to open Pig Beach BBQ — now with three locations across the country. He tells how family memories around the table shape both his restaurants and meat-purchasing practices.

Where does your inspiration in the kitchen come from?

Much of my inspiration comes from time with my family, growing up in upstate New York, and my Italian-Lebanese heritage. I love those flavors and the nostalgia that’s evoked when I re-create a flavor my Nona used to make. She prepared wonderful meals — a pot of Sunday gravy with meatballs or pork shoulder slow-cooked for hours —and our family enjoyed time together around the table.

Reminiscing about those days fills me with joy, and I love to share that feeling with others. Those memories also influence the way I cook and the food we serve. In both Italian and Lebanese cuisine, there is a focus on transforming quality ingredients using traditional techniques. We want to give our customers a high-quality product with the unpretentious feel of a family meal. More people in the industry are returning to simplicity with a focus on quality and technique, and that’s what we do at Pig Beach BBQ.

At a barbecue restaurant, meat is always the star of the show. How do you ensure high-quality meats at your restaurants?

You have to start with the best product available. At Pig Beach BBQ, we exclusively use Prairie Fresh® pork for our ribs and shoulders. I’ve found that it’s the most consistent high-quality pork on the market. It’s always juicy, tender, flavorful and very competitively priced. When I buy Prairie Fresh, I’m getting quality from an American-based company that implements sustainable farming practices with humanely raised pigs. That all leads to a high-quality product that I feel good about serving to our guests.

And that quality often inspires our customers to smoke pork ribs or shoulders at home. I think that’s great, because it brings things full circle. What started for me as a love of food and family, is shared with our customers, and then they take that experience home to make memories with their loved ones. There is something special about barbecue that brings people together.

What should someone look for when buying pork from their local grocery store to barbecue at home?

I always tell people: “quality in, quality out.” There are several things to look for when sourcing high-quality meat.

First, you want to look at the color of the pork. You’re looking for a deeper, darker color – reddish pink to purple. Next, you want a piece of meat with good marbling throughout the muscle. Fat delivers a juicy, flavorful bite and is essential for great barbecue. Finally, feel the texture of the meat. You want it to feel firm before it’s cooked – not soft or mushy. If you begin with a beautifully colored, well-marbled piece of pork, you’re off to a great start.

Another thing I’ve learned as a chef and restaurant owner is the importance of consistency. We want to deliver a consistent experience to our customers each time they visit. For barbecue, that begins with consistently high-quality pork. Whether you are smoking a rack of ribs in the backyard or roasting a pork loin in the oven, a consistent cut of pork will give you the foundation to improve your technique over time and become a better cook. If you want to put the very best barbecue on your table, you need to start with the very best pork. In my experience, Prairie Fresh USA Prime® delivers the highest quality and consistency available today.

 Quality is clearly important, but how do you balance that with other factors such as price or production practices?

Consumers are looking to get their money’s worth at restaurants and at grocery stores, with value becoming an even bigger purchase driver in the last year or so. Convenience is also a big part of the equation, because we all have very busy lives. For home cooks who are looking for value, convenience, and taste, pork offers a variety of value-added meat products and flavors.

It’s also extremely important today to know where your food comes from, how it is processed, and how it will affect the world in which we live. I want to know that every farm is managed in a consistent way, and that animal care is a top priority.

Prairie Fresh controls every step of production from the farms to the processing facilities. That’s another reason I love sourcing my pork from Prairie Fresh and am proud to recommend Prairie Fresh pork personally and professionally. I know I can trust the Prairie Fresh Way to produce the kind of quality pork my customers expect.

To learn how Prairie Fresh can give your meat case customers a restaurant-quality experience at home, go to PrairieFreshWay.com.

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David Eaheart, APR