The 11 Essential Meat and Seafood Buys for 2021 and Beyond

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Credit: Courtesy of Costco Wholesale

If you’re a meat eater (or a pescatarian), you’ve come to the right place. See, we spent the last few months testing, tasting, and debating our way through the meat and seafood departments of our local grocery stores. We even did some online shopping. We considered the sustainability of fish, the best cuts of chicken, the frozen shortcuts that save us during the busy work week. And then we ended up with this list: The most essential meat and seafood buys for 2021 and beyond.

See what made the cut (we’ve got your Thanksgiving turkey covered!) and then check out our full list of the 2021 Grocery Edition of Kitchn Essentials.

1 / 10
Best Chicken

We dedicate countless recipes to the almighty thigh. Why? They are cheaper, far juicier, and harder to overcook than breast meat. As long as there’s a pack of chicken thighs in your freezer, dinner is never far off. On a related note: Please bookmark this life-changing recipe.

2 / 10
Best Chicken Tenders
Applegate Farms

That said, we all need a solid fallback. And that's where this box of chicken breast tenders comes in. They're a bit more grown-up compared to nuggets, but these all-white meat tenders deliver the same crowd-pleasing versatility as the perennial kid food. You can also feel good about Applegate’s dedication to humane practices.

3 / 10
Best Fish
Seafood Watch

Sustainability is key when shopping for fish and the Seafood Watch consistently gives a "Best Choice" ranking to Atlantic cod. Thanks to its mild flavor and flaky texture, cod works in everything including tacos, sandwiches, and skillet dinners. If you usually reach for tilapia, give cod a try the next time you're at the fish counter or in the freezer aisle.

4 / 10
Best Shrimp
Whole Foods Market

Shrimp can come with some murky backgrounds, depending on the practices that bring it to market. Thankfully Whole Foods makes it an easy call; their commitment to seafood that's responsibly farmed or wild-caught by certified sustainable fisheries means we don't have to question where these shrimp came from or their impact on the environment.

5 / 10
Best Bacon

If you're bringing home the bacon, the only one worth bringing, in our book, is Applegate's Sunday Bacon. It cooks up super crisp, like bacon was intended, and has a richer, deeper flavor compared to other brands. We also feel good about their antibiotic- and GMO-free, humanely-raised meats. (P.S.: Wanna skip the mess? Bake it in the oven.)

6 / 10
Best Meatballs

Costco is the home of miracles, and their signature meatballs are a case in point. Somehow these frozen Italian Style Beef Meatballs are as juicy as any from-scratch ones that ever came out of a grandma’s kitchen. Pile them on top of spaghetti, and cover them in … you know the rest.

7 / 10
Best Smoked Fish
Trader Joe's

Leave it to Trader Joe’s to find, what we're calling, the Ingredient of the Summer. The Sesame Crusted Hardwood Smoked Ahi Tuna (sustainably sourced and wild-caught off the coasts of Indonesia) is the answer to all your hot-weather dreams. Start with this no-cook ahi tuna bowl!

8 / 10
Best Deli Meat

Lifestyle Director Lisa Freedman went through a lot of trial and error finding this oven-roasted turkey. "I tried everything at the deli counter and all the other pre-packaged stuff, and this is the only sliced turkey that holds up well in the fridge and consistently gets compliments when I use it in sandwiches." Grab the family size for good measure.

9 / 10
Best Mail-Order Turkey

We have a feeling Thanksgiving gatherings will be a bit more celebratory this fall (assuming that we all get vaccinated!). So go all out with a heritage turkey from Zingerman’s. This extra-super-special turkey is a superior old breed, but they are also hung to age like steak, which makes a world of difference in flavor. For that (and so many other things!), we are thankful.

10 / 10
Best Spiral-Sliced Ham
Smithfield Foods

If you need one good ham for a gathering, this one is it. There are no artificial ingredients. It's sweet, it's smoky, it's oh-so hammy. And we've found that it really holds its moisture.