Tag Archives: Grilled Chicken

The Art of the Brisket Sandwich & Judging BBQ

A belated ‘Meals Monday’ Post and it’s going to be a two for one! First there’s the brisket sandwiches.

OK, the plating isn’t as pretty as my usual pics, but I was in a hurry to eat. 😀 Can you blame me with the smoke ring showing on that overhanging meat?

So how does one create the prefect brisket sandwich? Fresh smoked brisket on a warm hot cross pretzel roll, add a tiny pit of mayo to the bottom and a little BBQ sauce on top of the meat; just enough to add a little flavor and moisture. Then top with smoked gouda cheese. 🙂

Devour immediately.

Fun story here also. That is not MY brisket. We finally found a good BBQ place here. You wouldn’t think it would be that hard in Tennessee, but that’s a story for another time.

So we’re out driving along, running errands and we stop at a traffic light right next to this old gas station. Windows are up, and we still smell something heavenly. It was coming from the gas station, which had been converted into a little restaurant tailor made for Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. We just had to whip in there and check it out.

We’ve actually tried three different restaurants recommended on Triple D, and this was quite a bit better. The guy had two stick burners (some BBQ lingo for y’all) out back and was cranking out some amazing ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chicken and sausage. Well, the brisket was so good we bought an extra pound to take home. Hence the Sandwiches. 🙂

What Makes Great BBQ?

Opinions vary there, but I’m going to give you a couple of competition judging standards. No, I’m not a competitor, but I’ve networked with several and a judge or two also. Personally, I’ve found the closer I get to these guidelines, the better the meat tastes too, so there you go.

A Smoke Ring:

It doesn’t matter what you’re cooking; ribs, brisket, chicken even turkey (which isn’t normally a competition item), you have to have a good smoke ring on the meat. This is the indication that the wood fire flavor has permeated the meat.

This IS my brisket. A 16 hour labor of love.

That red ring around the outside of the meat is the smoke ring. If you want to learn the science of what creates a smoke ring, there’s a great article at BarbequeBible.com. For everyone else, I’m just going to continue.

Bark!

Bark, quite simply, is a combination of a modest surface char AND surface seasonings darkening during cooking. A good bark will be on the crispy side and add texture to the meat. Getting a good bark is tricky, and all but impossible with a pellet smoker like I use. Sugar as part of the rub is a common way to get a “good” bark, as it readily darkens and hardens with the heat of the BBQ. NOT something I personally advocate.

Moisture

Rather obvious here, but you want any meat to be moist and tender. Not too dry.

Tensile Strength

I’m not sure what they proper judging term here is, but the idea is that the meat should stay together, not just fall apart. If ribs or brisket just fall apart, it means they were overcooked. Too tough: not cooked enough.

Perfect competition standard is that the meat should come apart with a light tug.

For ribs, that means the meat stays on the bone until bitten, or gently pulled upon. Then it should be tender when chewed.

Brisket has a bit more ornate standard, but Texans take their brisket seriously, LOL.

A slice of brisket should stay together if draped over a finger or held by two fingers at one end of the slice. If it can do that and is still tender to eat, you got a good one.

Similar ideas hold true with chicken or pulled pork. Chicken should stay on the bone, but come free easily when pulled, and pork shoulder roast should stay together until it’s pulled apart (hence the name pulled pork).

Flavor:

Another obvious one, but it merits a note. Ideally when smoking meat, you should be able to taste the smoke flavor, not just see the smoke ring. Some BBQ places use oak for example. Fairly common wood and easy to get ahold of. BUT it leaves very little flavor in the meat compared to something like hickory, mesquite or maple.

Maple is considered ideal for pork, as it adds a sweet smoky flavor to the meat.

There you have it though; a basic guideline to determine if you’re really getting top notch BBQ, or you’re missing out. 😉

Cooking Tip: Rescuing BBQ

Every once in a while, no matter how you try, BBQing, or even cooking in the oven or on the stove just is NOT going to cooperate with you.

I had an incident like that a few nights ago. It was relatively easy to prevent in the first place, BUT I was rushed and distracted by a head full of other tasks that needed to get done. Here’s exactly what happened:

I was grilling whole boneless chicken breasts. I’ve done it dozens of times before and rarely have a problem. I got in a hurry though and just spread out the charcoal evenly to cook via direct heat. That would have worked if they were fillets cut thinner, but these were whole boneless breasts. They were thick enough that I should have cooked them slower over indirect heat (charcoal off to the sides).

Instead, the outside was cooking fast, but the centers… not so much.

That’s largely seasoning that blackened there also, by the way. 🙂

But, because I *am* a super genius:

I was able to salvage it and create a nearly perfect dinner. I just threw the chicken in the microwave for about a minute and a half (one piece at a time) and cooked the rare part without drying out the rest of the chicken breast.

Despite how the PC might be making it look, (my color seems to be acting up) there was no pink left, but it was still very tender and juicy. I should note also that with the minute and a half cooking time in the microwave that we have a 1200 watt microwave. It’s STRONG. 🙂 End result though:

So the lesson for the day is be creative if your meal isn’t turning out as planned. Some chefs will tell you that a microwave has no place in a real kitchen. I think I just proved otherwise, lol. Even if your attempt to rescue your meal fails, you’re no worse off than if you’d goofed it completely without trying a fix, right?

Another option with the chicken would have been to cut it up and cook it in a skillet on the stove, but that would have dried it out unless I was super careful.

Improvise, adapt and overcome. 😉