Yesterday evening we finally had a break in the never ending rain (I swear I thought we moved to Tennessee, not Oregon), and we dragged the smoker out of the garage to get some cooking done while we can. It’s going to rain the rest of the week.
Anyhow, I smoked a small ham for sandwich meat, 3 chicken breasts for a dish I’ll be making in the next day or two, a turkey breast for sandwich meat, and a nice piece of corned beef brisket for dinner tonight. 😀
A few hours later…
I had to sneak a little piece of the corned beef also after my mom said it would be tough and I should have boiled it.
Being salt cured, it’s a little on the salty side, and while it was a little bit firmer than my usual brisket:
It was still plenty tender, because my family is from Texas, damnit, and tough brisket of any variety is a crime there!
Seriously, ask any Texan and they’ll tell you that you can talk bad about somebody’s mama before you can trash talk their brisket. 😀
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. 🙂
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.
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, 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.
Rather obvious here, but you want any meat to be moist and tender. Not too dry.
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).
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. 😉
Briskets, as I mentioned in last Friday’s post, are a big slab of meat. Unless you’re serving a large group, you’re going to have leftovers. We had 12 people and still had leftovers actually.
So, after you cook enough of them, you get really good at figuring out what to do with the leftovers. Brisket hash, sandwiches, omelets, and various types of Tex-Mex dishes are common alternatives to plain leftovers. Tacos are exactly what we did earlier tonight.
Tacos are a really easy option. All I had to do with the meat was trim the fat and cut it into small squares, then I warmed it up in a pan with some Hatch Chile sauce to give it even more flavor and put a little moisture back into it:
We buy our shells pre-made and the cheese and lettuce pre-shreded, so aside from washing the lettuce, prep work was a breeze. End result; some really tasty Tacos:
On the small chance anybody noticed and is jealous of my LeCreuset cookware, the patent is apparently up on their designs. Crock Pot makes a clone that’s almost impossible to tell from the Le Creuset originals. The pot above is authentic, but most of our cookware is Crock Pot brand clones that work and clean up just as well. All for a third the cost. Although now that Le Creuset has competition, I expect their prices will start dropping a little also. Then again, Yeti still charges a fortune for their coolers…
I’m a bit late paying this one off, but I was exhausted after babysitting the brisket 16 hours and cleaning house, etc… Overall the brisket turned out pretty good, but was probably my least successful yet. It was still far better than anything I could buy at a restaurant here. It reached 210 internal temperature and was a little on the crumbly side. Flavor was there though and it was moist too.
Major smoke ring as you all can see, but I’m a perfectionist with my cooking. I’d give it an 8 out of 10.
12 to go… What am I talking about? My writing distraction for the day. We’re having dinner guests who have all but demanded my brisket:
But 16 hours?!? I hear some of you saying. A good brisket is slow cooked over wood to give it maximum smoke flavor and tenderness. Beef brisket and pork ribs are weird critters anyway. To get to a proper Texas competition tenderness and flavor, you have to cook them to a higher internal temperature than something like a steak. Ribs are done at about 185. Brisket can be anywhere between 195 and 210 depending upon the individual piece of meat. When slow cooked properly, both should hold together but the meat should tear with a gentle pull and still be tender and juicy. Something like this:
That lovely red around the outer edge is a smoke ring. The darker the better. 🙂
Oh and another reason a brisket takes so long; a full “packer” cut of brisket starts at about 14 pounds. You can count on having to trim a couple pounds of fat away though.
I’ve been told by Texas competition BBQers and judges that they like the look of my brisket. I’ve been told by other Texans that mine is the best they’ve had since leaving Texas. DivaQ eat your heart out, hehehe.
And for those of you who don’t get the Texas references, brisket is solidly a Texas thing, and they take it serious. You can talk bad about a Texan’s momma before you badmouth their brisket, LOL.
So yeah, a little food bragging to take my mind off the neighborhood, the way nobody listens anymore, and having to clean house for tonight.
Oh and since I’m bragging… Remember I said I bake too? Here’s a Goo-Goo Cluster cheesecake I made last year:
Now, as far as offering any Brisket lessons; just check out Aaron Franklin’s youtube channel or get his book “Franklin Barbeque; A Meat Smoking Manifesto”. His BBQ is so good people line up at his restaurant at 4am for a noon opening. He’s free with his secrets too, unlike many professional chefs.