Category Archives: Beef

BBQ Joint Review: PM BBQ

A kid’s birthday party in Chesterfield left me with a couple hours to kill. On the way, I noticed  BBQ restaurant: PM BBQ. Instead of watching my child and others bounce around and eat pizza, I decided to give this place a shot. It’s not he’ll be unsupervised, so I can have some fun, too.

At the corner of Edison & Long in the Gumbo Flats flood plain, the crisp new facade of PM BBQ greets you.

So new and clean... is this place legit?

So new and clean… is this place legit?

Even though the place shows no sign of smoke or grime, they have some hardware to boost credibility.

When your ribbons number such that they cover all the colors of the rainbow, you might be doing it right

When your ribbons number such that they cover all the colors of the rainbow, you might be doing it right

Let’s talk briefly about prejudice. One of my preconceptions of high-end BBQ restaurants includes old buildings, usually either (1) extremely old & original location, or (2) very old building that’s been reclaimed. Examples of the former are Fiorella’s Jack Stack in Martin City, MO, Rendezvous in Memphis, or Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City. Examples of the latter include (previously-reviewedHendrick’s in St. Charles, MO or Pappy’s in St. Louis, MO. Each building has character and charm, and none is in a shiny new building.

Well, as history has shown, not all prejudices hold true. PM BBQ is in a nice new building, and it turns out their BBQ is pretty damn good.

Having never been there before, I sought counsel from the kid at the counter. He advised that brisket sandwich is one of the best things on the menu for first time customers. Additionally, I went with beans as a side, since that’s a decent measure of BBQ prowess, and fries because I was in the mood for some french fries.

Brisket lunch platter

Brisket lunch platter

That’s an impressive portion of meat, which is a good thing because I’m hungry and I love brisket.

Before I came to PM BBQ, I phoned a friend who works in Chesterfield for some input. He didn’t answer, but called me back after lunch. The report was that PM BBQ is the best restaurant in the Valley by far, and brisket is the way to go. I have to agree with his assessment.

Behold the care taken in preparing this cow

Behold the care taken in preparing this cow

The brisket is thin sliced, certainly thinner than I can cut mine without a rotary meat slicer. As you can see from the photo, there’s a nice dark pink smoke line and plenty of peppery spices on it. Extremely tender, very very moist. I’m a little bit blown away by this brisket, and I don’t say that lightly. This is an impressive portion of meat, from the quantity to the quality.

It’s clear to me that significant skill went into this brisket, and as an amateur constantly seeking to better my own brisket, I can really appreciate that effort and skill.

I do have one negative comment, though, and it relates to the bun. I got a dry (not stale) yellow bun that overpowers the meat and makes my bites dry, so that you need to add sauce. Adding sauce then masks the flavor and texture of the brisket, so why go to a really good BBQ place in the first place? No bread needed, so you should just discard it if you get the brisket sandwich, or take it home and feed the birds.

Speaking of sauces, there are four on the table.

4x sauce

4x sauce

Carolina, Golden Mustard, Spicy and Sweet. I’ll review each in turn from right to left.

Carolina – Nice and vinegary, as you would expect from a Carolina sauce. Unlike many sauces that call them selves Carolina, this one is legit. Commercial “Carolina” sauces are more regionally-inspired than the genuine article. It’s very thin and nicely spicy, without a hint of tomato. I’m a huge fan, and the yellow bun absorbed it well.

Golden Mustard – Ah, the step brother of Carolina sauce! There are truly two kinds of Carolina sauce, one being the vinegary eastern North Carolina discussed above, and the South Carolina mustard. This is the latter, and it’s powerful. I don’t have much experience with this type of BBQ accompaniment, but PM’s has a distinct flavor that shows inspiration from or relation to the Asian mustard you get in little packets with your General Tso’s chicken. I liked the consistent texture and solid heat profile, but this was not my favorite. That’s more of a testament to the strength of the others and my virginity to this kind of sauce than an indictment on the PM BBQ Golden Mustard sauce. Perhaps a resident of the Palmetto State would be beside himself with pleasure at this sauce.

Spicy – Good, but not spicy. I was waiting for spicy… Perhaps this town has a bastardized BBQ sauce palate because of all the watered down flavorless goop that passes for pork steak sauce. If you drink nothing but Bud Light all the time, then a Schlafly tastes like a malty porter. If you only put skim milk on your raisin bran, then whole tastes like heavy whipping cream. And if you only dunk your meat in a slurry of Maull’s and beer, then normal sauce with a modicum of zest is “spicy”. I know spicy, and this isn’t it. (And, yes, I did swirl the bottle a few times to arouse any sediment and get a consistent sauce pour.)

Sweet – We have a winnah! Excellent sauce, great spice flavors without a very sugary pop. Perfect sauce to put on the brisket, and I used it to clean up my french fries. Wonderful sauce.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t tout the beans, which were wonderful. I counted three kinds of beans, and a few nice big chunks of pork with some short ribbons of onion. The beans came out very hot and had a nice twinge of spice, coupled nicely with a very subtle sweetness. The tenderness was spot on, and I enjoyed the thickness of the sauce. I took a bite to sample, then destroyed half of my serving before getting to the brisket.

The french fries were french fries. Thicker than shoestring, they came out piping hot. What can I say… I was just in the mood for some fries. I’m told after the fact that I should have gotten the Sweet Corn Spoonbread. Live and learn. I did find that my fries were oversalted, but it’s hard to complain when the rest of the meal rocked as it did.

With my meal, I knocked back some iced tea. They do have bottled beer in the soda cooler, but it was barely noon…

PM BBQ turned out to be an amazing restaurant with intense credibility based on the strength of the brisket. I’m definitely returning, and not just when I find myself way the hell out in west Chesterfield.

Epilogue

It only took 40 minutes to eat. That gave me tons of time to kill after lunch. I got in my car and looked at the storefront before me. Whaddaya know! The Chesterfield International Tap House is next door to PM BBQ. I think I know how to kill some time.

How many beers do they have on tap? A few…

Decisions, decisions...

Decisions, decisions…

I was thirsty and not in the mood to think, so I ordered a known favorite: Charleville Half Wit Wheat.

Charleville Half-Wit

Charleville Half-Wit

That beer was so good, I went with the bartender’s suggestion of Charleville Nitro ESB.

Charleville Nitro ESB

Charleville Nitro ESB

All this beer eventually sent me to the restroom, where I saw this on the stall partition:

Everything comes full circle

Everything comes full circle

A fitting end to my Chesterfield adventure, among the hundreds of beer and restaurant stickers that plastered the walls. I’ll be back to iTap soon, if not this location then another.

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BBQ Joint Review: Hendrick’s BBQ

Since my law firm CFO ledger says that my father had some legal fees due, I figured he could settle up his account with a lunch out – his treat. We put on our Friday BBQ best…

The Simpsons Dapper

The Simpsons Dapper

… and crossed the river into St. Charles to visit Hendrick’s BBQ.

Apparently it’s owned by the same people who run Cathedral Square Brewery. Try their Belgian-Style Abbey Ale. If they BBQ like they brew, then we’re in for a treat.

We were tipped off about this place by a recent column written by Evan Benn for the STL Post-Dispatch online, one that listed five local BBQ joints worth a visit. That’s basically a checklist for me.

According to the article, I needed to get the (1) brisket, (2) cheesy grits, and (3) peppery slaw. Yeah, no problem.

As we walked up from the parking lot to the door, we saw an A-frame sign that let us know about the “soup of the day”.

Looks like my kind of restaurant... from the damn curb!

Looks like my kind of restaurant… from the damn curb!

Oh, yes… looks like we’ve come to the right place.

Busiest Friday lunch ever? 20+ minute wait for tables? Would we like to have a beer at the bar? No problem!

Back in the day, when I was a small child and money was tight, we went as a family to Po Folks country restaurant on Manchester near Hanley in south central St. Louis County. It’s not there anymore, but you could get your kid a chicken leg basket dinner for $1 and it included a soft drink in a mason jar (mine was always orange soda). This takes me back:

Unconventionally-served beer

Unconventionally-served beer

Pop ordered some kind of rye IPA and liked it just fine. I was in the mood for something lighter and asked for a wheat ale. The bartender, who was semi-distracted with familiarizing himself with the ever-growing wall of whiskey (er… soup?) behind the bar handed me a Civil Life German Wheat. Holy cow that’s a good beer.

As we sipped our beers and waited for a seat, we admired the decor. Everything here seems very deliberate, thoughtful… almost intentionally shabbily chic junkyard. Here’s a mason jar light fixture:

This is nothing. You should see the mussel basket lights.

This is nothing. You should see the mussel basket lights.

The bar tap handles look a little dangerous… possibly designed by Tim Burton.

You have to wonder if their Workers' Compensation liability carrier has seen this.

You have to wonder if their Workers’ Compensation liability carrier has seen this.

Yes, those are butcher knives, cleavers, etc. as bar handles. No drinking while working!

While we drank our beers and refills, amazing blues music poured over the speakers. What an enviable atmosphere.

Finally, after two beers apiece and 30 minutes, we were escorted to seats. The waiter (helpfully) reminded us that this was their busiest day ever, likely related to the aforementioned article. Food was running at a 40! minute delay. We ordered quickly.

Appetizers: Fried green tomatoes, Onion rings, & Pork Cracklin’ (whatever that is… hell, it’s $2). Oh, and refill these Civil Live beers, please.

2/3 of our apps

2/3 of our apps

I’ve never had fried green tomatoes. Without knowing what they are, in the picture above it looks like fried polenta. They were firm and flavorful. The main impression from this dish is that I should begin to experiment with making these on my own. The onion rings were solid, and I swear they used a chicken fried steak batter. The sauce was a nice complement.

Now… Pork Cracklin’

ww... www.....what?

ww… www…..what?

Fried cubes of pork belly. If there’s a simple-yet-genius pork-related innovation I’ve seen since starting this blog, the Pork Cracklin’ is that. As I chowed, my father (literally) regaled me with a story about his open heart surgery.

On to lunch… let’s see… what’s the first thing on the lunch menu:

Meat & 3. Simple, subtle.

Meat & 3. Simple, subtle.

Sounds great. Brisket, cheesy grits, slaw, and baked beans. Dad had that but sub collard greens for baked beans. Can we get a refill?

Thanks. Shadows creeping in. How .long have we been here?

Thanks. Shadows creeping in. How .long have we been here?

Our entrees eventually arrived, on metal trays that were just a colored paraffin layer short of high school biology.

Will this be worth all the fuss?

Will this be worth all the fuss?

Bonus: Ramekin of hot blueberry cobbler. Not a Bonus: Four slices of brisket? Yes, it’s a lunch portion, and yes I am full of appetizers and beer, but I expected more meat. Regardless, here’s my impressions.

Baked beans: Sweet, absolutely perfect balance of sugar and onion (not easy to do), with superb bean tenderness. Great bacon flavors. Just about the best classic baked beans I’ve ever had. Bravo.

Collard greens (one bite stolen from my dad after he oohed and aahed them): Shit, I love collard greens and didn’t know it. Amazing bacon flavor, great bite to the greens. Like a less tart spinach that got blasted in pork flavors.

Blueberry cobbler: Nice touch to the plate, not too sweet. The blueberries have a nice bite, but aren’t tart. Somewhat mealy cobbler topping, but it mixed well with the compote/filling. It was a perfect amount and accent to the plate.

Slaw: Peppery as advertised, and I got major hints of something… onion salt? Dad swore up and down that chopped green onion was in there, but I didn’t see any. The sauce was thin, and I really enjoyed the slaw. Thanks for not having a heavy hand with the celery seed.

Cheesy grits: My first impression was that they were a little too cheesy, but I still ate the whole thing. In the end, it was quite delicious. The beans are the side dish star without question, though.

My zeal for brisket brought me here. How was it?

Brisket, king of BBQ beef

Brisket, king of BBQ beef

You immediately notice the very nice and distinguished smoke ring, deep in color and surrounding each slice’s edge. The meat has a very light sear on the outside, and a part of the fat cap was left on the meat during smoking. I usually serve my brisket carved with no further seasoning, leaving that to the diner. Hendrick’s added some coarse cracked pepper-based seasoning.

Smoke line

A blurry smoke line close-up. Thanks, iPhone

Really an impressive smoke line. Even, colorful. I wonder what wood they use.

From a moisture standpoint, this was exquisitely moist and tender. Not overly tender, as I have done in the past, but pretty much perfect. I haven’t been able to get this level of tenderness and moisture into my brisket yet, but I’m working on it. This is one of the best I’ve ever had. Absolutely no sauce was needed, though we did try a little STL and Hot.

But… the one thing that bothered me about the brisket was the very powerful coarse black pepper sprinkling that they put on the finished meat. I really wanted to taste the smoke, but it was overpowered by the pepper. I got great beef flavors, but not smoke, and that’s a damn shame because you can see from looking at the meat that incredible amounts of time and care went into getting it that color, consistency, texture, etc.

So we finished our meals, and the waiter asked about dessert. None for me… until my father quite aggressively peer-pressured me into pie.

Yes, apple pie a la mode

Yes, apple pie a la mode

Yes, it was delicious. No, I didn’t get anything done the rest of the day.

So we spent about 2.5 hours and a bunch of tax-deductable money on BBQ, beer, and pie. Not a horrible way to spend your Friday. Would I go back? Hell yes, in a second. Maybe next time I get the pulled pork. Affordable, delicious, worth the wait, great beer selection… how could you not return here?

Moo Moo on the BBQ

Bluebell the Cow… remember her?

Moo?

Moo?

Bluebell was kind enough in her passing to leave me a special cut of beef called the Brisket. Thanks!

Brisket is merely one of many delicious Hunks O’ Cow

Besides the two rib steaks we tried on a cedar planked fish night, the brisket is my first real beef treat from Bluebell. It’s a favorite of mine, and I’m super excited to sample some local grass fed beef.

Bluebell beginning her journey to my tummy

Bluebell beginning her journey to my tummy

I started the brisket not with my usual mustard-based paste, but with something a little milder that will let me taste the grassiness and richness of the beef. The rub was simple: brown sugar, garlic salt, italian seasonings, seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, and paprika.

The brisket began fat side down to try and drip off a few extra fatty bits, though the rural butcher did a really good job of trimming the fat. If I wanted, to baste it instead, perhaps the fat would begin on the upside.

After four-ish hours of smoking indirectly in the Weber 22″ kettle with a bunch of cherry wood chunks, the brisket was ready for its foil wrap.

Smoky goodness!

Smoky goodness!

My son actually wants the family to open a BBQ restaurant, and for us to call it Moo Moo on the BBQ. That’s certainly not happening, but he gave me a clever title. The simple wonders of the mind of a 6 year old.

Foil, do your magic

Foil, do your magic

Within the foil, all over the brisket, is some mild Kansas City style BBQ sauce and a little dash of PBR for steaming and tenderizing. It needed about three more hours, with some 180 degree rotations for good measure, and a probe thermometer inserted.

Though the meat was technically “done” a couple hours into the smoking when it reached 150-ish, the foil wrap brought the meat to a steady 190-ish for the final hour or so.

For good measure, since I am making big brisket sandwiches, I smoked a pound of bacon.

Nearly 2/3 made it inside!

Nearly 2/3 made it inside!

Bacon finished, I prepared to assemble my brisket sandwiches. I have some whole wheat buns, provolone cheese, pickles, the aforementioned bacon, and some spicy BBQ sauce I bought from Ace Hardware that morning when I had to buy a toilet auger (don’t ask; total child-related nightmare).

First, the brisket had to rest for at least ten minutes. The muscle had to relax, and all the excited beef juices needed to remain in the tissue when I cut the meat, instead of spilling all over the cutting board.

Voila!

Voila!

I’ll state with a little hubris that I am getting pretty good at making brisket on the grill, and this might be my best one yet. Yes, you could credit the cow and/or cattle farmer. And, yes, this would probably pale in comparison to some actual competitive and/or professional brisket, but give me this little victory.

It was delicious, for the record. Thanks, Bluebell (and mom, for the XMas gift)!

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Meet My New Friend: Bluebell The Cow

I’d like to introduce you to my dear friend Bluebell the Cow.

Moo?

Moo?

Bluebell is a grass fed cow from a farm in northeast central Missouri, somewhere a little west of the Silex, MO area.

Or, she was until a couple weeks ago, when she met our mutual friend and intermediary, Mr. Butcher.

Steaks and roasts

Steaks and roasts

See, my wonderful and thoughtful Mother came up with the brilliant notion to give me, my wife, my sister, and my brother-in-law a quarter of a cow (that being Ms. Bluebell) for Christmas.

Ground beef

Ground beef

Practical, delicious, generous.

Is this macabre? Maybe, but it’s important to know where food comes from. Beef comes from cows. I just happen to know the origin and name of this particular cow/beef.

I try to impress on my kids that wasting food is bad for many reasons, but wasting meat is particularly bad. Some animal had to die for you to get that meat. Don’t make that death for naught. Eat your protein.

Bluebell will be honored throughout the coming weeks and perhaps months as we sample the bounty that this bovine had to give us.

Drink This Beer: Green Flash’s Rayon Vert

Google Translator confirms what my six years of French tutelage told me – Rayon Vert means Green Ray. No, I’m not talking about a Jules Verne novel. I’m referring to the fabulous Belgian Ale by the Greenflash Brewery, Rayon Vert.

Their IPA came across my radar a few months ago in this blog’s infancy, and now like a green laser beam the Rayon Vert greets me whilst out for a birthday dinner with my family at Tavolo V in the St. Louis Loop.

Hey, the mayor’s here!

How about a picture?

What a nice photogr… dammit.

My dad thought it would be oh so hilarious to “Fork Bomb” my photo of the beer and it’s glass just as the iPhone camera clicked. Thanks, Pop.

Take 2:

 

Ah, much better

At a hearty 7.0%, this is a perfect follow up to my  Goose Island Matilda Belgian Ale, of equally potent ABV.

I picked up on some very fruity hoppy flavors, reminiscent of a classic Belgian Ale. I dare say that I prefer this to the Matilda, but that might be considered heresy. The flavor is very distinct and enjoyable, with a crisp bubbly palate. More aromatic and flavorful than hoppy, but the hops shine though and provide flowery fruity tastes that complement the robust flavors of the grains. Complex yet simple… a damned fine beer.

What did I have for dinner? It was so friggin’ good that I forgot to take a picture until it was half gone. I present the bistro filet (a tenderloin of beef shoulder), atop a medley of sauteed potatoes, brussels sprouts, pork belly, garlic, and onions. Butter was also present, I believe.

Hey, who likes beef?

Medium rare, of course. A spectacular meal accompanied by wonderful beers in the presence of my loving and caring family, including my father, who picked up the tab.

My recommendation for Greenflash Brewery’s Rayon Vert beer, especially when someone else is paying: Drink This Beer

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BBQ Braised and Smoked Beef Short Ribs

You need to download the Weber Grills app. I was gifted some organic corn-fed beef short ribs by my most excellent rural uncle and aunt, and I turned to the Weber app for guidance. Braise, smoke, and grill said the app. Sure thing.

Not For Sale? Approved for consumption, though.

I went down to the backyard veggie garden in search of some home-grown spice and tracked down some jalapenos and other miscellaneous peppers.

Spicy!

I chopped up the jalapenos (and washed off the seeds), then tossed it in a braising liquid consisting of red wine, Miller High Life, sage, rosemary, basil, Lawry’s seasoned salt, sea salt, and a little vegetable oil. That all went in a pot on the Weber 22″ grill over semi-direct heat. In went the meat.

Braising is not really parboiling, is it?

After about 15 minutes, I flipped the short ribs in the pot and gave them another 15 minutes or so.

While at my local Ace Hardware, I came across a couple goodies!

Got wood?

Jack Stack is my favorite KC-area BBQ restaurant, bar none, and I had four years to try them all. They make something called the Martin City Mayor sandwich… holy hell. If you ever want to wow someone, though, get the burnt ends and a tower of onion rings. Atheists will see Jesus.

Anywho, after some braising, I let the short ribs smoke indirectly with the Ozark Sugar Maple wood (having been soaked in water for an hour or so, of course).

Braised, smoking

Every 10-15 minutes or so, I would re-braise the meat in the sauce. Many dunks were needed.

Braised, smoked, dunked

Now would be a good time for a beer. How about this one?

Trout Slayer

Wow, this is an awesome beer. Not quite the best canned beer I’ve ever had, but damned close. And it’s a Whale, from Montana no less!

Back to the BBQ… I gave each short rib segment a hearty coating of the Jack Stack sauce, and then returned it to the indirect heat. A total of 30-4o minutes indirect heat will more than finish the short ribs.

Yes, some other meat snuck onto the grill.

So maybe some pork burgers and a huge corn-fed beef steak made it onto the grill as well. That steak was EPIC, by the way. (Also part of the uncle / aunt frozen meat gift set.)

The verdict on the beef short ribs… fatty as all hell. The parts of the meat that we managed to pull were very tender and flavorful, but there was so much fat, both marbleized and in chunks, that it was hard to navigate. I was impressed with the meat itself, but my kids were hacking around fat while eating the meat.

This cooking method may work for some kosher lamb ribs (foreshadowing) or other meat. I just may not sink cash into beef short ribs anytime soon, particularly when so many other cuts provide leaner, more tender meat on the BBQ. Still, what I ate was delicious and I was super-grateful for free meat.

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Barbecued Tri-Tip

Wikipedia (and we all know how super-accurate that is) has a lengthy history on the Tri-Tip cut. It comes from the bottom sirloin part of Bossie, and is usually cut into steaks or ground into hamburgers.

Moo

The guy next to us at the recent World Pork Steak Championships made some Tri-Tip and shared it with us, prompting my interest. Plenty of people have blogged tips about it, the sum of which seems to be the K.I.S.S. Rule: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Flip once, never puncture with a fork, don’t stuff it with things, don’t get cute with seasonings, no marinade, etc.

I set up the Weber 22″ kettle for semi-indirect cooking with a 2/3 coal chimney’s worth of charcoal, as well as some water-soaked pecan wood chips for a little extra flavor.

Grill setup

As that started to smoke, I seasoned the beef with nothing but coarse black pepper and Lawry’s seasoned salt.

Tri-Tip, ready for the grill

This particular cut is 2.5 lbs, the largest I could get at Schnucks, so I anticipate a decent amount of cook time. The various BBQ bloggers who have written about this, some claiming to have made this hundreds of times, claim that it takes about 45 minutes on average at semi-direct heat.

It went on the grill, fattier side up, though they did a good job of trimming the meat. We will have baked potatoes and some bratwurst alongside the Tri-Tip.

A super-healthy dinner awaits me

Now would be a good time for a beer. How about some Denver Pale Ale?

Strong hoppy finish, light fruity aroma… do I pick up on some malted hops? A great beer.

I built myself a little patio for the Weber and Big Blue off the side of the house last weekend, turning unsightly unusable space into something a little nicer. It’s pleasant to relax in the shade and enjoy the fruits of your labor with cold beer and the smell of cooking cow flesh.

After 30 minutes, it looks like this:

Coming along nicely

The thermometer says it is only at about 115-120 degrees, so it’s on pace to finish at about an hour. I flipped it and moved it closer to the center of the grill. As the Tri-Tip has cooked, it has bulged in the center and gotten a little narrower.

Finally, after about an hour, the thermometer reads just over 145 degrees.We served it with potatoes, bratwurst, peas, baked beans, and garlic cheese bread. Like I said before: healthy meal.

Plenty of (fatty) protein and starch to go around

My wife and kids are a little intolerant of medium-rare meat, so they can have the edges that are more medium-well, while I take the pink and medium center.

Beef and beer… go well together

You are supposed to carve against the grain, and I think I am a little off of perpendicular. Still, I let it rest for five minutes and sliced hearty pieces off.

I thought it was delicious. With the minimal seasoning, the beef is the star. You don’t have many ribbons of fat because it’s so finely marbleized. No wonder this makes such great hamburger.

Tri-Tip is simple to make, cooks relatively quickly, is fairly affordable (about $6.xx / lb, well-trimmed), and has wide appeal, or at least it did at our table. Next time perhaps we will slice it up a little finer and put it in some fajitas – we had more success with this than with the flank steak we have made on the grill for fajitas.

NB: BBQ potatoes + pecan smoke = major chocolatey flavors on the potato skin. Don’t know why, but it was really surprising and delicious.

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Ketchup-Based Homemade BBQ Sauce (on Smoked Beef Brisket)

I’ve made my own BBQ sauce before, but it has typically been ketchup-free. I would cook a gallon of cider vinegar and a bunch of other stuff down to a thick, peppery, tangy maroon liquid. It’s pretty spectacular if made correctly.With the extra brisket from the recent birthday party BBQ thawed and smoking, I decided to try my hand at a homemade ketchup-based sauce.

Brisket on the smoker... rub nearly dissolved

I made a quick rub for the brisket: 1 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup paprika, a few tablespoons each of cayenne pepper, italian seasoning, garlic salt, Lawry’s seasoning, coarse black pepper. I also carved the fat off of the brisket with a sharp knife to permit the smoke to permiate the meat from all sides. This will enhance the flavor and tenderness. I actually found a wide variety of smoking wood at the local farmers’ market. Today I am using a mixture of peach tree wood and hickory. It’s cut into slices instead of just chunks. Pretty neat. 

On to the sauce: in a medium to small saucepan on the stove, I combined 1 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup cider vinegar, about 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, a nice squeeze of honey, a few tablespoons each of onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper. I resisted the temptations to add mustard or molasses, and I’ve heard some people will melt a stick of butter into the sauce. Maybe another time. Everything was mixed in the pan with a silicone spatula and allowed to simmer for a while.

Simmering sauce

Once it’s done and the brisket hits about the 4 hour mark, I will coat the meat with the sauce to finish on the smoker.

Now would be a good time to crack a craft mix pack. How about something from New Belgium? Sounds good to me!

Follow my folly? No problem!

At the two hour mark, the brisket is cooking well and the smoker is holding steady at just short of 200 degrees and the brisket has an internal temperature of 150 degrees. I added more coals and wood, and I won’t be back for a while.

It’s starting to drizzle here… If I can cook in snow, I can cook in some light rain.

Did I mention that it’s Selection Sunday?

Ranger IPA and the ACC title game? Nice.

I hope you spent it in a similar fashion.

After about 4 hours, I gave each side a thorough brushing with the homemade BBQ sauce. This was repeated a few times in the next couple hours, flipping the brisket a few times.

Let's get sauced

After all of the brushing, smoking, and cooking, I pulled it after six hours or so. I did not take the tenderizing step of making a foil boat and steaming the brisket with some juice. I probably should have, as the brisket turned out a little less tender than I liked.

Beef!

In the end, the brisket was still delicious. We cut off the burnt ends and everyone went for those first – at least my family is getting discriminating meat tastes.

The BBQ sauce provided a spicy / sweet flavor and gave the burnt exterior a sticky finish. The sauce absorbed the smoke flavors well. Tomorrow I will make a few sandwiches for lunch as leftovers.

Hope you all had as nice a meal as this tonight

We grilled some broccoli, put some zucchini in the oven, and made a fruit salad. It was a great meal. Anytime the kids eat a ton, we did a good job.

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Big Blue In Action: Birthday Party Brisket

Yesterday, after a week of cleaning, painting, bolting, etc., Big Blue was born.

Today, Big Blue gets its first test: A 7.8 lb brisket for a family birthday party (as opposed to the kid birthday party, which was yesterday). Our attendance list dropped due to a few sick cousins and a cancellation, so the extra brisket, a 4.5 pounder, can wait until another day.

I will use a paste similar to that used on the Super Bowl Brisket.

Beef!

Since this is a much larger brisket, though, I will make a larger batch: one and a half 12 oz. bottles of brown mustard, 3 cups brown sugar, 1 cup paprika, a few generous spoonfuls of garlic powder & cayenne pepper. It gets wrapped up in foil and dropped in the fridge over night.

Dinner is at or soon after 3pm, so that means I had to get up bright and early to start Big Blue. My original plan was 7am, but a long evening of sampling a variety of beers made it closer to 8:30am.

Before I've even had any coffee

Today’s smoking wood is a change of pace – cherry wood chunks. Most grocery or large hardware stores have a mildly amusing selection of wood chunks. I prefer chunks because they last a little longer, sit on the coals easier, etc. Usually all you can find in chunk is Hickory or Mesquite. Not bad, but diversity is good. I found a surprisingly good selection of BBQ wood at my local Ace Hardware store.

After a little while, the thermometer read a steady 200 degrees. I checked on Blue a few times and it has stayed at 200.

With all the time I have to kill, why not work on some other projects around the house? How about taking an old, useless, bound-for-the-trash spice rack and turn it into a Lego shelf? My son is a Lego zealot and relatives / Santa have gifted him accordingly in the past few months, leaving us with many, many minifigures. He picked blue for the paint, similar to the smoker, and we glued on a few Lego boards that we cut to size. It turned out pretty cool.

From the scrap heap to your home

Back to the brisket. After 2.5 hours, the temperature gauge says 190 degrees. The brisket looks good, and the coal basket could use a few more coals and some wood.

Brisket after lots of cherry wood smoke

The thickest part of the brisket has an internal temperature of 160 degrees, so it is technically “done” in the food borne illness sense, but of course it needs plenty of additional slow cooking to tenderize. I flipped it over, put on the lid, and left it alone for another hour or so.

In the course of adding coals and wood, the temperature dropped to 150 degrees in the smoker, but no worries – it was back up to 175 in ten minutes and 200 in thirty minutes. In fact, an hour later it got really hot, up to about 300 degrees. Some of the wood chunks started burning. I pulled some of the extra wood and dropped it into a water bucket. It’s clearly going to take lots of practice to master temperature control on this contraption.

Eventually, after 3.5 hours of smoking, I wrapped it up in some heavy duty foil. As massive as this thing is, it needed a foil boat made out of two large sheets in an X. After adding a cup or so of apple juice, I tightly crimped it and put it back on the smoker. The internal smoker temperature is 250 degrees. I’ll be back in a few hours.

Time for a few hours of steaming

An hour into the foil wrapping, the temperature is still at 200 degrees. I tossed in some more coals, as the ones in the base had really died down. I caution against opening the smoker, though. Quite a bit of heat escaped and the temp dropped to 150 quickly. The great thing about the steel drum with the Weber lid is that, to steal a line from Case Stengel, it “sure holds the heat well.” I anticipated getting back up to 200 or so soon, which happened within the half hour.

When you get your ear close to the wrap, you can hear the apple / meat juices bubbling inside the foil. This is tenderizing in action.

Time to crack open a variety pack of beer.

G'day, Mate! Ok, not really Australian... horrible attempt at a joke.

The people at Dundee Brewery, the people who brought you Honey Brown Beer, came out with this nifty mix pack. I have to say that these are all very enjoyable beers. None is overpowering, each has a distinct taste. For some odd reason, this is a very affordable 12 pack of craft beer, to the tune of $10.99 at Schnuck’s. That’s fine by me!

Finally, at about 3:30 or so, about 7 hours after going on the grill, Mr. Brisket is ready to pull. Remember to let the meat rest for about 15 minutes to the muscle tissue can relax. This allows easy slicing. Sharpen that knife.

Uber-tender

It sliced really well and we made sandwiches. I thought it was really good, just not quite as great as on the Super Bowl. I did not trim the fat from one side of the brisket prior to cooking, which may have prevented some of the paste / smoke flavor to penetrate that side of the meat. In hindsight, I will do that in the future.

I thought it was delicious, but I also felt compelled to add some seasoning at the end in the form of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and a little provolone cheese on my kaiser roll.

Mighty tender, mighty tasty

Everyone was impressed by the capabilities of the smoker and the quality of the BBQ. In the end, as long as all attendees fill their respective bellies and enjoy themselves, that’s all that matters. This was a solid effort and I was happy to have seconds, then pick at the platter of leftovers. An intimate family party of three kids and eight adults wiped out the nearly 8 lb. brisket. Needless to say, I am up to the brisket challenge going forward.

There was one family member who was happy that I did not trim the fat before smoking:

BBQ beef fat? OMG! NOM NOM NOM NOM!!

NB: The dog ate the paper plate. Idiot.

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Super Bowl Brisket

Brisket can be a challenge. It’s tough, it dries out easily, it’s not uniform in thickness. Patience is key.

I have made what I consider to be mediocre-at-best brisket. One of the reasons I hold Pappy’s in such high esteem is because it’s pretty much the best brisket I have ever eaten.

There’s really three keys to a good brisket, in my opinion: Season, Smoke, Steam.

I am using a 3.5 lb cut of a brisket, not the whole thing. I’m not Steven Raichlen and I’m not serving 30 people. My family of 5 destroyed a less-than-excellent 4 lb brisket last month, so this is a good size for our needs.

Moo, I am delicious

In the Super Bowl seasoning version of brisket, I used a mustard-based paste. I have heard this is a German technique, but I have no idea. More commonly this is used on spiral cut ham.

Paste: 12 oz. bottle spicy brown mustard (I prefer Gulden’s), 2 cups brown sugar (I used the molasses-treated cane sugar, though the real unrefined brown sugar is better), 1/2 cup paprika, 1/4 cup Lawry’s seasoned salt, and a generous squeeze of honey. Whisk it with a fork until fairly consistent. You will just have to live with the brown sugar lumps – you can’t get them all.

It looks like this in the bowl:

Tastes better than it looks

And it looks like this smeared on the brisket:

Like frosting a cake... a meat cake

I stuck it in the fridge overnight, wrapped snuggly in foil. Before going to bed, I also put a few bags of hickory wood chunks (not chips) into a 5 gallon bucket to soak overnight. They will want to float, so put a dinner plate and a brick on top to keep them submerged.

I've got wood

We had to go to 11:00 am mass, so I set up my coals for indirect cooking by 10:00am.

Coals / wood on one side...

The brisket went on the grill at 10:30 am. Once on the grill, I positioned the Weber 22″ grill’s lid vents over the meat, so that the smoke and heat is drawn out the vent past the meat.

... meat on the other side

Speaking of Steven Raichlen, he encourages lubricating the grill with a half onion dipped in olive oil. Stick the onion with a BBQ two-pronged fork and rub along the grill surface. I have done this frequently and it does a good job of keeping the meat from sticking to the grill and makes the grill itself last a little longer.

Olive Oil Lube... everybody wins

After praising Jebus for a little over an hour, I checked on the brisket. After two hours of smoking, the coals and wood were nearly gone, but still hot. The brisket at its thickest point had an internal temperature of 160 degrees. I rotated the brisket 180 degrees and flipped it over.

Two hours of smoke!

I re-loaded the grill with charcoal and wood. The key here, and the key for long smoking, is not to add too much charcoal. I have been guilty of this many times. Going slowly and patiently with the charcoal will prevent the meat from drying out, cooking too quickly, and getting a nice smoke ring in the meat. If you have a heavy hand on the charcoal, you will have overdone meat. In the case of brisket, it will be way too tough.

One of the great things about brisket is the burnt ends. When I was just starting college in Kansas City, a group of us went to a place called Jack Stack in Martin City, Missouri. I ordered one of the house specialties: the burnt ends. It was, to that point, the best BBQ I had ever had. They served it dry (no sauce), with cole slaw and pickles, on a hoagie bun.

A brisket cut, for the most part, is a thick cut of meat. Along two edges, though, the meat thins in thickness. During a hard smoke on the BBQ, this part of the meat gets an intense smoke flavor and can become tough nuggets of godliness. You can do a lot with burnt ends. I am considering trimming them, shredding them, and putting it in to my baked beans (another post). I may just eat them right off of the grill. Either way, these will not tenderize with the rest of the brisket.

After a total of three hours smoking, the brisket paste is crisped.

Three hours of smoking

It’s ready to steam. I doubled up some tough foil and made a boat around the brisket. I poured in a little apple juice (maybe 1/2 cup) to steam, and crimped it tightly around the meat to tenderize. It sits on the grill indirectly for another three hours.

BBQ Brisket Boat

I gave the brisket foil steam pouch a 180 degree turn after an hour steaming.

Post-Smoke Steaming brisket. Joyous.

Now would be a good time to drink a beer. May I suggest a Schlafly.

You can't technically BBQ without some beers

Finally, at 4:30pm, 6 hours after it went on the grill, I took off the brisket. Let it set for 10-15 minutes. Letting it sit is actually a critical step in BBQ; meat muscle relaxation, or something like that. I carved it against the grain.

You can kind of see the smoke ring here...

With all due respect to Pappy’s, this is about the best brisket I have ever had. I am shocked by how good this is. Holy hell.

Thank you, cow

Give it a shot. It took a long time, 24 hours of prep, 6 hours to cook total, but it was more than worth it. Good luck.

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