Category Archives: Brisket

Smoked Beef Brisket Pastrami

On a lark, I went to the grocery store to get a brisket to smoke for Halloween, but wound up also grabbing a corned beef brisket knowing that with a little effort it could turn into some tasty pastrami. The brisket was good not great, but I held out hopes for my pastrami experiment.

I’ve never tried to make it before, but amazingribs.com rarely steers me wrong. I found the “Close to Katz’s” recipe and figured it was worth a shot.

For my first attempt, I only debrined it for a little less than 24 hours, switching the water every 6-8 hours, so (spoiler alert) it wound up too salty.

Debrined corned beef, lathered in olive oi

Debrined corned beef, lathered in olive oil

After all the water soaking, despite dabbing with paper towels, the corned beef was still pretty moist from all the water. You can understand why the recipe called for lathering the brisket with olive oil to get the rub to stick.

Corned beef seasoned with rub

Corned beef seasoned with rub

For the trial run, the rub was less peppery and more on the sugary / seasoned salt side with plenty of onion powder and garlic powder.

Corned beef positioned on my new WSM

Corned beef positioned on my new WSM

I own a lot of BBQ gadgets and thingies, but hadn’t bought myself a nice smoker before. I have made a UDS and used my 22″ Weber kettle regularly, but that was it. Finally my wife was sick of hearing me say not to get me anything for Christmas or Fathers’ Day or my birthday or whatever. She gave me an ultimatum and said that she was going to buy me a smoker for Fathers’ Day with or without my input so I may as well pick it out. Without much hesitation I told her the 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain. This is its first big task.

Cherry wood logs in the WSM

Cherry wood logs in the WSM

Amazing Ribs suggested cherry wood so that’s what I went with, along with some hardwood charcoal.

After several hours of cherry wood smoke...

After several hours of cherry wood smoke…

Love the color and aroma as this thing slow smokes.

And plenty of smoke later, the corned beef is pastrami

And plenty of smoke later, the corned beef is pastrami

A good 12 hours after putting this thing on the WSM my corned beef transformed into pastrami. We pulled it and carved and served it up hot.

I should have checked the internal temperature, but failed to. It was close to dinner time, so I pulled it off for a rest.

Giving the pastrami a nice rest

Giving the pastrami a nice rest

By hot I mean of course after letting it rest for at least 20 minutes.

Well damn I have to say that looks pretty

Well damn I have to say that looks pretty

Carved up, I have to admit this is a gorgeous piece of meat.

Kids crushed it without any complaints – major rarity. My lessons here were: (1) debrine longer, (2) get the actual ingredients for the Katz rub from the Smoking Ribs site, and (3) check that internal temperature.

So… we were invited to a Friendsgiving dinner party. I offered some pastrami to our host and he obliged. Second attempt:

Debrined for 36 hours, with lots of water changes.

Two debrined corned beef briskets

Two debrined corned beef briskets

I was told to expect about 50ish people, with everyone bringing something. Hence the two corned beef hunks, though I probably should have made a third. This is about 6-7 lbs total, including the 30% weight added from the brining.

Unmixed Katz' pastrami rub

Unmixed Katz’ pastrami rub

This time I followed the Katz facsimile rub recipe, but doubled it given the amount of meat.

8 tablespoons fresh coarsely ground black pepper
4 tablespoons coriander powder
2 teaspoon mustard powder
2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoon paprika
4 teaspoons garlic powder
4 teaspoons onion powder

Well-rubbed corned beef brisket

Well-rubbed corned beef brisket

All sides got a heaping helpin’ of rub, after a good lube of olive oil (per the recipe). This is a very pepper-heavy rub. Very.

A couple of pickling spice packets

A couple of pickling spice packets

Each corned beef came with a vacuum pack of pickling spice, which Amazing Ribs said to just sprinkle on top of the corned beef on the grill.

Pickling spice applied, smoke ready to go

Pickling spice applied, smoke ready to go

My gifted WSM is up to the challenge. This time I chose pecan wood because… well it’s what they had in log form at Ace instead of cherry or other fruit wood.

Just 2 hours in

Just 2 hours in

I took pic every two hours…

4 hours in...

4 hours in…

6 hours...

6 hours…

8 hours...

8 hours…

10 hours

10 hours

And I checked that internal temperature and found all around that I had hit 205 or above. Smoking Ribs said it could take up to 12 hours but my WSM was running a little warm today.

As this WSM continued to smoke, I found myself checking the fire and temperature regularly. I kept the smoker at about 225-250 degrees, with plenty of pecan logs on the fire. I again used hardwood charcoal as the main fuel.

A few minutes of resting...

A few minutes of resting…

I gave it them a few minutes to rest before checking to see if there were any problems… you know, for scientific purposes.

Turns out this is just fine

Turns out this is just fine

Well this was friggin’ delicious. Kids were picking at it and I had to wrap it up for the dinner party before it got crushed.

After about 20-30 minutes of rest, I wrapped each up tightly in aluminum foil and put it in the fridge.

To carve, just cut perpendicular against the grain with a very sharp knife. I have a very nice custom boning knife gifted to me by a leadfooted friend who have a few too many speeding tickets. I caught someone recklessly slicing bread with it and warned her of the knife sharpness.

I bought a variety of mustards and a jar of sauerkraut, along with some rye bread squares, and served it all up on a carving board. It went quick and was a big hit.

The results of my labors

The results of my labors

I hate to boast but this was as good of a BBQed item as I’ve ever made. The Friendsgiving crowd obliterated the pastrami to rave reviews and I probably should have made a third one. It wasn’t nearly as salty as the first attempt – those extra 12 hours really helped. The rub was extra tasty and peppery – follow the recipe on Amazing Ribs.

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BBQ Joint Review (kind of): Busch Stadium

I spent my afternoon in a Busch Stadium party suite to watch my underachieving Cardinals earn a win over the pitiful Cubs.

A good vantage for complaining about balls and strikes

A good vantage for complaining about balls and strikes

Lunch was the best kind – paid for by someone else. Even better, it was bratwurst, hot dogs, and Busch Stadium’s BBQ brisket. The party room was big enough that there were two buffet lines. I hit up the first and snagged a brat and some brisket.

WTF happened here?

WTF happened here?

… or at least it was once brisket. The tongs struggled to grasp an appropriate amount of the stringy mess of beef. It wasn’t sliced at all – someone just shredded it whole, so there were long strands of meat randomly attached to other long strands of meat via fat and other sinew. I either got one strand of beef or a bird nest of beef. A frustrating buffet experience.

The string beef was not tender at all and had no smoke flavor or colors. Tough, dry beef does not make a good beer/baseball accompaniment. I was sad to report to a friend via text that this was inedible.

How was it made? My guess is someone over-baked it in an oven until they thought it was done and then beat it apart with a wooden spoon before pouring some pan drippings and BBQ sauce on top. Then the chef returned to his regular job of slicing potatoes silently in a dimly lit room under the stern gaze of Bill DeWitt III.

Chugging a Budweiser (also free) in an effort to forget the abomination beef, the guy next to me had a brisket sandwich. He raved, telling me all about how great it was. Rather than insult his malfunctioning palate for being impressed with shoe leather noodles, I just nodded at him. Sure thing, Buddy. He’s probably the same guy that votes for Olive Garden in the annual “best pasta” RFT diner survey.

Back inside, I got another free beer from the other side of the party suite and snagged a sub-par (but free) cookie. Glancing into the brisket tray on that side, something caught my eye…

How did I miss this?

How did I miss this?

More brisket, but (1) it’s sliced, and thinly at that, (2) it has pink smoke color on both sides of the slice, (3) it looks appetizing, and (4) I can recognize it as beef brisket. Can’t say that about the other tray.

How was it? Tender and tasty. No sinewy pull in the bites. It was flavorful and delicate and the sauce balanced well against the meat. Some non-incompetent person made this. An actual BBQ person. Amazing, considering the crud I’d just eaten on the other side of the party suite.

For the sake of comparison:

One good, one... not so good (or worse)

One good [right], one… not so good [left]

Something terrible happened in the BBQ kitchen at Busch. I hope that apprentice who made the fiasco was fired and sent back to whatever menial job he normally has. Sell felt pennants on Clark Avenue – just never touch the food intended for humans again. Clydesdales might even turn their gigantic noses up at that beef.

The well-made brisket was well made and I ate a bunch of it. If this was a restaurant, I’d probably get it again on a future trip. If you find yourself a guest in a party room at Busch, have a keen eye on BOTH buffet lines and don’t settle for bad brisket.

BBQ Joint Review: The Salted Pig

Mid-morning I received an email from a friend that he wanted to try a new place called The Salted Pig and he wondered if I was game. Never heard of it, but he had me at “Salted Pig”.

Some Google searches revealed that this is the BBQ venture of Mike Del Pietro, who owns Sugo’s, which is my parents’ favorite pizza place in STL not owned by my uncle. That’s a strong resume.

Occupying the immediately-former Frontenac Grill site, a place better known as the former site of Coco’s (some breakfast place), The Salted Pig sits in a large out lot building at the corner of Lindbergh and Conway in the central STL county city of Frontenac, where stuff’s expensive. I waited tables in Frontenac for a few years and made bank. Big houses with gates and big retail sticker prices. So I planned to pay the municipality standard upcharge… the BBQ had better be worth it.

A welcome sign

A welcome sign

Quick anecdote that is relevant here: Some of us have noticed that when *ahem* larger people frequent restaurants, then the food is probably pretty good (the Sams Club cafe notwithstanding). For example, I once waited 20 minutes for some fried chicken at a local hotspot, but there were no fewer than 6x 400 lbs. people quietly, patiently, gleefully awaiting their carry out chicken. It occurred to me that the chicken is probably pretty damned good. Turns out it was really delicious.

Why is that relevant? My dining companion texted me from the parking lot (since he got there a few minutes ahead of me): “A big fat guy just walked out looking happy. That’s a good sign.”

Approaching the door, wafts of aroma from unseen smokers let us know we had probably made a good lunch decision.

Close up of the menu attachment mechanism

Close up of the menu attachment mechanism

The menus are single pieces of printed cardstock attached to a thin plank of stained wood via a pair of rubber bands. In fact, dark stained wood and earth tones dominate the decor of the restaurant, both inside and out. I quite enjoyed it.

From a bevy of appetizing options, I ordered the brisket chili, a half slab of baby back ribs, and a Sofie.

A complaint: My chili and entree arrived simultaneously. You’d think that the chili would have been an appetizer, or at least the waiter would have asked if I wanted it out first. Neither was the case, and I was handed a lot of food at once. Coursing is nice. Having to shift my ready-to-eat rib platter aside so that I can get going on my chili while it’s hot is not.

Mike got the pulled pork, which came on a bun (probably uselss) with fries. He wisely asked for an extra side of sauce.

Though not mine, an enviable plate of food

Though not mine, an enviable plate of food

The pulled pork plate looked simple enough. Minimalist generic fries, no pickles(!), and a heapin’ helpin’ of lightly sauced meat on a toasted bun.

My chili looked pretty good, deep red and chunky in a deep bowl atop a dishrag on a large plate with a single crouton.

Brisket chili

Brisket chili, w/ towel garnish

My ribs looked even better, paired with ceramic ramekins of beans and slaw. I’m psyched.

Yes, I'm that asshole who photographs his food at a restaurant

Yes, I’m that asshole who photographs his food at a restaurant

Pulled Pork:

Mike’s going to have a nice afternoon balancing the books at Frankenfoods, Inc. with a belly full of this pork. He slid me a few generous shreds in exchange for a rib and a chunk of brisket from my chili. I have to say it was pretty solid pulled pork. This piggy was not particularly salted, but the seasoning was restrained and well-balanced. As I suspected, the bun/bread was useless. In fact, it just soaked up valuable, valuable sauce.

On to this sauce… it reminded us both of a sauce I used to to make. Basically I would boil down a gallon of cider vinegar with oodles of seasonings and ingredients. Their sauce was vinegary, sweet, salty. It coated the meat perfectly and complemented the seasoning of the pork. Really a nice job with the sauce.

The feedback on the pork is that it’s impressive and filling and satisfying. I enjoyed my two big bites for sure.

Brisket Chili:

Chunky and flavorful. Large pieces of onion, loads of tender red beans, and huge chunks of hyper-tender brisket. Plenty of salt, but the spice is perfect. I swear I picked up on some green bell pepper flavors, but couldn’t find any pieces. It’s a great bowl of food. Everything is tender and velvety, with a nice presence in the mouth around the tongue. My only gripe with this chili (if I have to pick one) is that some of the beans were a little mealy instead of melty, but overall this was a really nice chili. Brisket is a solid chili ingredient, more so than pork in my opinion.

The crouton that came with the chili was apparently garnish not to be consumed. It didn’t taste like a typical crouton. This was clearly a slice of bread that accidentally went 80% stale and someone spritzed butter on it. I scooped some chili on the breadly wafer and took a bite and immediately regretted wasting chili on this greasy stale styrofoam display disguised as bread. It needed a silica gel warning – desiccant: do not consume.

Otherwise the chili was epic.

As amazing as the brisket chili was… I’m typing this review several hours later, and, well… I’ll let Coleman from Trading Places explain it.

"It gives me the wind, something terrible"

“It gives me the wind, something terrible”

Baby Back Pork Ribs:

Very tender with a nice smoke flavor. Some places put on too much rub before the smoke, or put on a bunch unnecessarily after the smoke, or the rub is too damned salty. None of the above here. What I liked about this rib was the tenderness. Nearly too tender, since there was very little pull back on the bite into the ribs, but the bite was better than anything I’ve ever made.

Great smoke color

Great smoke color

I’m not sure how they smoke these so that all the pink is on the convex side of the ribs, with a very deep ring.

What impresses me about these ribs is that the seasoning is modest and restrained, but done very well. The pork is respected during the cooking process to the point that the meat is the star, not the clever rub.

This shocked me: These ribs can hang with the top tier pork ribs in STL.

Sides: Beans and Slaw

The slaw was a solid cabbage and vinegar mixture with a generous portion of celery seed with paper thin slivers of carrot. It was just a tad oily, but really refreshing and a nice pairing with the ribs.

The beans were good, not great.  Lots of shredded meat in the beans, and it was a thick ramekin of beans. Not too spicy or salty, but pretty decent. The least impressive part of a great meal. Slightly above average beans. I didn’t come here for beans, though; I came out for salted pork.

The result was a clean plate.

Compliments to the chef; Apologies to the dishwasher

Compliments to the chef; Apologies to the dishwasher

The bottom line from this meal is that we were blown away in terms of reality vs. expectations.

I figured it was going to be another fancypants attempt at modern BBQ, which is a nice way of saying some idiot’s interpretation of pork and beef. No no no. This was a very impressive assortment of well-made, traditional BBQ. I’m happy to have gone, and we’re probably heading back on Friday with a friend from out of town (as in China) who wants to chow on some USA BBQ.

I recommend you give this place a shot. Frontenac or not, the price wasn’t outrageous, but the BBQ was top notch.

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BBQ Joint Review: Bogarts Smokehouse

Happy Fat Tuesday!

What better way to celebrate than with a lawyer buddy over some BBQ, followed by some beer. My long-overdue trip to Bogart’s Smokehouse in Soulard finally happened.

Line not out the door yet?

Line not out the door yet?

Every time I’ve been by this place, the line has been out the door. Usually it’s midday on a weekend to visit the adjacent Soulard Farmers Market, but on this chilly late STL morning, the line was only about 15-20 people deep.

This place doesn’t need hype from me. Since it opened about three years ago, it’s become regarded my many as the best BBQ in St. Louis. Friends who know I am trying to review all STL BBQ places worth reviewing cannot believe I haven’t yet been to Bogart’s.

Bogarts sits in a typical Soulard corner store with a narrow, colorful, welcoming facade. Like its restaurant cousin, Adam’s Smokehouse, seating is at a premium at Bogart’s.  Apparently burnt ends are a premium, too… at 11:30 in the morning!

Dammit. I love burnt ends.

Dammit. I love burnt ends.

Prices are reasonable for premium BBQ. I like to go with two meat combos so I can maximize my meat sampling.

This is seriously the most difficult part of my day

This is seriously the most difficult part of my day

For my Pick 2, I of course went with the brisket and paired it with more beef – tri-tip sirloin, and selected pit beans and cole slaw as my sides, all with an iced tea.

Lots of good stuff w/ useless bread

Lots of good stuff w/ useless bread

Pardon the blurriness of this photo, but we were packed into seats like sardines. I’m literally elbow-to-elbow with both of my neighbors.

Lunch buddy Pete, who picked up the tab with the promise that he’d turn in the receipt for reimbursement from Mr. Huge STL Law Firm, also went the Pick 2 route, but got tri-tip and pork ribs, and opted for potato salad over slaw.

Good choices

Good choices

Everyone gets a packet of Heinz Horseradish Sauce. Why? There’s four BBQ sauces on the table, and the meat is amazing as a stand alone product. Why take mayo w/ horseradish puree made in a metal vat in Pennsylvania and present it as an accompaniment to handcrafted elite BBQ? Maybe it was put there ironically…

Finally some expertly-made brisket that’s actually BBQ-style brisket (and not the stuff they slung me at Wild Smoke House).

Real beef brisket

Real beef brisket

What can I say but that this was expertly tender and just generally perfect. Exact balance of smoke and spice, amazing color and smoke ring, nice little ribbon of fat, generous portion for a 1/2 serving, reasonably restrained hand at the seasoning. Try this and attempt to appreciate the heightened skill and years of experience that went into making this food.

Bottom line is this is the best brisket in town (that I’ve tried to date, taking into consideration that day-to-day meat sampling may vary, and I haven’t been everywhere yet,  etc.).

The tri-tip was also amazingly epic. I haven’t seen many places serve up BBQ tri-tip, which I’ve only managed to make very, very poorly. Adam’s Smokehouse makes an impressive tri-tip, but Bogart’s is elite. The two are 1 and 1A.

Bogart’s tri-tip was thinly sliced and loaded with ribbons and marbles of fat, nicely pink internally. It cut smoothly and each bite was velvety, buttery. Just a spectacular job on this meat. I need to reinvest myself in making this.

Pit beans were among the best beans I’ve ever had. Sensing a theme here? They were rich and thick, with a hearty spice finish. I got a few nice hunks of brisket as well as lots of little brisket shreds. You can taste the BBQ drippins in these beans. Manly legumes.

Cole slaw… meh. It was creamy but not too rich. I thought it was too sweet for me, but I’m a vinegary slaw fan. This is a personal preference thing, although I think there were cooked chilled apple slices in there? Maybe next time I’ll follow Pete’s lead and get the deviled egg potato salad.

Good Guy Pete passed me a rib. What are friends for?!

I was full... until he handed me one of these

I was full… until he handed me one of these

Perfect tenderness and bite. Excellent flavor, smoke, finishing crust & seasoning. Maybe I’ll just get these next time and really indulge myself. But this was one amazing pork rib.

A truly successful Mardi Gras lunch. How best to finish this gluttonous holiday? Maybe a lead-footed friend who wanted to pay some legal fees?

Legal fees

Legal fees

Urban Chestnut, Rogue, and PBR? I hope this guy keeps speeding all over Rock Hill! I drank a bunch of fees and fell asleep on the couch, which is why I’m posting this on Ash Wednesday and not Fat Tuesday. (And, no, I’m not giving beer or BBQ or anything for Lent.)

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BBQ Joint Review: Wild Smoke House

Is it fair to judge a BBQ joint based on its first day of business? Its first hour of business? Look, you tell everyone on Reddit that there’s a new BBQ place in town and I’m going to show up on opening day.

Is it fair for me to consider ribs and brisket to be a suitable and universal baseline comparison between all BBQ restaurants? Those are the two things that I’ve found require intense levels of skill (based on trips to restaurants and on personal experience), and so those are the two things I try to get at every BBQ joint gauge that joint against all others. Two kinds of meat, two distinct flavors, lots of patience and talent required, etc. If you do both well, you’ve got your act together.

These two things in mind… I present my review of Wild Smoke House in Creve Coeur, MO.

As usual, I phoned my father with news that I needed a BBQ sampling partner and he was all too happy to oblige. On a late Tuesday morning we ventured together to the site of a former Culpepper’s, just west of I-270 on the south side of Olive.

Wild Smoke? I like smoke!

Wild Smoke? I like smoke!

Clearly they spent some cash renovating this place. Things are nice and new and clean. Cloth napkins holding my silverware!

Cloth napkins!

Cloth napkins!

Cowhide (or cowhide prints) for booth seating!

Moo. Ok, maybe no cow actually died for this booth. A bunch died for lunch, though.

Moo. Ok, maybe no cow actually died for this booth. A bunch died for lunch, though.

Woah, some kind of RFID laser-tag system that differentiates my table from the table two feet away? Order and pay first and then take this thing to your seat. Ok, sweet.

Hey, we're No. 1! Also, this is apparently not a coaster.

Hey, we’re No. 1! Also, this is apparently not a coaster.

So a ton of high end stuff went into this place, and it looks literally nothing like the Culpepper’s that was here before. And there’s lots and lots of people working there. And the hostess is unnecessarily hot. But, how is the food?

Background on this place is that it’s owned by winery people who also run Edge Wild in Chesterfield, where their smoked food apparently sells well when on the menu. And they are collaborating with some guys who won a recent chicken wing championship. Great… how about a brisket and pork platter with slaw and an order of onion rings?

It came out VERY quickly after ordering.

My lunch: Brisket ribs and slaw (with pickles)

My lunch: Brisket ribs and slaw (with pickles)

Dad’s a big BBQ chicken fan.

Dad's lunch: chicken ribs and slaw (and also some pickles)

Dad’s lunch: chicken ribs and slaw (and also some pickles)

And we love onion rings.

Ginormous onion rings and sauce

Ginormous onion rings and sauce

And they provided us with a sampling of four home-made BBQ sauces (and also had a squeezy pump of ketchup adjacent thereto).

Shiny new sauce dispensers. None of this "bottles of sauce on the table" shit!

Shiny new sauce dispensers. None of this “bottles of sauce on the table” shit!

Impressive in their diversity.

Four sauces, none like the other

Four sauces, none like the other

On to the food:

Beef Brisket – Very thinly sliced, including a big fat cap you find on untrimmed brisket. I saw some really nice color on a couple slices (see below), but for the most part there was no smoke ring or color.  The ring is a chemical reaction, and the lack of it is not indicative of a lack of smoke, but the ring looks nice.

Wild Smoke's Brisket

Wild Smoke’s Brisket

This is not your typical brisket. When you go to PM BBQ, Pappy’s, Sugar Fire, Hendricks, etc. you get a tender bite of meat sliced a certain way with certain flavors. Variations between those traditional BBQ briskets are rubs, injections, tenderness, color, etc. Wild Smoke gave me ultra-thin slices of brisket that had no detectable smoke flavor and had zero of the tender bite of a normal sliced brisket. Literally unexpected.

I can only describe it as roast beef. Now, this was utterly succulent and tender and juicy and flavorful roast beef, but unless I knew from ordering it and watching them slice it that it was BBQ brisket, I would never ever have guessed as much. Put some jus on this and stick it on a sesame bun, and you’re eating a kickass roast beef sandwich. There was a nice pepper finish to the meat. I just was expecting traditional BBQ brisket.

The rockin’ steak knives that we got were useless with the brisket. The serration depth of the knives was greater than the than the thickness of the cut of the meat, so cutting pieces of the slices was not very effective. Just stringy tearing and shredding; no cutting. The steak knife was effectively another fork. Just a plain old knife would have done fine. And a useful knife would have been nice due to all the fat cap I trimmed. (Yes, the cap adds flavor during smoking, but I don’t want to eat all the fat.)

Baby Back Ribs – With my brisket they gave me three thick but short ribs. Before slicing the slab, they applied some kind of rub that had a nice little heat finish after each bite. Great flavor and some nice pink color.

Great looking ribs

Great looking ribs

The convex arch meat of my first of the ribs had a literally perfect bite. When I sunk my teeth in, there was the most subtle tender tug back but nothing pulled off the bone. It was like biting into a firm yet yielding slice of meat bread. I even photographed it to memorialize.

Great bite of pork!

Great bite of pork!

Sadly that was the only perfect bite. The lateral side bits of rib were not quite so tender and needed some teeth gnashing and tearing. The other two of my ribs were also not particularly tender. It’s a shame because the flavor was spot on and the color looked great. Maybe STL style ribs would have fared better? Maybe something else in the process needed to be controlled more tightly?

The reason I use pork ribs and beef brisket as a baseline is because it’s extremely hard to make them perfectly consistently. My ribs were not consistently perfect, in fact neither consistent nor perfect. Pretty good, but given the local competition in pork ribs, these pale in comparison. The bar is set high. Very high.

Onion Rings – Yes, you only get three, but they are three humongous hemispheres of fried onion. Great crunch of thick batter and perfectly salted, but they were a little greasy. The sauce was… not so good. Too heavy and rich and the flavor didn’t match the salt / crunch of the rings. Just discard the sauce and use the rings to sample the BBQ sauces. Three to an order is plenty for a two person appetizer.

Cole Slaw – What, uh, what the heck is going on in this slaw? It’s loaded with sunflower kernels and white raisins. The veggies are crisp (borderline crunchy) and there’s a little more carrot shred going on here than I’m used to. It’s both creamy and vinegary, instead of just choosing one, and I cannot put my finger on whatever other flavor they tossed in here, or maybe it’s the white raisins.

To steal a rant from Adam Carolla, iced tea is really good and doesn’t need innovation. Lemon wedges were about as innovative as we needed with respect to iced tea. Then some people started putting passion fruit into it (looking at YOU, Schlafly Tap Room), which is needlessly screwing with a wonderful thing that didn’t need abusive tinkering. At least at Schlafly when you order it they say, “Oh, it’s passion fruit iced tea. Is that okay” so you have a chance to say, “No. No, that’s not okay at all. I’ll just have a beer even though it’s 11am and I have to go back to work.” That’s what happened here, but no one said to me, “Listen, we do some goofy stuff with our slaw and you probably actually want the beans. Just a heads up.”

Someone is getting really cute with cole slaw and I just don’t understand why. My dad liked it. Nay, he LOVED it. (He’s hopped up on pain meds these days.) But, I was a little perplexed. You see clever cooking shows where someone reinvents a classic or puts their spin on a popular dish… that happened here, but instead of the judge (me) saying OMG this is amazing, I’m just making a mental note: never get that again.

Pickles – Firm and tart with a great cucumber flavor not overpowered by brine. Reminds me of a home made kosher pickle. I really liked these pickles.

Sauce: Showdown – Super sweet and evocative of an overly patronizing attempt at an STL-style (according to Kraft foods) bottle sauce.

Sauce: Tennessee Zed – Tarter and pepperier than the Showdown sauce, and thankfully less sweet. I guess it’s the best of the lot, which isn’t saying much. The only Zed I know of was in Pulp Fiction and had questionable interests.

Sauce: Carolina Peach – How did this go?

Me: I love yellow Carolina sauces!

(samples sauce)

Me: This is not good.

No, it’s not mustardy at all. It’s kind of tart and sweet and goopy. Really the texture is totally off. It’s got as much in common with a traditional Carolina sauce as maple syrup, which is to say they’re completely unrelated.

Sauce: Root Beer Molasses – Ok please stop. Tasted like a root beer barrel candy with some pepper in it. So odd and it made no sense to me at all. Why?

On a scale of Yuck to Yum, these sauces averaged a Meh, borderline Blah.

Summary: I really really wanted to like this place because I consider myself a meat optimist and I want STL to be a haven to superior BBQ. This place is just different and not my style at all. Maybe it will succeed with flying colors by doing things that are not just outside the box but several dimensions outside the cube.

Don’t go there thinking you will get brisket and slaw and have the BBQ lunch you are used to. You’re getting someone’s attempt to try new things, which I can respect. Those new things just aren’t my thing.

Will I go back? Yes, for a couple reasons. First, it was their first day and there are bound to be kinks that need working out. Second, I will try other things on the menu to see if maybe there are some more traditional BBQ experiences that I might enjoy. There’s enough badass normal BBQ joints in town to satisfy my needs. If you want a totally different experience on BBQ or maybe regular BBQ isn’t your thing and you want to see someone else’s take on it – then this place is for you.

I’ll go once more to (likely) confirm my impressions from this review. In the meantime, this place should probably trade off of its uniqueness. Not for everyone, but maybe it has a home in STL. I’m all for diversity. I sincerely hope they do really well and anchor that shopping strip for years.

Epilogue – Hey, their beer taps look awesome!

Beers (to wash away that slaw flavor)!

Beers (to wash away that slaw flavor)!

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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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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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