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Monday, May 28, 2012

Competition Style Barbecued Pork from the Backyard

Competition Style Barbecued Pork
Barbecuing a pork shoulder or butt (the top portion of the shoulder) is really one of the easiest things to do. Pork butt is a very forgiving cut of meat with plenty of fat that helps to maintain moisture during the cooking process. If you are just beginning to cook barbecue, barbecue a pork butt. It's almost impossible to mess one up.

While cooking a delicious barbecued pork butt is easy it takes a lot of skill to take it up to the next level and turn it into something special. KCBS competition cooks do just that. The time, effort, skill, and expense that competition cooks put into pork butt is extensive and the barbecued pork they cook shows it.

Part of cooking a competition pork butt is knowing the muscles in the pork shoulder. Each muscle in the butt has its own unique qualities. The competition cook takes all of that into consideration when preparing, barbecuing, and pulling/slicing pork for turn in to the judges.

One muscle on a pork butt is particularly delicious. It's actually a part of the neck muscle. Competition cooks call it the "money muscle" because they feel they will win competitions when they turn it in.
The "Money Muscle" on a Pork Butt
The money muscle is a well marbled and very flavorful cut of meat. It really is one of the best parts of the pork butt that you can eat. The problem is, it cooks much quicker than the rest of the pork butt. That's the challenge for a KCBS cook. How do you cook delicious, mouth watering, tender barbecue using a pork butt without overcooking the money muscle and having it fall apart? KCBS rules do not allow the cook to separate the money muscle from the rest of the shoulder. So, the whole pork butt must be cooked to perfection in one piece.

One great thing about cooking barbecue in your backyard is, there are no rules. You can cook barbecue the way you like it. So, without going into all of the meticulous processes that competition cooks go through to cook a competition pork butt, here is how a backyard barbecue cook can easily cook competition quality barbecued pork.

1.) You need one 8 pound pork butt. Look for one with a large money muscle.

Money Muscle Removed from the Butt

2.) Trim off the excess fat. Then, cut the money muscle off as show in the photo.

3.) Apply your favorite barbecue rub.

4.) Fire up your barbecue smoker to about 290 to 300 degrees F. Make sure you are using indirect heat.

5.) Place the meat in the smoker and let it cook for 3 hours. Spritz it every half hour with water or a 50/50 mix of apple juice and water.

6.) After 3 hours of cooking, check the internal temperature of the money muscle. It should be around 170 degrees F. Double wrap both portions of the butt in foil and put them back in the smoker.

Money Muscle Ready for Slicing

7.) After about another hour of cooking, check the internal temperature of the money muscle. It should be getting close to 198 degrees F. If it hasn't reached that temperature, wrap it back up and put it back in the smoker. Check it every 15 minutes.

8.) When the money muscle has reached an internal temperature of 198 degrees F, remove it from the smoker, wrap it in foil then wrap it in a blanket and let it rest for 2 hours.

9.) After cooking in the foil for 2 hours, it's time to check the internal temperature of the large portion of the pork butt. When it has reached an internal temperature of 203 to 205 degrees, remove it from the smoker, wrap it in foil and wrap it in a blanket and let it rest for at least 1 hour.

10.) After the rest, pull the meat from the large portion of shoulder. Remove excess fat and other things you don't want to eat. Get a sharp knife and safely slice the money muscle into medallions.

11.) It's time to eat! Arrange the meat on a serving tray in a way that highlights those beautiful, moist, tender, flavorful money muscle medallions, serve (with or without sauce) and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Barbecue Secret Number 9 - The Spritz Bottle

Applying a liquid to the surface of meat while it is being barbecued is a long held barbecue cooking practice. Originally, sticks with cloth attached to the ends were dipped into a liquid of salt, pepper, and vinegar or water, and lard or butter. The mop was then "dabbed" on the meat to transfer the liquid. This method of applying moisture to the surface of the meat is called mopping and it's still a common practice. Around 1706, some English colonists in Jamaica cooked a barbecued hog and mopped it with Virginia pepper and Madeira wine. The mop was made using a fox's tail tied to the end of a stick (Barbecue - The Story of an American Institution by Robert F. Moss). Now, that's one barbecue I'm glad I missed.

In our times, we don't have to resort to fox tails, thank goodness. We have food safe brushes made of various food safe and clean materials such as silicon and plastic. We also have the spray bottle. That's my tool of choice for adding moisture to the outside of barbecue while it's cooking.

Barbecue Secret Number 9 - Use a food safe spray bottle to spritz barbecue as it's cooking.

If you grill, you know that a spray bottle filled with water is a handy device to have around to deal with flare ups. When a flare up begins just give it a little spray from the bottle and everything is back under control. However, a spray bottle can also be a great tool for cooking barbecue.

For example, a spray bottle filled with either bottled water or a 50/50 mix of apple juice and water used to spritz barbecue every 30 minutes or so can improve the flavor, texture and appearance of your barbecue. The cool liquid in the bottle cools the outside surface of the meat which helps to prevent it from drying out and becoming stringy. It also helps with the color. Because the surface is slightly cooled by the liquid being spritzed on it, any sugars in the rub are also cooled down which helps to prevent the rub from turning black.

For pork, try a spritz of a 50/50 mix of bottled water and apple juice. For chicken, try pineapple juice. For beef, try a 50/50 mix of bottled water and Worcestershire sauce.

For more Barbecue Secrets Click Here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The 2012 Chesapeake Jubilee KCBS Barbecue Competition

KCBS Representative Al Bowen in
front of the Judge's Tent
It was a beautiful day this past Saturday, May 19, 2012 in Chesapeake, VA at the annual Chesapeake Jubilee KCBS sanctioned barbecue competition. Twenty six teams fired up their smokers and barbecued chicken, pork ribs, pork butt, and brisket to compete for the $14,000.00 prize money.

I was a table captain and also served double duty as a judge. We had some great barbecue at our table. Judging a barbecue competition isn't really about eating delicious barbecue. Yes, that's a part of it, but it's really a very serious task. Teams travel hundreds of miles, spend literally thousands of  dollars, and spend hours and hours perfecting their craft. As a judge at the events, it must be a most serious and carefully executed job. The teams did their very best to cook the best barbecue they possibly could. The judges have a responsibility to do their very best to professionally judge the barbecue entries.

A big congratulations goes out to Tarheel Smokers for winning the Grand Champion and to Belmont House of Smoke for winning Reserve Grand Champion!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Henry Perry - Father of Kansas City Barbecue

Henry Perry's newspaper advertisement, The Kansas City Sun, December 22, 1917

According to the biography written by Daniel Coleman, Henry Perry, The Barbecue King, was born in 1875 in Shelby County, TN. When Perry was 15 years of age he got a job working in steamboat kitchens sailing on the Mississippi river. By 1907, Perry had moved on to Kansas City and found work as a porter in a Quality Hill saloon. In 1908, Perry began serving barbecue to workers in the Garment District from a barbecue stand. His labors paid off and soon he moved to a better location at 17th and Lydia and finally settling a few years later at 1514 E. 19th Street.

Perry was selling barbecue cooked over oak and hickory wrapped in newspaper for  25 cents. The sauce was harsh and peppery not sweet and tomato based. After Perry died at the age of 66 in 1940, Charlie Bryant, one of Perry's employees, inherited the business. He sold the restaurant to his brother, Arthur, who toned down the harshness of the sauce with tomato and moved to a location near the old Municipal Stadium. Today, the restaurant is known as Arthur Bryant's BBQ.

Besides the meats we think of like beef, pork, chicken, etc. when talking about Kansas City barbecue, the original Kansas City barbecue menu, as seen in the above advertisement, also included meats such as ground hog, raccoon, mutton, and opossum. When is the KCBS going to include those as categories in their sanctioned competitions?

You also may not have known, but Henry Perry was a very generous man. The Kansas City Sun, July 3, 1920 reported that Perry served a free barbecue dinner to 1000 "old men, women, and children" on the vacant lot behind his 19th and Vine street restaurant. When asked to comment about the barbecue Perry is reported to have replied "God has been so good to me" indicating that he was glad to share his blessings with others. According to the July 24, 1920 The Kansas City Sun, Perry's guests were served free of charge all the barbecue beef, pork, and mutton they could eat along with watermelon, lemonade, and soda pop.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Tribute to Central Texas Barbecue Brisket

Sliced Brisket Point Cooked Texas Style
Aaron Franklin, Pitmaster/Owner of Franklin Barbecue
in Austin, TX
If you have never had the pleasure of eating some barbecued brisket from the great barbecue restaurants of central Texas, you are missing a treat. Central Texas brisket is moist and tender with a rich beefy flavor.

So, you are not going to be visiting Texas any time soon? No worries because here is how you can barbecue a Texas style brisket right in your own backyard.

First, you will need a Texas style beef rub. Here are the ingredients:

1/4 cup coarse salt such as kosher or sea salt.
1/4 cup coarse ground black pepper. If you can get it, use 16 mesh, dustless cracked black pepper, otherwise coarse ground will do.
Worcestershire sauce
Optional - 1 Teaspoon of fine ground cayenne pepper

Second, you will need a full packer brisket. I like to cook certified Angus or choice graded beef. A full packer brisket is one with both the point and the flat. And, you will need some vegetable oil. Trim up the edges of the brisket and remove as much fat from the top (meat side) as you can. But, don't trim off the fat cap that's on the bottom. Now, apply a light coat of vegetable oil to the edges and top of the brisket. The oil will help the rub stick. Apply a generous amount of rub to the top and sides of the brisket. It's not important to season the bottom (fat cap) because that will be discarded after cooking anyway.

Full Packer Brisket on the Smoker
Third, you need a barbecue smoker or grill setup for cooking with indirect heat and a couple of chunks of white or post oak wood for smoke. Bring the cooking temperature up to about 300 to 325 degrees F. Yes, that's right, 300 to 325 degrees F. The great central Texas restaurants don't cook no brisket at no 225 degrees. No sir, partner, they cook them from 265 F to 350 F depending on the day, the smoker, the cook, and the fire. Now, put the brisket in the cooker fat cap down for vertical/Weber kettle cookers and fat cap up in horizontal cookers. If using a horizontal cooker, flip the brisket over after about 1 hour of cooking. If using a Weber kettle, you may have to spin (not flip) the brisket 180 degrees so that the other edge is facing the fire. This is important if you begin to see scorching. Let the brisket cook for two hours.

Brisket wrapped in butcher paper resting after the cook
Fourth, you will need either some butcher paper or aluminum foil, 1/8 a cup of bottled water and 1/8 a cup of Worcestershire sauce mixed in a spritzer bottle. Remove the brisket from the cooker and set it on top of enough paper or foil to be able to wrap it up. Liberally spritz the brisket with the Worcestershire sauce/water mixture but be careful not to wash off any of the rub. Wrap the brisket tightly in two layers of paper or foil. Put the brisket back in the cooker and let it cook for another 2 hours.

Fifth, you will need a meat thermometer. After two hours of cooking wrapped, test the internal temperature of the brisket. You need at least 205 degrees F on both ends and in the middle. There is no need to unwrap the brisket for this just probe right through the wrap. If it hasn't reached 205F all over, let it cook for another 20 minutes and check it again. After you have done a few of these, you will learn how to tell when the brisket is done just by how the probe goes into the meat.

Sixth, you will need a clean blanket. When the brisket has reached 205F internal, remove it from the cooker and wrap it up well in a blanket. Let it rest for 1 hour.

Seventh, you now need some family and friends to help you eat. Unwrap the brisket and put it on a clean cutting board. Slice it against the grain into pencil thin slices and enjoy!

Brisket Flat cooked Central Texas Style
If you've done your job as a barbecue cook, the meat should be tender, juicy and beefy and it will be as close to barbecued Texas brisket as you can get this side (East) of the Mississippi. "What about sauce?" you may be asking? They don't eat no barbecue sauce in central Texas. That stuff is for the tourists, greenhorn! Instead, try some sliced avocado, sliced sandwich bread, some cheddar cheese, and a pickle.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Virginia Barbecue in 1884

Illustration from The Evening Herald, August 18, 1906

The following is excerpted  from an article that appeared in The Washington Post, November 2, 1884. The newspaper was damaged and some of the text isn't available. The portions enclosed in brackets [ ] are portions I added in an attempt to maintain readability.

The dictionary meaning of the word is, "a large social entertainment, usually in the open air, at which animals are roasted whole, and other provisions of all kinds are consumed."
The place was a Virginia picnic resort in the heart of the woods, not many miles from Washington [D.C.]. It was particularly fitted for a barbecue, being furnished with a pavilion and a bountiful spring, while through the hollow ran a little stream, a tributary of the Potomac. The woods around were clothed in all the gorgeous dress of autumn. Early in the day the farmers began to arrive, bringing their wives and families in commodious farm wagons, and picketing their horses in the grove. To them a barbecue was not a novelty. They had attended these gatherings when they were boys, and now as grown men had come once again to listen to the speeches and eat a barbecue dinner.
The night previous to the barbecue an ox weighing 600 pounds had been slaughtered and dressed. A trench about three feet wide, three feet deep, and six feet long, had been dug in the ground, and an iron grating laid in it a few inches from the bottom. Upon this grating an immense fire of logs had been built and the carcass of the ox had been "spitted" with a long pole, which was supported on tripods at each end of the trench. At one end of the spit was a crank, and this was turned steadily by relays of men during the entire night, the fire being kept as near a uniform height as possible. 
From twelve to fifteen hours are required to roast an ox this [big]. The seasoning of pepper [and salt and vinegar mixed] in a bucket and applied [with mops as] the crank is being [turned until the meat] soon assumes a rich [brown color which] is a most savory one. [missing text] be taken not to cook the barbecue. Generally a man who has [much experience] in barbecues is engaged specially for the occasion, and he must give the cooking his entire attention if he wishes to make his work satisfactory. When the roasting is complete the fire is allowed to die out, but the ox remains upon the spit, the admiration of the large crowd, until it is time to cut up the meat for dinner. In the same way three or four sheep are roasted whole. 
But simply bread and meat will not do for a barbecue dinner. The immense iron pot... is filled to the brim with sweet potatoes. A barrel and a half of these are consumed at the barbecue which is now being described. The coffee, too, is made on a large scale. Ten or fifteen pounds are wrapped up in a cloth and thrown into a pot holding nearly a hundred gallons of boiling water. By this means there are no loose grounds in the pot, and the coffee in the cloth looks like an immense plum pudding. It is a crowd easily satisfied which does not require the pot to be filled up two or three times.
The dinner is served on wooden plates, each person being given a tin cupfull of coffee, a pickle, a sweet potato, a piece of beef and mutton, bread in abundance, and sometimes cheese. The coffee is taken from the pot to the long tables in buckets, and the bread is sliced and carried in barrels. 
There is no indication that the barbecue is dying out. It is a part of the South, and has had considerable to do with making Southern history.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Barbecue Secret Number 8 - Aluminum Foil

Tootsie Tomanetz, Pitmaster, Snow's BBQ in Lexington, TX
There is an old saying among KCBS barbecue competition cooks that goes "If you ain't using you're losing!" What that means is, if you are not wrapping meat in foil at some point during the cook it will not be moist enough or have an appetizing enough appearance to win a KCBS competition. During my visit to Snow's BBQ in Lexington, TX Ms. Tomanetz gave me the grand tour of her cooking area and all her smokers. She mentioned that she likes to wrap briskets in foil because it helps to keep the meat moist. Snow's BBQ, if you didn't know, was named best barbecue in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine in 2008. That seems to be a strong endorsement for the use of foil in barbecue cooking.

In spite of the fact that great barbecue cooks create delicious, award winning barbecue using foil, it is not a practice that all barbecue cooks appreciate. While some swear by it, others look at the practice with disdain. Some even refer to foil as the "Texas crutch" insinuating that those who use it lack the skills needed to cook barbecue in the "proper" way. Others believe that foiling is almost as bad as the commonly held belief in the worst cardinal barbecue sin which is boiling meat before barbecuing it. They point out that sealing meat in foil causes it to braise in its own juices which is, to them, a type of boiling.

The fact of the matter is, barbecue cooks have been wrapping barbecued meats for hundreds of years. History teaches us that wrapping barbecue is a long held authentic and traditional barbecue cooking technique. There is an account of a barbecue in Kentucky back in 1806 where the meat was "covered with green boughs to keep the juice in." In the Caribbean, southern Texas, and Mexico barbacoa has been made for hundreds of years by slow cooking the meat in a pit while wrapped in leaves. And in Hawaii they have been cooking kālua for at least 110 years by wrapping the pig in leaves while being cooked in a pit. The leaves perform the exact same function as aluminum foil.

As you may have surmised at this point, I like to use foil when cooking barbecue and I make no apologies or excuses for it. Foiling meat offers several advantages to the barbecue cook. Knowing when and how to use foil when cooking barbecue can make cook times more predictable, give you more control over the appetizing appearance of the barbecue, and it can cause the meat to retain more of its natural juiciness.

When cooking larger cuts of meat like pork shoulder or brisket, I reach for the foil. I put the seasoned meat in the smoker and let it cook until it reaches the stall stage. The stall stage for pork butt and brisket is right around 165 degrees F internal temperature. Pork butts and brisket may reach 165 degrees internally relatively quickly. But it may take hours for the internal temperature to begin to rise above 165 degrees. That's why this stage is called the stall. Once the pork butt or brisket has reached the stall, I wrap it in a double layer of heavy duty foil. The foil does three main things. It helps keep the meat looking a very appetizing mahogany color because the foil acts as a shield against scorching. The foil also holds and concentrates the heat closer to the meat causing it to exit the stall stage faster than without using foil which makes cook times shorter and more predictable. And the third main function of the foil is that it helps the meat retain moisture. I have cooked many a pork butt without using foil and ended up eating dinner at 10:00 PM simply because the meat needed that much time to cook. If I had used foil during those cooks I would have eaten dinner at dinner time instead of bed time.

Barbecue Secret Number 8 - Use aluminum foil to shorten cook times making them more predictable, control the amount of smoke and caramelization that impacts the appearance and flavor of the barbecue, and to help the barbecue retain its natural moisture.

For More Barbecue Secrets Click Here.