Thursday, September 12, 2013

Epic Bar-B-Que of EPICNESS!!

Just in case you have not figured it out, I love to cook.  I mean I really LOVE to cook.  I especially enjoy preparing epic meals and having people over to share them with.  There are a couple of times through out the year that this is especially true.  (Thanksgiving and Mardi Gras)  However, this year has been different.  Due to some mitigating circumstances, I had not been able to  cook and have a large get together.  So when my wife asked if I wanted to have a bar-b-que over the Memorial Day weekend, I jumped at the chance.  And given the fact that I had not done this all year, I wanted to make it a big blow out event.  So I went all out.  I cooked the better half of a barn as my wife likes to tell people.  I decided to smoke a brisket, make slow cooker pulled pork, have smoked and grilled chicken and grill some sausage to round out the affair.  To make life "easier", I just had guests bring things such as sides, drinks and various other accouterments.

In order to properly prepare for such an undertaking, you really have to start at least a day ahead of the event, if not several.  If you count pre-purchasing all of the meat so that it would not be as big of a financial hit all at once, then I started several weeks ahead of time.  In truth though, it was only about a couple of days that I began preparations.  The first thing I did was take out some of the meat (such as the pork butt and whole chicken) from the freezer so that it could thaw out by the day of my BBQ.  Next thing I did was procure the brisket and prepare it for smoking.  I only really had to do this the day before.  However, it is VERY important to not wait until the day of to prep.  First of all, you really won't have time to prep the day of. (I will explain shortly.)  Secondly, it helps the meat if you season it and allow it to marinate overnight.  I used a wide breadth of spices and seasoning for all of my meats and sauces.

The day before I began cooking I started by trimming and seasoning my brisket.  Essentially what I did was split the brisket into two pieces.  I split the brisket to make it easier to smoke, give the meat more flavor, and reduce the cooking time.  Every brisket has a vein of fat running through it.  If you cut the brisket down this vein, you have what they call the fat cap(also called the point or deckle) and the flat.  The flat has more meat and the fat cap has more fat.  You don't want to trim off all the fat from the brisket, as this will dry out your meat in the smoker.  You do want to trim off some of the fat, especially in places where it is thick or there is a big hunk.  Once I trimmed my brisket, I seasoned it with my own rub which is a combination of salt, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne, garlic and onion powder, brown sugar, and paprika.

After the brisket is seasoned, I put it in an foil tray sealed with foil and let it sit overnight.  The next day the brisket should have produce a little liquid in the tray.  You want to save the liquid and the tray.

The day before I also seasoned and prepared the pork butt.  My pork butt was not a hundred percent defrosted, but it was most of the way there.  I cut the pork down into three smaller pieces since it did not fit into my crock pot.  I also seasoned the pork with a similar rub to the brisket, adding a bit more brown sugar to this rub.  To help the rub stick and to give the pork the smoky flavor of being in the pit while only cooking in the crock pot, I used some hickory flavored liquid smoke.  Once the pork was seasoned and packed up in my crock pot I let is sit in the refrigerator overnight as well.

I also wanted to leave my pit/smoker ready for the next morning so all I had to do was get it going.

The next morning started out really early in the morning:
That's AM!
The reason you have to start so early is to get the pit/smoker going and to have enough time to let the meat properly smoke and cook.  I try to get started about twelve hours before the event.  After I woke up the first thing I did was start the fire.  Once the fire got started I let it burn for about fifteen to twenty minutes so that I had hot coals and not flames.  Flames will burn your wood faster than just hot coals.

After my coals were set, I added smoking chunks of hickory and mesquite.  When I think of Texas BBQ, I think of the flavors of hickory and mesquite.  I also use smoking chunks instead of chips because they provide a longer burn and plenty of smoke, which is perfect for a brisket.

Next I added my meat to the pit.  Since my pit is a double compartment grill I put the meat on the opposite side compartment.  This allows the meat to have indirect heat while still being immersed in smoke. Now remember how I said it was a good idea to save the foil pan and liquid form your brisket?  Well, I used the foil pan as a drip pan collecting drippings and juices from the cooking meat and the juices have a bunch of flavor.  If you are worried about raw meat juice, don't.  It will be in a hot smoker for as long as the brisket is in there so it will cook.

The most important part of cooking with smoke is temperature control. That is why you need a good probe thermometer.  Without it you won't know what your meat or pit is doing.  Now, there are many good thermometers out there and a whole lot of different opinions on them.  Personally I like a simple probe thermometer that I can leave in the meat and it will monitor the meat's temp as well as the the pit's.  Once you have your meat and fire set up, you need to close up your pit and minimize the amount of time you open it until you are ready to pull out your meat.

So lets talk temperature.  What is the ideal temperature for your pit?  For me, I like to keep my pit at about 250 degrees.  It is a little bit difficult, but that is my goal.  At the very least I want to keep the temp above 200 if not 225.  Why the large variance?  Well, with my pit it is sometimes difficult to keep a steady temp.  I check the fire and temp at least once per hour if not more often.  I also have plenty of wood on hand to keep adding to the fire.  This helps keep the temp up.  It also helps that my pit is designed with opening doors that give access to the fire chamber directly so that I don't have to open the lid. Opening the lid quickly brings down the temperature of the chamber where your meat is.  As for the temperature of the meat, you want your meat to be at an internal temperature of at least 190 degrees.  Technically the meat is cooked at 160 degrees, but your meat will be tough and chewy.  In other worlds, not sexy.   You have to be patient with brisket and give it time to cook and get to that perfect state of tenderness.  You also have to keep in mind that every piece of meat is different.  So these temperatures are just guidelines.  One brisket can be done at 180 degrees just as easily as another can not be done until 200.

Once I had my brisket going I really only had to check up on it and wait.  The hardest part of all this is the waiting.  I feel like I have to keep doing something and when I am not, I get anxious.  At about 10 AM I started the pork.  I put the crock pot on high and just let it cook until the meat became fork tender.

At that time I also seasoned my chicken for smoking.  I just took a whole fryer and split it down the middle.  I seasoned the bird with a rub made from salt, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, red pepper flakes, dried thyme, dried oregano and brown sugar.  After I seasoned the chicken I let it sit the refrigerator until it was time to smoke it.  I did not season it the night before because given its smaller size, the chicken did not need all night for the flavor of the seasoning to really sink in.  Add that to the limited space in my ice box and it was something that could wait until the day of.

Back to the brisket for a second.  The brisket has been cooking all this time and I noticed that the temperature of the meat is rising steadily and a bit rapidly.  In fact, it seemed that it was rising a little too rapidly.  I was concerned that the meat would be done well before my guests arrived.  Well, I had forgotten about the stall.  You see when you are cooking brisket there comes a point, usually about 150 to 160 degrees, where the meat refuses to rise in temperature for hours on end.  But why?  There are many theories and explanations.  But the one that makes the most sense, scientifically speaking, is that the stall is due to evaporative cooling.  In other words, the same thing that happens to you when you are working out or doing yard work happens to a brisket.  As moisture is released and evaporates, it prevents the brisket from rising in temperature.

Eventually the meat will pass the stall and begin rising in temp quickly.  You have two choices when you hit the stall.  You can choose to wait it out, or you can help it along with a "Texas crutch".  A Texas crutch is essentially wrapping up your meat with foil so that the moisture escaping the meat does not have a chance to evaporate and therefore "cool" it.  You can then leave it in your pit or finish it in the oven.  When my brisket reached 160 degrees (about 2 hours before my guest were set to arrive), I took it out of my pit, placed it in the drip pan with all of the juices, sealed it up with more foil and placed it in a 300 degree oven.  Some argue against the crutch while others sing its praises.  I did this to ensure my meat would be done on time and to allow my to now use my pit to smoke my chicken.  Once the meat reached about 200 degrees, I pulled it and let it rest.

While my brisket was finishing in the oven I added more wood to the fire, and proceeded to smoke my chicken, once again using indirect heat.  About 45 minutes before my guest arrived I threw some pre-seasoned HEB BBQ leg quarters on the side of the pit with the fire so as to grill them. To finish off all the chicken I threw it in the oven just to finish cooking it off. After the chicken was done, I threw some sausages on the grill as well for good measure to complete my meat menagerie

Along with the meat I also made three different types of BBQ sauce.  I made a Carolina style mustard based sauce, a Shiner Bock BBQ sauce and a traditional ketchup based sauce.  The mustard based sauce I based on a recipe I found online with my own little tweaks.  The Shiner Bock recipe I also found online.  This one I followed a little more closely.  For the traditional BBQ sauce I started with 3/4 of a bottle of ketchup, about a cup to a cup and half of the BBQ drippings form the brisket, salt, pepper, cayenne, two bay leaves, garlic powder, molasses, and brown sugar.  I let all three sauces simmer until they were thickened slightly.

Left to right: Traditional, Shiner, & Carolina BBQ Sauces
 After all the meats were done, all that was left to do was to slice, chop and cut into serving pieces. I used the flat of the brisket for sliced while I used the point for chopped.  The pork was nice and tender so all I had to do was pull it apart with some tongs.  My wife also decided to make a Greek yogurt based cole slaw for the pulled pork.  Everything came out smashingly, for lack of a better term.  All my guest were properly fed.  In fact some left with doggy bags.  All in all I would call this BBQ a great success. 

Left to Right: Chopped &Sliced Brisket

Smoked & Grilled Chicken and Grilled Sausage

Crock Pot Pulled Pork

No comments:

Post a Comment