So you hear a lot of people this time of year always talking about “Smoking Meat”.
Well I am here to tell you that it’s quite easy to work on your smoking technique and turn out some fantastic meats. You want to get some good hard wood, obviously, to smoke anything. I have been using Mountain Mahogany that I acquire at Mahogany Smoked Meats in Bishop, CA http://www.smokedmeats.com/ . It imparts some nice flavor, but not too much that the smoke and wood flavor is all you taste. You can get Cherry, Apple, Mesquite, Red Oak amongst other hardwoods. I have used, and liked cherry and apple. Experiment with the flavors of each wood. See what they do for you.
I use a Char-Grill side box smoker on my round kettle grill by char-griller http://www.chargriller.com/ I can easily adjust the smoke and heat through some nice air vents and the adjustable chimney. The easy thing about smoking is you don’t need to stand over a hot grill for hours. The smoke uses indirect heat to cook the meat. This is how smoked meats remain so tender. It is quite an easy process once you get used to it. So practice, practice, practice….
First off, you want to get a nice chunk of meat, that has some of it’s fat still on it. This will melt away into the meat, and cause incredible flavors to develop. Now don’t do this with a lean cut of meat. The bigger, and fatter the better in my book. So in this case, I started with a four pound brisket I got freshly cut from the lovely ladies at Lindy & Grundy http://lindyandgrundy.com/ . They butcher all their own meats which they acquire from only the best farmers in CA.
So I got my meat, now what. Well, I myself prefer to get it at least 24 hours before I want to eat it. At least. Minimum. Because you want to make a rub and get some delicious flavors into the skin and fat. Now that you have it, the first step is to make your rub. I like to use some course ground black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, paprika and kosher salt. Now some people say, “never put salt on your meat before cooking, it sucks out all the juices and makes it dry”. To put it lightly, Poppycock! As long as you aren’t pouring a whole container of salt on it, you will be fine. Now mix all the dry rub together in a bowl. Before putting the rub on, I like to add some “juice”. You can never have enough flavors. Well almost never, but that is for another time. So in another bowl, combine some coca-cola and soy sauce. You get some sugary sweetness on the outside of the meat which also soaks in slightly. And it helps the rub really stay on there.
With a basting brush or a BBQ mop, apply your “juice” mixture all over the outside. All over, get it in all the nooks and crannies. Cover that fat with it. Get all up in there with your meat. Let that just sit and soak for say, 15 minutes. Then time to get your hands dirty. Get that rub even more all up in there. Sprinkle it all over, and rub it in with your hand. Again, on all sides and every nook and cranny. Now cover that baby up and let it rest with all those flavors chilling together at least 6 hours. I like to rest it all together overnight, personally.
Now in the morning start your smoker at least 5 hours before you want to eat. Remember, low and slow. Like your Grandma driving.
Before starting the smoker get your meat out of the fridge and let it rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. And not out by the grill in the sun. Inside, alone, away from danger and heat. Then I start with getting a little mix of mesquite and lump charcoal going in my smoker box with some fire starter chips. Never, ever, never, never use starter fluid. If you still use starter fluid or charcoal pre-soaked in lighter fluid comment hari kari now. Please. Do your friends who you were going to cook for a favor. Now it depends how big both your wood is and your box. Yes, yes, yes, calm down Beavis. I usually get smaller pieces of Mahogany, which works just fine. As the fire is going, I soak my wood in a little water. If you are getting a little crazy, add some type of whiskey. The cheap stuff of course. Again if you use anything good here, commit hari kari. If you are still going strong, here is your next step. Once you have a nice base of gray coals smoldering nicely, add a couple pieces of your wet wood. Once these start smoking, and the heat has built up a little inside the grill area, add your meat. Now all you do is keep adding wood as needed. Never too much so as to create a large fire. Just enough to gently warm and smoke the meat. After a few hours it should start looking amazing. The colors will be very vibrant, and your spice mix will have started really cooking in. And oops, almost forgot. Make sure to put your fat side up. This way, the fat soaks into the meat as it melts. I usually do the touch method to judge done-ness. I wait for the meat to start getting firm to fingertip touch. I hate sticking a meat thermometer in over and over. I feel I lose some of the good tasty juices. But alas, I have been manning a fire-pit BBQ for many, many years. I just know. If you must use a thermometer, try to always use the same hole.
Now when you have decided your meat is nearly perfect, I like to pull it off to rest, and put in the oven on the lowest setting. That’s right, before it’s done to perfection pull it off. Put it on some type of oven proof tray and cover with foil. After about 30 minutes I turn the heat off, let rest for about 20 more minutes in residual heat of oven, to tie all the juices and fats together. Then pull out, put on a grooved cutting board and let rest a little bit more, covered of course. Then you are ready to slice it nice and thin. Make sure your knife is good and sharp, and cut with the grain of the meat.
Now with a nice rub, and a good cut of meat, I don’t put any BBQ sauce on the meat itself, while cooking or resting. I will however, make a nice little spicy Kansas City-Texas type sauce if someone wants to add it, or have on the side. I find the meat is tasty enough on it’s own. But to each it’s own. For now I do not want to be known as the Brisket Nazi. But who knows, maybe when I open my own shack, I’ll take away the sauce option.
Cheers, and happy eating……….