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Q&A -- Smoking Meat At home

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Col

Brisket is trimmed the way explained on Virtual Weber because one thing judges look for is that the fat is well rendered so we trim to the min amounts that will do the job for us. The ideal portion of a brisket to turn in is the portion of the flat that is located under and just in front of point, the point gives that portion plenty of protection from drying out.

Smokering is not part of the judging because it can be produced artifically by using products like Tender Quick but we all know that judges do take into consideration. A ring of 1/4" would be ideal.

At this time in the competition world your BBQ can't be too sweet, judges score very sweet very high. It is so sweet that I personely won't eat it.

Jim

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Jim, you mention that you are a competition BBQ'er and I was hoping you would clue us in on what the judges are looking for in a competition brisket. I'm pretty sure that large pieces of fat would be unsightly to the judges so I'm guessing the flat would be the cut of choice off of the brisket and trimmed as well. Or do most competitors smoke the whole brisket and then cut the flat for presentation? How much of a smoke ring do they look for? Do they look for a clean profile or is it all right to mix in portions of the point in with the flat and chop it up?

I'm a different Jim, but I will also chime in here. I compete, judge, and Contest Rep in New England. Most of the competition brisket I have seen has either been presented unsauced or with the lightest touch of sauce. Sweet is not an issue. I think it is a regional thing. Any remaining fat is always trimmed off before presentation. The slices are presented about 1/8" thick, with the smoke ring up.

The judges are looking for tender and moist, neither chewey or mushy. The flavor of beef should predominate.

Jim

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Klink, who is that dashing man eating the brisket in your fine tutorial? Hot!

Another note is that I am guessing jminion is the creator of the famous Minion method of lighting your charcoal in a WSM. Welcom to eGullet jminion!

Ben


Edited by Schielke (log)

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jmcgrath

The west coast, or for that matter in the midwest at KCBS competitions sweet is needed to score highly. I just took a class from a rather well know competitor and the sweetness of the end product was stressed (this instructor just won a midsouth with very sweet BBQ) .

I prefer my BBQ dry or lightly sauced and the sauce to be on the spicy side.

Please come and give judging instruction out in the west I would find it a welcome change. I believe you are correct that it is regional to a degree.

Ben

Thank you for your welcome.

Jim


Edited by jminion (log)

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Smokering is not part of the judging because it can be produced artifically by using products like Tender Quick but we all know that judges do take into consideration. A ring of 1/4" would be ideal.

Whew???

That entire statement brings sweat to my forehead.

The first qoute is that judges are not allowed to judge a smokeing. And I am completely familiar with the judging requirements, and then you add that judges do act upon a smokering. Then the addition of 1/4" is ideal???.

Sounds like an unbalanced judging criteria to me.

Straighten out the rules, or throw the judges out.

woodburner

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OK... Now I am wondering. I posted on another thread about some truly awesome brisket flat that I had at a little BBQ joint in Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was Big Jake's Island BBQ & Catering. As he sliced off of this flat for my sandwich, the red "ring" wasn't a ring at all but all the way through. I got nosy and asked how he did that. He said it went for about 18 hours at 180 to 200 or something like that over kiawe wood. (Kiawe is kin to mesquite.) It was a rather small and thin flat. So... Did he cheat with this Tender Quick stuff or is this really possible. BTW, it was impossibly juicy as well. Just about the best brisket I have ever had, and I mean EVER!

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Woodburner

If you read throught the written KCBS judging class you won't find smokering mentioned as something to consider while judging brisket. We talk to judges and know that many judges use smokering as part of their evaluation, so you need to take into account when deciding what meat your are going to turn. The reason for a 1/4" ring is that can be produced using good techniques without the use of curing agents.

Fifi

It is not a normal reaction to have a brisket pink all they way through. There is certainly nothing wrong with liking it.

Jim

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Fifi

It is not a normal reaction to have a brisket pink all they way through. There is certainly nothing wrong with liking it.

Jim

That is my point. It was not a normal reaction. As far as liking it, that wasn't an issue. It was not overly smoked as far as flavor. It was just richer and sweeter in smoke flavor than the excellent briskets I have had at my favorite joints in Texas (including my own brisket). I would have thought that a "smokering" all the way through would have produced an overpowering smoke flavor, smothered the beefy notes, and dried it out. None of that happened. It was simply amazing and I am damn curious. (Maybe this will require a research expedition to the Big Island. :biggrin: )

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I live in a New York City apartment, so smoking outdoors is not an option unless I want to bring over the firemen down the street. Do you have any tips for smoking indoors? Also, what is cold smoking? Last night I had a Tomato soup from Oceana that was made of smoked yellow tomatoes. Do you have any tips on how I can do that at home besides investing in a cold smoker?

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I noted that you relegated lump charcoal to grilling as it tends to burn hotter and faster. I use lump to smoke on my WSM as the intake vents allow control of the burn rate so that this is no longer an issue. When smoking on my WSM I fill the fire ring level with the top, with 4 or 5 wood chunks scattered at different depths and locations (The air vents also prevent the wood from flaring up, so soaking them is not needed). To this I add a chimney full of lump to the top, assemble the unit and fiddle with the vents until arriving at the desired temp (Note: I never mess with the exaust vent). The fact that 3/4ths of the charcoal is unlit to start highlights one of the advantages of lump charcoal, that as it ignites it does not emit any off odors or smoke, something that cannot usually be said of briquettes.

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I live in a New York City apartment, so smoking outdoors is not an option unless I want to bring over the firemen down the street.  Do you have any tips for smoking indoors?  Also, what is cold smoking?  Last night I had a Tomato soup from Oceana that was made of smoked yellow tomatoes.  Do you have any tips on how I can do that at home besides investing in a cold smoker?

The only way I know of to smoke indoors is the stove top smoker. Of which this link is only one of many. The chef for my wedding reception used a couple of these to smoke the salmon and they do work. However, you cannot cold smoke with them, they're only for hot smoking and for small amounts of fish (the non-restaurant variety that is). I never worked with one but I have tried some of the results and they're not bad.

Cold smoking is smoking below 100 F (better yet, below 80 F). This is how cheese, bacon and a lox-style salmon. You either have to cool the smoke coming off of the fire or your fire can't be large enough to heat the space, like a small corner fire in a large smoke house.

=Mark, thanks for the tips on the lump charcoal! I've heard nothing but problems using lump for smoking but this is good news. I can certainly see that by not lighting the bulk of the charcoal, you can more easily regulate the burn rate. How quickly do you go through that amount of coals? And much residue is left over? I imagine far less than briquettes.

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Great course Herr Clink!

A great thing about smoking turkey is even if you over cook it by a mile, it's still going to taste great. One thing that I don't think is mentioned though - cooking a turkey with smoke the whole way can yield a bird with a very strange texture and taste compared to the regular thanksgiving roast. It can seem almost like ham. It's personal preference, of course, but I thought it should be mentioned. If you want pretty much a regular turkey but with a hint of smoke, you should smoke lightly because it's easy to over smoke. I prefer a small hit of smoke at the beginning and then to let it finish with just the charcoal lump.

A couple of questions. What about air drying the turkey? Is it worth it in your opinion?

And about rubs. I can't tell any difference between brisket that's sat with a rub on it and brisket that's had the rub appllied just before going in the cooker. Do you think it matters? I've concluded that since many of the flavor compounds in the spices are fat soluble, nothing much is happening until the fat starts flowing anyway.

I've always wondered why pork shoulders and briskets are smoked basically intact when there's lots of other meat roasting traditions that call for you to hack or slash the meat (think leg of lamb with garlic and herbs shoved in slashes.) Do you think a pork shoulder or brisket would benefit from some slashing? Wouldn't it allow more smoke penetration and more surfaces for the rub?

Lastly, is there a point when the piece of meat has absorbed all the smoke flavor it can possibly absorb before it's done to the right internal temp.? i.e. Can you finish in the oven?

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Great course Herr Clink!

A great thing about smoking turkey is even if you over cook it by a mile, it's still going to taste great.  One thing that I don't think is mentioned though -  cooking a turkey with smoke the whole way can yield a bird with a very strange texture and taste compared to the regular thanksgiving roast. It can seem almost like ham.  It's personal preference, of course, but I thought it should be mentioned. If you want pretty much a regular turkey but with a hint of smoke, you should  smoke lightly because it's easy to over smoke.  I prefer a small hit of smoke at the beginning and then to let it finish with just the charcoal lump. 

A couple of questions. What about air drying the turkey? Is it worth it in your opinion?

And about rubs. I can't tell any difference between brisket that's sat with a rub on it and brisket that's had the rub appllied just before going in the cooker.  Do you think it matters?  I've concluded that since many of the flavor compounds in the spices are fat soluble, nothing much is happening until the fat starts flowing anyway.

I've always wondered why pork shoulders and briskets are smoked basically intact when there's lots of other meat roasting traditions that call for you to hack or slash the meat (think leg of lamb with garlic and herbs shoved in slashes.)  Do you think a pork shoulder or brisket would benefit from some slashing? Wouldn't it allow more smoke penetration and more surfaces for the rub?

Lastly, is there a point when the piece of meat has absorbed all the smoke flavor it can possibly absorb before it's done to the right internal temp.? i.e. Can you finish in the oven?

You raise very interesting questions, I only have a comment about one of them though. Why not just slash the brisket like a pork leg? I think you answered yourself by saying

other meat roasting traditions

I think it is just tradition, Lamb tastes good with garlic and herbs stuffed in it AND it is usually not smoked. Brisket and porj shoulder that are smoked only need the smoke flavor and not anything else. You can certainly try and let us know how a garlic studded smoked brisket tasted.

Thanks to this class I will hopefully be smoking my first brisket portion tomorrow on my regular Weber grill (fingers crossed). We have been having some wonderfully low temps in Houston this week which will make a long day of slow smoking meat even more attractive.

FM

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=Mark, thanks for the tips on the lump charcoal! I've heard nothing but problems using lump for smoking but this is good news. I can certainly see that by not lighting the bulk of the charcoal, you can more easily regulate the burn rate. How quickly do you go through that amount of coals? And much residue is left over? I imagine far less than briquettes.

I've had sessions go up to 12 hours using this method in a WSM. Due to the lack of binders and other side products there is only like 10% of the amount of ash as compared to briquettes. The only real problem is that the ash is very light and can tend to blow around if there is a breeze blowing when you open the door.

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I did smoke my first brisket (or should I say 1/3 of a brisket) on my weber style grill this past weekend and here is the result, it was very juicy and flavorful.

fadfcd3d.jpg

FM

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Congrats! Would you do it again? Is there anything I left out for the Weber folks?

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While we're talking about success stories, I smoked my first two shoulders last weekend based completely on the inspiration of the eGCI smoking class conducted by Klink. I brined two 7lb shoulders for 36 hours, put on a rub from Thrill of the Grill (cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne, brown sugar, sugar) and started the smoker at 12:30 am using the minion method. Had the meat on at 1:00 am and the temperature was stable (225-250) thru the night. I turned and basted the meat at 5 am and again at 7 am. At 9:30, I wrapped up the meet in foil and off to Giants Stadium we went. I unwrapped the meet and started "pulling." It was fabulous. Juciy, tender and flavorful. It was served with sliced pickles on white bread with either a southern vinegar based sauce (also from Thrill of the Grill) and a sweeter jarred sauce. The fans were happy. Unfortunately, the Giants lost.

My wife isn't a real fan of pork (other than an occasional serving of bacon) but she tasted the leftovers when I got home. She went to town on it big time and admitted it was absolutely delicious.

The next day I came home from work and just about all of the leftovers were gone. I asked my wife what happened and she said a friend of hers came over, they started picking and couldn't stop.

Although my wife thinks the time incolved is a little wacky (setting the clock for 5 am to turn over a piece of pork) my dog thinks its the greatest as she got to play outside everytime I got up to check the temp or turn the meat.

Next up: Spare Ribs :smile:

P.S. I smoked on a WSM.


Edited by sammy (log)

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Congrats! Would you do it again? Is there anything I left out for the Weber folks?

Would I do it again??? Absolutly, I still have 2 thirds of the brisket waiting to be smoked (I might pastarmize one of them) and I cannot wait to try my hand at some pork shoulder, some ribs or even something a little more exotic like duck. This class was a great way to show me that I can use my cheap grill to make some amazing smoked meat. Another thing that surprized me is how little coals and chips I needed. I had stocked up thinking I will be going through coals (I used briquettes...I guess they are good for smoking) and wood chips like crazy.

Thanks again Col

FM

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After sampling your brisket, Klink, Paul is thinking that I should but one my of at-home days to good use and smoke brisket. I have a Weber Kettle, and have been successful with entire turkeys, chickens and ribs, but have not tackled a brisket -- yet.

He wondered if there would be any advantage to "containing" the coals and wood -- like in a cut-down coffee can or ratty old bread pan, since it can be difficult to keep the heat down.

Any thoughts?

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It's really not that difficult to keep the heat down in a kettle and also, brisket (as long as you have some fat on it) can take the heat if it's necessary for at least a half hour to 45 minutes.

The coffee can is not a bad idea but you'll have to worry about not getting enough air to the coals. If you try it (I'd like to hear about it if you do), make sure to put plenty of air holes around the can -- you're hoping to contain the coals, not sufficate them. I'd probably use two cans as well. But honestly, I've smoked in a kettle without the use of any container, let alone the rail sold by Weber for the purpose, and I've had fine results (I still recommend the rail though, it's extremely convenient).

Keep in mind that you're using about half as many coals as you ordinarily would when you are grilling.

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Thanks for the great course.

Sometimes, I have access to reasonably large cuts of fish. I would assume that if I wanted to smoke a good-sized chunk of tuna or salmon (or even a whole laketrout), I could use your methods and get good results. Do you have any experience smoking fish in a Weber kettle?

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Depends on how you want to smoke it. Hot smoking is no problem in the Webber but cold smoking really isn't feasible.

I've smoked a number of large cuts of salmon and I've found that cutting them up into 4 oz strips yields a smokier fish. Of course, brining before hand helps too. You can use the same brine as in the course (1 cup of salt and sugar per gallon of water). You may also want to lower the temp of the Weber to 175 F instead of 225 F to allow a longer time for the fish to be in the smoker.

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Hi, I don't know if this is the right place for this question, but hey, can't hurt to try!

What I'm really interested in is the slow, long smoking, to actually preserv food.

I'm from Europe and I miss those strong smoked flavors!

We used to make sausage at home and take it to a smoke house where they wouls smoke it for at least a week . And I know , nothing was ever brined .

Any idea how could I do this at home?

I REALLY would like to have that kind of bacon! It doesn't have trace of meat, only the fat, slow smoked, it keeps forever and it's wonderful!

Gosh, I'm hungry now!

Thanks for any ideas you may have!

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Hi, I don't know if this is the right place for this question, but hey, can't hurt to try!

What I'm really interested in is the slow, long smoking, to actually preserv food.

I'm from Europe and I miss those strong smoked flavors!

We used to make sausage at home and take it to a smoke house where they wouls smoke it for at least a week . And I know , nothing was ever brined .

Any idea how could I do this at home?

I REALLY would like to have that kind of bacon! It doesn't have trace of meat, only the fat, slow smoked, it keeps forever and it's wonderful!

Gosh, I'm hungry now!

Thanks for any ideas you may have!

From the sound of it, that's cold smoking i.e. smoking under 100 F (or even better < 80 F). This type of smoking is done in a smokehouse with a tiny fire and meat is hung to dry for days, a week or even longer in combination with curing.

For oldworld authenticity, you have to build a smokehouse and it's no simple task. Luckily there's a nice little book on building theme:

Build a Smokehouse.

Most of them involve building a pit for a fire and a trench that feeds the smokehouse with the now chilled smoke.

However, cold smoking can be done with old refrigerators, a hot plate and wood chips but I haven't set one up yet. Alton Brown has designed one out of three high school lockers.

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A couple of questions/comments:

Smoking brisket is a serious time commitment. And, a serious beer commitment. I need to smoke some (I'm about to lose my smoking brisket virginity :rolleyes: ). SOme to eat that same day. I also need some about two weeks later. In the interest of time, do you freeze? If so, do you heat the thawed stuff up or just serve cold.

I hope you can provide a report in January when you've done your first sub-zero smoking.

Finally, next time we see you, any "reinforcement" you can provide reinforcement to Paul that yes, I do need something besides the Weber; something like what you have. The Weber seems to need more constant attention than I can often give.

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