Meats are done only when they are cooked to the proper published temperatures. No excuses!
For certain meats such as pork butts and briskets once the meat hits its safe temperature then we use feel but only to judge tenderness.
We monitor cooking grate temperature for an indication when the meat may be done and to ascertain if we are cooking too hot or too low. For example, an 8 to 9 lbs. pork butt will take 7 to 8 hours to cook at 275 degrees. Knowing this helps with planning.
General Anatomy of Meat
Meat is made up of 75% water which is myowater.
The reddish liquid you see in pre-packaged meat is not blood. It is myo water (myoglobin). Blood is drained from the animal at the time of slaughter.
There is good fat and bad fat, bad meaning it does nothing to help produce good results.
The fat that is in between the muscle fibers also known as marbling is good fat and for certain meats, it is an indication of its quality. The fat that is on top of a brisket or pork butt, for example, does nothing to help our cook.
What bad fat does is:
It extends our cooking time since we have to cook it along with the muscle.
Seasoning the fat cap does nothing but waste seasoning (I don’t know anyone that will just decide to eat fat because it’s seasoned).
The theory that the fat will “meld” and make the meat tender and juicy is an old wives tale. Fat is grease and the meat is water. Grease and water NEVER mix.
The fat cap will prevent the process of developing a smoke ring.
How is corn used in making corned beef? It’s not! The closest that the beef comes to corn is that which the cow may have eaten. “Corn” is an old English term used for the word grain. As per AmazingRibs.com, it was used in the phrase of that era “A corn of salt” so it became synonymous with salt. So, what is happening is the meat is being cured with salt. At that time they didn’t have the luxury of refrigeration and so the corning process was used to preserve meats.
Now, not the regular salt we use everyday at the dinner table, but curing salt. The curing salts are either Prague #1 or #2 also know as Insta Cure. Prague #1 is more commonly used for the “corning” process. It should be noted, NEVER use any curing salts at the dinner table and do not mistake them for pink Himalayan salt. If used for anything other than curing, they will be hazardous to your health.
What part of the cow is used to make corned beef? The brisket. Other parts of the cow can be used but none is as delicious as the brisket. When you are celebrating St. Patty’s Day, chowing down corned beef, it is brisket. Most BBQ’ers know what the brisket is but for those that don’t the brisket is the pectoral muscle (chest) of the cow. When it is not corned but smoked, the smoking process can take up to 10 hours since this is an over worked muscle and is very tough. When it is corned the salt breaks down the muscle fibers and transforms the brisket into a piece of tender meat. Oh, have you heard of pastrami? Well, it is a corned brisket that has been lightly smoked and seasoned with liberal amounts of pepper and coriander.
So, when seated at the St. Patty’s Day dinner table, exhibit your worldly knowledge and see how many know the origins of corned beef. Most probably will say “who cares” but you know!
Happy Saint Patty’s Day!!!
Meat selection is one, if not, the most important detail to turning out great barbecue. Why with all the hard work and hours that go into making barbecue would one select inferior cuts of meat? It makes no sense. Doing so puts you behind the “eight ball” right from the start. Sure, purchasing better meats will cost more but if you keep a look out for store sales or just have a good eye (and know what look , for) may be not.
So, what to do?
If your time is limited, and you don’t want to put the energy into searching around, then establishing a good relationship with a reliable butcher may be best. With his expertise and knowledge he should able to guide you and offer good cuts.
Beef is rated by the USDA as Select, Choice and Prime. There are lower grades than Select but they aren’t worth mentioning. AVOID SELECT!! Your greatest selection will be Choice grades especially when purchasing from a supermarket. Certified Black Angus is an industry standard not a USDA Grade but it is usually a better cut of Choice. Butchers can supply you with Prime but it may have to be ordered.
So what differentiates a superior cut of beef verses a marginal one? Intramuscular fat or “marbling”. Marbling is the fat that is interwoven with the muscle fibers. The theory is, the more marbling, more tenderness and flavor. Prime cuts will have the most marbling. The fat around the outside of a steak is inter-muscular fat and does not help flavor or tenderness. In fact, most of us will trim this away when chowing down. Below are examples of good marbling.
Most chicken in the supermarkets are “shot up” with all kinds of stuff to make them bigger and help make them grow faster. Usually you can notice this be the yellowish skin color. This is an indication that the backside of the skin is harboring a lot of fat. This fat does absolutely nothing to enhance the cook. Many Pro Pitmasters when competing will many times take the skin off chicken thighs and scrape the fat off. After they do this to a dozen thighs they will have a large pile of fat. Besides not being healthy the fat causes flare ups on the grill and keeps the skin from becoming crispy.
Buy chicken with nice white skin and where the label indicates it has not been “shot up”. Candidates are kosher chicken and a brand we like a lot, Springer Mountain Farms.
Pork is a little harder to distinguish. But one of the first things you should look for is how much “purge” is in the cryovac. “Purge” is the reddish liquid. It is many times construed as blood. It is not. The animal is bleed thoroughly at the time of slaughter. This reddish liquid is “myowater” or myoglobin, the natural liquid in our muscles. If there’s a lot of “purge” you should continue to look further. So, less purge is better.
Next, look at the color of the meat. It should have a nice light pinkness to it. Check the sell by date. Are you buying a lot of fat or meat? Most pork that we find in the stores today comes from “commodity” pigs. Remember years ago the saying, “pork, the other white meat”. Producers have leaned out their pigs to meet the demand.
If you want to purchase pork the way it was produced many years ago you will have to buy what we call Heritage Pork. Heritage pigs are raised with more intramuscular fat. There are many but the most common are Berkshire, Duroc and Cheshire. You will most likely have to order these breeds off the internet. Google Heritage Pork. A pork chop from one these breeds looks like a ribeye steak with all the marbling.
So, don’t cheat yourself. Go and get a good cut of meat. You’ll be happier and so will your guests.