One of the most enjoyable experiences of my 2018 SXSW Interactive was the March 13 education session, “The Community, Culture & Science of Barbecue”. This hour-long talk featured industry knowledge from Dr. Jeff Savell (Texas A&M), Ray Riley (Rosenthal Meat Center), Dr. Davey Griffin (AgriLife Extension Service), and Jess Pryles (Hardcore Carnivore).
These experts discussed the nation’s growing fascination with barbecue, with Texas at the epicenter of it all. The speakers displayed their vast expertise, which covered every step of the process from farm to fork, including a truly informative breakdown of how these cuts are graded (Choice, Select, Prime, etc) based on maturity and marbling.
It’s no surprise that many restaurateurs have taken advice from this group, who regularly host “Camp Brisket,” a gathering of these BBQ gurus that teaches students the finer points of the cuisine. Among the disciples is Austin restaurant Stiles Switch, who have switched their practices in sourcing their meat based on lessons learned from these professionals.
Aspiring pitmasters who attended this session walked away with nuggets (or, in this case, burnt ends) of wisdom for their own restaurants or home cooks, including:
- Trimming: In years past, pitmasters left the fat cap on and let the whole packer smoke with very minimal trimming. Then, at serving time they’d scrape off the fat and all the bark attached to it. That’s considered sacrilege now, so make sure to trim to ¼” of fat prior to smoking.
- Seasoning: No need to get fancy about it. A simple salt and pepper (“dalmatian”) rub with a 50/50 ratio is best for letting the flavor of the meat speak for itself.
- Smoke: The smoke used to flavor your meat should be thin and wispy (“blue”). If it’s billowing white, that’s the result of a dirty burn, and the partially combusted carbon leads to bad flavor and indigestion.
- Temperature: There’s only one way to know when you’re done, and that’s with a probe thermometer. Target temperature for brisket is around 195-200F.
- Resting: After your meat has reached temperature, it is still not ready to serve. It’s recommended that you rest it for several hours, wrapped tightly in foil and placed in an empty cooler. The juices redistribute, leading to a much more moist product throughout.
- Carving and serving: For beef ribs, slice and serve ribs individually, which often sell for $25/each. For brisket, take care to always cut against the grain, which could prove difficult for rookies who might not realize the grain direction changes from the fatty part (the “point”) to the lean part (the “flat”).
While yours truly is a dedicated Longhorn alum, I will say that this talk led by Texas A&M experts was a real pleasure. Of course, the best part of all was joining the Aggies in the reception room across the hall, where samples of brisket and sausage were passed around to attendees.
If barbecue is a Texas religion, it was a mighty fine communion.
Submitted by Miles Pequeno, Senior Manager, Corporate Relations