The Hampton Smoker

What's up wtih what's going down? Does a tree falling on the ocean with no one around make a sound? Barbecue, BBQ, Bar-b-que. It's all in how you sell it.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Disco Inferno

The combination of this summer cold that I have, and the lack of air conditioning in the room with the computer mean this will be a quick post. Yay!

Hiroshi and I went to Long Island on Friday night, fired up the pit by 10:30 at night and had the briskets hitting the heat by midnight. The pork butts went on an hour later, followed by the ribs a few hours after that, and then the chicken. Somewhere in there we cooked some kielbasa, too. We were pulling the pork off the smoker at around 3 the next afternoon. We pulled the pork and packed it into sandwich bags, sliced the briskets and were back on the Long Island Railroad heading into NYC by 6pm on Saturday. Got home and crashed. Here's the for smell-o-vision.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hang On To Your Ego

A few weeks back, Robert of WhiteTrashBBQ and I took a little road trip with my wife and Robert's daughter, Laura, to Delaware and appeared on the Comcast morning show, Your Morning. They had contacted me about doing a live cooking segment and talking about the recent Grill Kings bbq contest that took place at Belmont Park in Long Island. I was glad to go and more than happy to help promote the biggest contest in my backyard. Regardless of my comments about this year's debacle, I'm proud of the contest.

I cooked a mojo marinated chicken with a basic lemon pepper and herb rub, and gave Robert a new no-cook barbecue sauce recipe to whip up. I cooked a batch the night before so we could pull the 'ol 'magic of television' trick. Here's how the chicken looked on the Green Room tv. I finished the batch that I started on the show and served it to the crew for lunch-- those guys bust their butts.

After we taped the show, Robert navigated us into Philly for lunch at Jack's Firehouse, the restaurant of former Food Network host Jack McDavid. I was excited to try his food-- he's a great chef.

To be honest, the flavor profiles were ok-- the smoke flavor excellent-- but the food was a bit of a letdown. The pork was moist, but flat in flavor, the rib was a disaster-- shiner (all bone, no meat) on one side, a scarce and dried out morsel on the other side. Damn. The brisket was the best, though I liked it better than Robert, with a robust smoke flavor and tender chew.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Keep It Like A Secret

A blogging friend asked me for a brisket recipe today. While there are cookbooks I'd recommend for such things like Legends of Texas Barbecue, by Robb Walsh, or Championship BBQ by Paul Kirk, Dr. Bbq's Big Time Barbecue Cookbook, and most certainly, Mike Mills' Peace, Love and Barbecue, I figured I could post something here, as well. This may be way too elementary for some of you, but for others about to tackle their first, I'm going to try to help. It will be a bit long.

Let me start by saying that there's two kinds of brisket: a whole, or Packer Cut, which is anywhere from 10-15 or more pounds, and then there's a flat, which is usually under 10. The Packer Cut includes the point, which is a large fatty and almost triangular 'hump' that sits atop the flatter section (the flat). The point may include the Deckle, which is a section of fat that has a ribbon of meat running through it-- it is brisket perfection. But, before I lose myself in Deckle revelry, let me move on.

Many people choose to inject their brisket with flavors using a needle. It adds moisture and flavor inside the meat. If you want to do that, knock yourself out. It's very popular at competitions. Mixtures range from apple juice and/or broth to complex blends and mail-order compounds. I'll provide a link at the bottom if you're interested, but for now, we're going to keep it simple.

Place the meat on a clean cutting board, and trim any surface fat to about 1/4 inch. It doesn't need to be perfect. If there are any areas where the fat feels thick and hard, carefully try to remove those pockets-- they will never render out in cooking.

Next, make a slight, but detectable cut against the grain of the brisket, which are noticeable lines running across the meat. This will help you know where to start slicing later because you MUST slice the meat against the grain to ensure that it will be tender. The grain may change directions in other sections of the meat, so take note of that, and make a mark where appropriate.

Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Mix together in a bowl:

1/4 cup yellow mustard (French's or something like that)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp Soy Sauce
2 tsp White Pepper
1 Clove garlic (minced very fine or mashed into paste, even better)

Mix that well and place a light film on the brisket. This will help the rub adhere and form a nice crust. The mustard won't be noticeable.

For the rub:

3 Tbsp Black Pepper
2 Tbsp Garlic Powder
1 Tbsp Paprika
1 Tbsp Seasoned Salt
1 Tbsp Brownulated Sugar
2 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Ancho Chile Powder

Combine well and sprinkle this liberally all over the brisket.

Place the meat into a smoker (I love cherry and oak for this) at 220 degrees and cook for about 1-1.5 hours per pound. When the meat reaches about 165 in the thickest part of the flat, and the color is set the way you like it, you can wrap the meat in two layers of heavy duty foil and continue cooking until the brisket reaches 190 degrees. At that point, carefully insert a fork into the meat, if you feel no resistance and you can twist the fork easily, take the meat off of the cooker, carefully reserve any juices that have accumulated, and let the meat rest, loosely tented. Separate the fat from the other juices and discard it. Save the juices for dipping the slices.

At this point, you can separate the point, if you so choose, from the flat, by sliding a knife nearly parallel with the flat, through what should be a noticeable band of fat between the two pieces of meat. You can put the point back on to continue to cook it, or chop it up into cubes, dip them in sauce and put them in a pan in the pit to let the sauce dry-- to make basic Burnt Ends-- yum.

To slice the meat, locate your original mark and slice the meat into 1/2 inch slices against the grain. Dip each one into the reserved juices. You can also combine the juices with your favorite bbq sauce.

Now, if you don't have the time or the will to handle cooking this bad boy in a pit the whole way, you can take it off after 6 hours or so and finish it in the oven at 200-- overnight, for instance.

If you don't have a pit at all, you can do this on a charcoal grill, if you have one big enough, by putting a drip pan (with a cup of water) under the brisket, and banking the coals over to one side-- over an air vent, ideally. Place the cover so that that air vent on top is over the meat. You will have to reload charcoal throughout the cook, as well as refill the water in the pan. Throw chunks of wood onto the coals, or make heavy duty packets of foil with chips inside and poke a few holes on top. With a gas grill wrap chunks in foil and poke holes in the top, or use chip packets. Add wood on either type grill every 1-2 hours, but a little at a time-- about 1/4 cup chips, or one chunk at a time.

With a regular oven, well, use the rub and cook it at 300. After 2 hours add some liquid (broth, wine, dark beer, thinned bbq sauce, etc), a couple of onions, some cloves of garlic, carrots, celery and potatos. Cover it and let it cook until it falls apart. It won't be bbq, but it will be tasty.

Here's some info about injecting brisket-- there's more info out there.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I'm Burning For You

'Sup, yo?

This past weekend we had the Grill Kings contest out on Long Island. I was on my way when family matters got in the way. As it turns out, I'm glad I wasn't there. It sounds like it was pretty much a disaster.

I know my buddy Robert from WhiteTrashBBQ will be posting about his experience, so I won't say much more than it was in the upper 90s, the contest was in a parking lot with no shade, they didn't have ANY water for the teams between 3pm on Saturday and 10am on Sunday-- turn-ins started at 12 on Sunday!! There was no communication with the teams about what was happening, no information about the cooks' meeting, the awards were more than an hour late and the local cover band played on and on while people waited in the sun....They were putting the awards together when the ceremony was supposed to be taking place.

The cost was $5 to get in, but for teams that were friends with the organizers you could put your family on a guest list, but few people knew about that. The rules for the grilling contest said you had to use the sponsor's lousy charcoal, but then they didn't enforce the rule. And that's not even all of it. I know the organizers put alot of time and money into trying to make this a great event, but with a $300 entry fee (plus the cost of gas, supplies, meat etc.), teams deserved better. Not to mention the vendors who expected a certain size of crowd and supplied themselves proportionally, only to have much of that go to waste. It's really a shame. Out of love for the sport of bbq, Robert and I both tried to help promote the contest, giving them some ink in the papers and on our blogs, driving to Delaware to do a 5-minute live cooking spot to promote the contest on TV and thensome. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future-- I hope for the best. I expect the contest will come back with some serious re-tooling.

In other news, check out our buddy Mr. Cutlets (aka Josh Ozersky) on Slashfood where he tells the story of his trip to Texas Hill Country, a bbq holy land. Rumor has it that Josh just landed a plum gig for NY Magazine. Congrats! In the meantime, reading about his time on the bbq trail will tide us over. Along with that pic of him in the spiffy outfit, below.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

He's the Uncle

Wow...I'm an uncle (again)! My brother and sister-in-law just had their baby, Gwen Florence, last week on Thursday. The wife and I went over and saw them all in the hospital and, well, I was blown away.

I've never been much of a baby person, to be honest. They're cute and all, but they never took my breath away or anything. Before meeting Gwen, the youngest baby I'd ever met was Lilly, the daugher of my great friends Mark and Alison from Philly. They brought Lilly over when she was just 2 weeks old and she was a gem.

My other niece, Hannah, lives out in Oregon and I first met her when she was 5 or 6--but they live so far away I didn't feel like much of an uncle, but with Gwen living so close by, she won't escape that easily! I can hear her now-- "Uncle Matt is coming over again!? He isn't going to make me eat bbq is he??" Yes, Gwen, I will, but not yet...

The combination of her tiny, soft hands, her pristine skin and features, the way her eyes roll around in her head unsure of where to focus, the little cooing sounds, the lack of crying and that new baby smell all tugged on the ol' heartstrings. Even more compelling than that, though, was the aura of absolute bliss tinged with pride and uncertainty that emanated from the proud parents. As I sat there I had the realization that millions of people must have all the time-- we all were teeny tiny and new at one point before we 'grew up'. Please don't be in a rush.

There's a huge world waiting for you Gwen, and I know you will wow them all.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Beautiful Day

Hello friends-- did you see your pals The Hampton Smoker and WhiteTrashBBQ in today's New York Daily News?! Our favorite reporter, the ever-tasteful Rachel Wharton wrote about the Grillin' on the Bay contest that we hosted, and previewed the Long Island Grill Kings contest which is coming up next weekend (July 15-16, Belmont, NY).

Click Here For the Article Named "Barbecue Bravado". There's a great picture of Robert from WTBBQ, as well as some great recipes-- Robert's rib recipe, and my all purpose brine. Look for Rachel's articles in the Daily News as well as Edible Brooklyn magazine.

Below is a picture of the 9lb prime rib we cooked for the July 4 weekend. It was slathered with mustard, worcestershire, and minced garlic before getting a dry a rub of white and black pepper, cayenne and paprika. It was cooked around 350-375 over oak and hickory logs for about 2 hours until it hit 120 in the center. Yum.
Check out the Smoke Signals section (top left of the page) for the new Song to 'que by, The Left Banke's "She May Call You Up Tonight." A killer power-pop tune from the folks that brought you "Walk Away Renee."

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