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  1. GRAAAHHH!!!!! Mother Fffiddle dee dee.... Sigh, I guess I was wrong. If Food Network is to be believed, Chaps does indeed cook their beef from scratch. But it is bottom round and not top round, which may account for the inferior flavor, but makes me really respect the place for being able to get it so tender. Sorry Chaps.
  2. Henry


    I guess I assumed most folks don't own a dutch oven large enough to accommodate an entire brisket, but if so of course use it. My thought was that it's far more likely to have a roasting pan available, which when tented with foil, provides sufficient cover and easy access for temp checking. Btw OP, how did the dinner go?
  3. Henry


    Hmm, this is an interesting point. There's a lot of conflicting info out there. I don't have my McGee in front of me, but I do know that the smoke ring results from a reaction between myoglobin in the meat and nitrogen compounds in the smoke, similar to curing meat with sodium nitrate or nitrite. I do not think that smoke ring = smoke flavor though. The smoke ring does contribute a flavor of its own, but I'm not sure it's smoky necessarily. Indeed, if you ever have ribs cooked in a high-speed, self contained device such as a SmokeChef (prevalent in Baltimore City due to environmental codes), you will note a good smoke aroma and flavor, but no smoke ring. Thus I think that though cooked or "set" proteins may not be amenable to a smoke ring, smoke flavor penetration is still possible. Also, for ribs I've found that smoke flavor pretty much maxes out at around 3 hours, and the ribs reach 140 way before that. There is also the less respectable technique of par-boiling ribs first, then smoking them, which does still imbue them with smoke flavor, though perhaps not as much. So perhaps it's a combo of density and myoglobin damage as a result of cooking. So why start the meat cold? Basically because that seems to be the consensus of those that smoke meat far more often than I. I don't believe it's due to the muscle fibers being more "open" when cold, although I guess that could be possible. In any case, it probably takes less than 10 minutes for the surface to get back to room temp in the cooker, so maybe it's just more convenient than letting it rest. I guess it's worth investigating the difference - next time I will! Also, for anyone interested, I'm going to be on the Dan Rodricks show on Tuesday, June 24 (1:00 pm 88.1 WYPR) talknig about BBQ.
  4. Henry


    Some pics: Briskets in the cooker - the wood is in there because it was cut very recently, and this is a fast way to season it a bit. Note the re-positionable fat pieces. Double hook-up of the thin blue! The smoke on the right actually is blue, just looks white in the shot. You want to avoid thick, white smoke at all cost - this is what causes that acrid taste and sometimes that thin, black residue on meat. Keep intake vents at least half open and exhaust wide open. Control temp via amount of fuel, not venting. Never soak your wood! Finished product.
  5. Henry


    That's right, an IR thermometer only measures surface temp, which has limited value when BBQing. A probe thermometer is essential. If you get a digital, avoid the cheapest of the cheap since they tend to take a long time to display the accurate temp. The most convenient device is a probe that will alert you when a certain temp is reached, either via audible alarm or page, depending on how fancy it is. As far as smoking a tender brisket, it's hard to put a time on it, since brisket these days come in many configurations, i.e. whole, flat, point, first cut etc. I address it briefly in my pastrami treatise. It's better to go strictly by temp, and is actually quite simple. I do employ one trick that purists may deem heresy. Most ppl tend not to trim the brisket of its fat cap, since it acts as a self-baster during smoking. I do however, into several large slabs, and reserve them. Apply your rub of choice (simpler the better for beef, as far as I'm concerned) the night before. When you're ready to start, your cooker should be at around 270, but anywhere between 240 and 290 should be ok. Transfer meat directly from fridge to cooker, since cold meat takes smoke better apparently. Then take your reserved fat trimmings and place on top of brisket. This way, you get the self basting benefit, and the rub gets into all the meat surfaces. While cooking, reposition occasionally to achieve even browning (another benefit!). Smoke until internal temp reaches about 175, usually about three hours or so for me. Then, wrap tightly in heavy duty foil and cook using coals only, but still maintaining cooker temp, until internal temp reaches 190. Though beef is well done at 175, you need this extra time and heat energy in order to convert the tough collagen in the hard-working brisket muscle into melty gelatin. Finally, there is the essential resting period, wherein the hot, volatile juices can redistribute and become more stable within the beef. To ensure maximum juiciness, let it rest in a cooler for at least an hour. Note that there will still be a lot of juice in the foil, which you can make into a sauce or whatever. I always end up with a significantly dense and tasty "bark", but after resting you can reintroduce the brisket to a hot cooker briefly for a chewier "bark". As with BBQ in general, it's all about feel, which comes from trial and error. But I've found this template to be pretty effective. Fall-apart tender is easy, just cook it for 12 hours. I always assume chopped brisket is just a salvaged fail brisket. What I look for is brisket that can be sliced easily, hold its structure, and still be tender. Also, though I never use it for pork, I settle for hickory with beef, just to preserve my dwindling stash of apple and cherry. And of course, thin blue smoke at all times!
  6. Henry


    I rarely bake brisket in the oven (I normally smoke), but I do not recommend using brown sugar. My default rub is salt, sugar, black pepper, coriander and garlic. Combine with little neutral-flavored oil and rub the brisket the night before. Btw, the source of brisket I've found is the Pennsylvania Dutch Market in Hunt Valley - it's grass/silage-fed beef and is usually $3.69/lb. Anyway, forming a crispy "skin" is really not possible, but I do recommend either an initial oven temp of 450, for perhaps 20 minutes, or searing in a hot pan to induce browning. Then tent with foil and bake or braise(with water, broth, beer, or other flavored liquid if you wish) at 300 until the internal temp reaches 190. When it reaches 190, bake for another hour, then wrap in foil, then in a towel, then let it rest preferably in a cooler. Should take about 4 hours total cooking, much preferable to leaving your oven on overnight, in terms of both temp and energy. Also, don't trim the brisket and cook it fat side up. I don't think leaving it cooking in an oven overnight is a good idea, because then you risk cooking it too long and making the brisket too tender. I happen to prefer a brisket that is tender, but with enough structural integrity to slice easily without shredding apart.
  7. Henry

    Memorial Day Cookout

    Hard. Core.
  8. Yep, sorry I meant Leo's and it's at 1403 Chester Pike, Folcroft, PA 19032, 610-586-1199. I have a some photos and such, I will post a topic on the subject tonight.
  9. Haha yes the farmer's market one looks pretty alluring, but Dmnkly I'm gonna save you 45 minutes of waiting in line - kinda sucky. I have absolutely no idea why the line is so long all the time. I've even asked people randomly why they think the line is so long. Shrugs. I've concluded it's one of those crowd/herd behavior things. The beef is actually not that bad, but not worth the wait, and the sausage is just plain bad. Damn I'm just a hatin' fool today, sorry for all the negativity.
  10. hillvalley, i gotta know - what did you read it as at first? Only thing i can think of is maybe "Night of the Hookers"?
  11. Also, and I will confirm this next time I go, the cuts on the grill looked way too uniform, semi-spherical with a distinct flat side. Real pit beef tends to be much more irregular: Now I suppose I could be wrong about all this, but I'd bet money there's no raw beef in the Chaps walk-in.
  12. To me, the beef had that supermarket deli meat injection brine flavor, and again the tenderness draws suspicion. I didn't mean that they take sliced deli meat and grill it (which they actually do do at Key Pit Stop), I believe they take whole cuts of cooked, brined roast beef, grill them for a time, then slice. When you buy this kind of roast beef, you can get medium-rare or fully cooked styles, thus I think if/when they run out of the medium rare cuts, they can't just take out a raw cut of top round and start cooking it. I also think the excessive moisture content in the commercial deli-style meat is what prevents a proper char crust from forming on their beef. This is gonna sound nasty, but although my sandwiches also had pink stains, I believe it was brine solution, because it didn't taste bloody at all. Ewww. I mean mmmm. When you have the real stuff, you will immediately be able to differentiate. Also, based on the size of the building and what was visible of the kitchen, I couldn't imagine where their actual pit would be. What I did notice was meat being taken out of storage drawers, already cooked, and then being grilled. I really don't know jack about cooking pit beef, but I imagine you wouldn't get good results actually cooking such large cuts on a flat-top grill.
  13. I actually spent a few nights working in the kitchen at Petit Loius, believe it or not! I wanted to expand my knowledge of French cuisine, but in three days I'd pretty much learned the entire menu. This is not a knock or self-aggrandizement, on the contrary it's a testament to the true "bistro" nature of menu, although I've always believed most places that bill themselves as bistros are priced too high to be accurately regarded as such. This includes Petit Louis. But, the quality of ingredients and skill of preparation is no joke. The kitchen staff there is without a doubt one of the best I've ever encountered. The dining room is very attractive and has great energy. One thing they need to improve on is their bar - I ordered a negroni and it was terrible. On the other hand, Pazo has arguably the best bartenders in Baltimore.
  14. Henry

    Dining in Philadelphia

    Do you live in Philly? Happens to be one of my favorite food cities. Every couple of months I make my way up for Ocean Harbor, Dmitri's, and cheesesteaks of course. I was at Morimoto about a month ago and was sadly disappointed. It used to be my measuring stick for Japanese food, but I fear quality is slipping slightly as of late. Recently, Leon's, a bit south of the city, has assumed my top spot for best cheesesteak in Philly. Come to think of it, I can't ever recall seeing pit beef anywhere else but here. That's definitely worth investigation. I want to go to NY to sample beef on weck - one of the most poetic accountings of meat ever was in Gourmet's Road Food column many years ago, wherein the sliced, medium rare beef was described as (and i paraphrase) looking like soft, velvety rose petals. Mmm, rose petals. By the way, has anyone been to Little Texas on Pulaski? I've driven past countless times, but have never been inclined or able to stop and check it out.
  15. The only question, really, is domestic or imported crab meat? Even how a place answers is telling - if they know right off the bat, bonus points, even if it's imported. If they are sheepish or claim not to know, I'd say don't bother. If they use domestic, go immediately.