Last week was hot as hell, but, like Memorial and Labor Days, the Fourth of July is a BBQ holiday. There is no wiggle room in my rule book when it comes to BBQ holidays, even for 100 degree temperatures. With that in mind, since we were in the Northwoods for the week, I was planning on pit smoking a suckling pig. When looking at yield and cost, I opted for something that I thought would have less flair, but ended up being the opposite.
At the last moment, Rob at the Butcher & Larder offered up the idea of a bone-in brisket. I had smoked beef ribs for Mother’s Day and really, really loved them and this was simply an extension of that same concept. This was a set of ribs with the brisket attached in one giant rack. Before I cured meats or anything of the sort, I was a BBQ man and I had never seen such a beast, but I was very intrigued.
Once I saw the cut, I knew that it was a bad-ass cut of meat, but it would be a whole new experience not unlike learning to drive a new car that has a much bigger engine than the one from the car that you are used to driving. With a little trepidation, I stopped at a local butcher shop on the way to the woods and saw a nice locally raised rack of lamb ribs with the belly still attached at a ridiculously low price, so I grabbed it. I had asked about the pricing and was told that the lamb belly and ribs were nearly unsellable in that market.
After arriving, I dug a pit in which I had planned to smoke the beef and lamb ribs. The issue was that almost immediately after putting coals into the pit, they would extinguish and it became clear that my plans were not sound. There was not enough air getting to the embers to keep them lit. At this point, I had to scramble. There was about fifteen pounds of meat on the smoke and did not have a ton of time to mess around. My father and I scrambled around the lakeshore and the lot and found three cinder blocks and I thought back to watching Rodney Scott of Scott’s Bar-B-Que feed his BBQ by shoveling coals under what ended up being a large scale grill. We fixed something similar where we could simply shovel coals under the meats.
With pit smoking, I found that flame is your enemy. You do not want flame. Heat is not terrible, but flame is. Burning apple, oak, and birch wood, once the wood turned white, I would shovel a little under the meat and put a Grill top over the meat to capture some of the smoke. After thirty minutes, there was already some color of the bone-in brisket.
After ten hours the bone-in brisket had slumped against itself and the meat was incredibly tender.
I had added the lamb about half way through the cooking process and, as I had hoped they appeared to be done almost simultaneously.
After resting the meats for 20 minutes, I sliced the beef from the bones and cut them into portions and separated each rib from the lamb rack. Cutting the beef was easy and there was huge yield. The lamb ribs were more difficult as the sternum proved challenging. In a perfect world, I would have brought along a cleaver or a big chef’s knife, but I was working only with a boning knife, so the cuts were not as precise as I had hoped.
The lamb ribs were a little fatty for the crowd that likes their chicken boneless, skinless and in foam package, but were absolutely delicious – smokey and super-gamey made for a fantastic combination. The brisket was the rock-star BBQ cut that it appeared to be and then some. Meltingly tender with amazing beefy flavor, it was a massive hit. Smoke was huge, but the beef for Q7 ranch was spectacular. The cut was so big that we had leftovers for days including a healthy dose of burnt ends.
In heating up BBQ, I always cover the bottom of the pan with cider vinegar, set the BBQ over the top and bring a cold oven to 350 degrees. Once the oven is preheated, the meat is done. What I found at the bottom of the pan appeared to be a reverse vinaigrette however and I could not let it go to waste.
Instead I added it to a huge bowl of blanched green beans with mustard seeds. Then to put the finishing BBQ touches onto the salad, I added burnt ends in place of croutons. While I am a huge vegetable as vegetable fan, this was no joke and was a fantastic summer salad, especially in the 100 degree heat.
That is the thing about putting together a BBQ. You do not know what you will end up with. In this case, I barely knew what I was starting with, but trusting my butcher went a long way to making the best BBQ I have made and the only bone-in beef brisket that I have ever seen.