Satchel’s BBQ’s pitmaster gives a brief tutorial on how to trim a brisket before putting it on the smoker

Satchel’s BBQ’s Pittmaster Extraordinaire, DJ, sees himself as something of a (mad?) scientist, experimenting with different smoking methods in an attempt to create the world’s best BBQ.  He tries different rubs and mops and marinades and hardwoods and temperatures. Anything that’s legal in the continental 48, DJ will give it a try. We can’t tell if he is BBQ’s answer to Thomas Edison or a hillbilly version of Dr. Frankenstein.

In this video, DJ shows us his wizardry with a small butcher knife and a big beef brisket. One thing we need to get clear right here and now: this is not the cut of brisket you typically find in a supermarket. Most grocer’s sell the “flat” of the brisket. What DJ is working with here (and what we think is absolutely, without question, the best cut of brisket to work with) is the WHOLE brisket, which includes both the “flat” and the “cap”. The cap sits right on top of the flat, and while it contains an awful lot of fatty tissue that will likely be discarded, it flavors the flat beautifully and contains some wonderfully marbleized meat that will melt in your mouth. Watch and enjoy.

Hugh Morgan
Green Eggs and Blue Smoke

My wife gave me a Big Green Egg for my birthday.  Whenever it comes up in conversation, we just say “BPE”.  Best present ever.  It was the perfect gift.  The kind of thing that you would never purchase for yourself but something you desperately desire.  It has been fun to play with.  (A side note:  my only word of warning to those considering the purchase is that it does require frequent cleaning to cook property.  And cleaning it is a bit of a pain).

I smoked a pork butt in my Egg a few weeks ago using charcoal and hickory.  I put the butt on at about 9pm, adjusted the vents…..then went to sleep.  The next morning I woke up at about 7pm (I like my beauty sleep) and found it still cooking at about 240, exactly where I had left it the night before.  The pork butt was cooked nicely, not as black as I would have liked (gimme that bark!) but very tender.   Once it cooled down, it tore apart easily and the meat was tender and juicy.

The problem was the smoke.  That may sound like an odd thing for a BBQ guy to say, but there are different types of smoke (as well as different types of wood).  Aaron Franklin of Franklin’s BBQ (Austin) had a great line when asked whether he likes to keep the fire door of his smokers open:  do you like to look both ways before crossing the street?  His point was YES, keep that door open and give that fire lots and lots of air.  He likes the mild, sweet flavor of “blue smoke”, smoke that comes from a free-burning fire that is fed plenty of oxygen.   If you see a smoker cooking with this method, it generates very little cloudy smoke.  Instead you see slightly discolored vapors coming out of the chimney.  Blue smoke.

Now think about the fire in that Egg.  It is suffocating.  It gets very little oxygen and is continuously exhaling lots of white, cloudy smoke.   On the bright side, it burns wood and charcoal very efficiently.  That’s why I never had to get up in the middle of the night and feed the fire more hickory or charcoal.  But that efficiency is coupled with some intense, smokey flavor.  And in my opinion, if you are using hickory, that flavor is strong, overpowering and unappetizing.

I actually prefer a middle ground: a mixture of blue smoke and the kind of white puffy smoke that you see coming from an Egg.  But to each his (or her) own.  My advice to those who are smoking on the Egg is use a mild wood like pecan or apple.  Hickory is too strong (and don’t even think about mesquite.)

Tonight I am moving on to next battle….porterhouse steaks on the Egg.  My wife and I like the “black & blue” cooking style.  Nice and charred on the outside and very, very rare on the inside.  Like I said, best birthday present ever!

Shana Victor
Mrs. Robinson, You Are Trying to Seduce Me.

Just a quick quote from “The Graduate” to grab your attention.  Many of you may be planning a graduation party this Spring.  If so, we have some advice.  Every year, we cater dozens of graduation parties.  Here’s what we have learned.

First and foremost, it’s hard.  Will it rain?  Will there be other parties going on that day?  How many people will show up?  Does anyone RSVP in this day and age?  How much are these people going to eat?

The most important thing to do here is realize that the deck is stacked against you.  It is almost impossible to accurately predict how much food will be eaten at a grad party.  You will most certainly get it wrong.  There are just too many variables in the equation.  Perhaps one day, the good people at Google will get around to developing an algorithm to assist with the planning of a grad party, but until that day comes, you have to live with a huge amount of uncertainty.

So let’s start with food quantities.  In our experience, folks generally over-order and end up with a ton of leftovers.  Far more than a family could eat in a week or two.

As you may know from the “Catering” section of our website, we think a pretty good starting point for feeding folks is roughly 1/3 lb of cooked meat plus two servings of sides and a starch of some kind (either a sandwich bun or a piece of cornbread) per person.  For grad parties, you should have much less than this on hand.  Start with the fact that lots of folks may not even show up for the party.  And if they do show up, very few will eat a full meal.  And plenty will eat nothing—-they ate at the other party earlier that afternoon.

So where does that leave you?  First, let us offer our recommendation.  Then we will explain you might want to ignore our recommendation.  Once you have a reasonably accurate guess of how many people will show up, I would have about 1/6 lb of meat plus one side serving and a one small starch (a slider bun for example) per person.  And depending upon the time of day (is it being held during a meal time?) and the date of the party (lots of grad parties are scheduled in June), I might even take that amount down to 1/8 lb of meat per person.  This is why we refer to grad parties as “grazing” events; folks nibble, but few do any serious eating.

Now for why you may want to ignore our advice.  When we are finalizing a menu for a family’s grad party, often times one of the parents say, “Just so long as we don’t run out of food.”  Well, if running out of food is an unacceptable option, we need to move closer to that first estimate (1/3 lb of meat per person plus two sides, etc.)  From our point of view, after looking at pans and pans of food being left uneaten at grad parties year after year, we have gotten kind of numb to the risk of running out of food mid-way through a party.  We are OK with it.  It will teach folks to show up earlier.  And it bears repeating: the vast majority of grad parties end up with TOO MUCH food….not too little.

But usually, families don’t want to run that risk.  Fair enough.  And guess what?  We are here to sell you all that extra food.  Just be forewarned that in the aftermath of the party, your freezer may be filled with pulled chicken and cole slaw.

There is more to say, specifically about serving the food during a party.  But we will save that for a future blog post.   Good luck!

Hugh Morgan