I think we are coming up on a decade of writing this column, and any of you who have followed me know how much we as a family love the holidays, as I’m sure most if not all of you do as well. And for us, food is a big component of our gatherings. This year will be different (big time understatement) but I am still doing the turkey, albeit via the sous vide method and then smoking it. I’ll take pictures. I wrote about that last week.
On to the subject of today’s column. There is a local BBQ retailer called “Charcoal and More” in Sellersburg. They occasionally host grilling and smoking classes, which are very informative. Hal Bryant, the owner, is a certified Kansas City Barbecue Society judge as well as a frequent and successful competitor all over the country. Last weekend, he hosted a class called “Holiday Meats Class.” The guest speaker and smoker was Chris Marks, eight-time Royal Champion and the proprietor of his restaurant and website, www.three-littl-pigs-BBQ.com. His resume is impressive: four World Championship rings, 50 Regional Championships, 24 perfect scores, and over 600 individual BQ awards. This guy knows his stuff, and I would have been nuts not to accept the invitation.
The meats covered were ham, beef tenderloin, prime rib, turkey and lamb. They hosted the class in Hal’s large warehouse where we could all social distance. There were roughly 15 of us, and the class lasted four hours. The beauty (and curse) of the class is that Chris showed all his techniques but already had his meats on the smoker, other than the beef tenderloin and the lamb, which were smoked during the time we were there. Here’s the “beauty and curse” part. We were able to receive a fairly substantial sampling of each holiday meat, prepared by Chris. Let’s just say I didn’t eat a thing the rest of the day and was wondering out loud if there was a “meat withdrawal session” after the class. Below are some of the notes I took. All of the meats prepared were smoked using wild cherry wood on The Good-One brand of smokers. And yes, I did buy a new grilling / smoking unit. I will share that with you in a future column.
Chris prepared what looked to be a “frenched rib rack,” which are the small ribs. His tip is to not overcook lamb. If you cook it beyond medium, that’s when the gamy or metallic flavor really kicks in. Medium-rare is best. And I will attest that what he served was delicious. One guy at first said he wouldn’t try it because he hates lamb. I talked him into trying it and he loved it.
This is the premium cut of the cow, and the priciest. Chris’ suggestions it to learn how to trim it yourself (there are many videos out there on how to do it) and to smoke it at a low temperature and then finish it off directly over the coals to provide color and texture. Most people cook tenderloin over high heat, which tightens up the meat. His approach resulted in a bite and a mouth feel that was “like butter.” Let’s just say everyone got really quiet when that cut was served.
Brine it after “spatchcocking” it. To spatchcock a turkey (or a chicken for that matter) you are splitting it in a way that it lies flat on the smoker and skin side up. This allows the turkey to cook much quicker and much more evenly. The problem with a whole turkey that is not spatchcocked is that the thickness and the mass of the bird prevent even cooking. He also suggests that the largest bird you should get is no more than 16 lbs. The breast that was served was so moist and juicy it was unbelievable.
Don’t try smoking a ham that has not been brined. You will simply end up with smoke pulled pork. Buy a spiral cut and then add your favorite sweet and savory sauce and bring it to temperature over the smoker. You will have a “twice smoked home” which will be delicious, and it certainly was.
In realty, the prime rib is a big uncut ribeye. The key is to cook it to the proper internal temperature (120 to 125 degrees). To be honest, that’s all I remember. This was served as the last sample to try, and by then I was experiencing meat sweats, a first for me. I probably missed some important information.
Liz and I hope you and yours have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!