What is Mutton?

by admin on January 28, 2012

Cooking Tips, Food For Thought

BBQ Meats: What is Mutton?

In other parts of the country, most people haven’t even tried mutton. They think it’s tougher and gamier than lamb, so they’ve never been introduced to the glory that is barbecued mutton.

Here in Kentucky, of course, we know better.

Mutton is simply mature sheep, much the way veal is young cow and beef is mature cow. The idea that mutton is “old” sheep is one of the reasons it gets a bad rap, so let’s clear that up right now: there are definitely sheep that are far too old to be tasty, just as there are cows that are far too old to be tasty. Mutton is sheep that is just old enough to be really, really tasty. We call it “lamb” if it’s less than 12 months old, and “mutton” from 1 year to 5 years.

Here at Moonlite, we buy about 2-year-old female ‘ewes’ (sheep) that have just the right maturity to have a rich, meaty taste that’s more satisfying than lamb. There’s an old joke that veal is for people who can’t handle the taste of real beef; we’re of the same mind when it comes to lamb vs. mutton. Mutton is one of the best-tasting meats around, and there’s nothing like a good barbeque to bring it out.

What is Beef Brisket?

by admin on January 28, 2012

Cooking Tips, Food For Thought

BBQ Meats: What is Beef Brisket?

Brisket is one of the toughest cuts of meat, which makes it perfect for barbecuing. On a cow, the brisket lies over the sternum, ribs, and the connecting cartilage. When cows lie down, they’re resting most of their body weight on this cut, which makes it extremely tough and full of connective tissues (rather than fat, which is more flavorful).

So what makes it such a great barbecue cut? The slow cooking process means the meat has plenty of time to become tender. All the connective tissue would normally make this an almost inedible cut of meat if you were to cook it like a steak, but when you barbecue, all the collagen fibers in the brisket break down slowly, lubricating all the muscle fibers and making the whole cut remarkably tender and delicious. Brisket is usually cooked for longer than other meats to give the connective tissue plenty of time to break down and become tender.

Some people like to leave the fat cap attached to the brisket to keep it from over-drying, while others prefer basting, but most of the tenderness of this particular cut comes from the connective tissue, which means that compromising on the length of time it spends cooking isn’t really an option.

How to Find a Good Beef Brisket

You’re looking for a whole, untrimmed brisket that includes the flat, the point, and plenty of fat. A brisket that comes this way is sometimes called a “packer”. Just like with all meat, you’re looking for a nice dark pink color with no grey edges. If your only option has some grey in it, be sure to trim it all off before cooking. The fat cap should be about 1/3-1/4 of an inch thick, and it should be white, not yellow (yellow indicates that the brisket has been frozen and thawed, which is not good for flavor).

Some stores won’t have a “packer” – you’re most likely to find a brisket that’s just the flat cut, which is to say the leaner and thinner cut of the brisket. It’s also called the “first cut”. The point cut is thicker and has more internal fat, and many stores don’t carry it simply because it looks too fatty, and isn’t as popular. When it comes to brisket, though, more fat is a good thing – it’ll keep the meat moist.

Barbecuing Beef Brisket

Brisket is often prepared in a slow cooker or simmered in the oven, but we’re here to talk barbecue. Barbecued brisket should be slow smoked on low coals for half a day – it won’t get done fast, but it’s well worth the wait. Try it with our original BBQ sauce for the best combination of perfectly tender meat and delicious sweet sauce. Of course, if you’d rather trust to the experts for a perfect beef brisket, you can always order a whole one from our store and let us do all the work for you!

What is Boston Butt?

by admin on January 27, 2012

Cooking Tips, Food For Thought

BBQ Meats: What is Boston Butt?

If you’re just starting out in your barbecue career, Boston butt is one of the best choices you can make for an impressive cut of meat that tastes amazing and is easy to manage on the grill. It’s cut from the hog’s shoulder (if you’re looking at a hog wondering what on earth could be called its “shoulders”, we’re talking about the front of the leg). The Boston butt comes from the top half of the shoulder, and it’s perfect for pulled-pork sandwiches.

Boston butt is good for beginners because it’s very hard to go so far astray that you can’t save it. For one thing, it has a high fat content, which means if you accidentally cook on too low or too high a temperature, you won’t completely destroy the tenderness of the meat. It won’t dry out easily and it also won’t burn easily. If you’ve been in the South for any period of time, you’ll know that Boston butt is a Southern tradition that’s often sold at fundraisers or given as a housewarming gift to new neighbors.

Where does the name “Boston butt” come from? Barbecue used to be broken down by the best cuts of meat, which went to the wealthiest people, and the less valued cuts of meat, which went to the poor folks. That’s where we get the expression “eating high on the hog”. Interesting fact: many of the cuts of meat that were considered “low” on the hog are now considered the most delicious cuts for barbecue – like Boston butt. The low-valued cuts were packed into “butts”, or barrels. The folks in Boston used to cut their shoulders in a certain way that became the common way to cut up a hog, and we now call it “Boston butt”.

How to Find a Good Boston Butt

With a Boston Butt, you’re looking for most of the fat to be already trimmed. Once you get it home, you want to trim the fat to about 1/8 of an inch, so if you can get the store to do the work for you, you can save yourself a little time and trouble. You’re looking for fresh meat, of course, and you’ll generally get the best results from a local butcher when it comes to Boston butt.

Remember that you’ll be cooking a Boston butt for quite awhile. Often your butcher will sell them standard at 7-10 pounds, but that size can take anywhere from 12-14 hours to cook. Your best internal temperature should be about 190 degrees for a Boston butt, which can take quite awhile to achieve, so if you’re not prepared to devote a day to the project, you’ll want to find a smaller cut. In our store, we sell a 3-lb Boston butt that takes much less time.

Barbecuing Boston Butt

A full-on recipe for barbecuing Boston butt is a subject for a whole new post, but here are a few tips to start you out: you’ll want the connective tissue and fat to break down while you smoke, so you’re looking for an internal temperature of 190. Usually Boston butt will “plateau” at around the half-way cooking mark, which means it will stop rising in temperature and hold steady at 160 degrees or so. This is completely normal and it will start rising again, so don’t try to increase the heat or you’ll burn your meat. Expect to cook for about 2 hours per pound of meat.

A good way to tell if your Boston butt has been cooked all the way through is if the bone pulls out easily. If you struggle to get the bone out or if meat is still clinging to it, you’ll want to let it cook longer. After all, a pulled pork sandwich doesn’t work very well without pork tender enough to pull apart, does it?

BBQ Meats: What are 2-¾ Fryer Chickens?

Fryer chickens, sometimes called broiler chickens, don’t have to be fried – or broiled, for that matter. This might shock you, but we actually recommend barbecuing them.

A fryer chicken is any chicken between 7-13 weeks old. That’s young for a chicken, which means fryer chickens are especially tender and juicy. They barbecue more easily without getting tough, and the meat falls off the bone just the way it should. Generally, fryer chickens weigh between 1-½ and 4 pounds, but we personally recommend 2-¾ fryer chickens for barbecuing. That’s just the right size to let the smoking process do its work without risking the meat drying out.