This is the arm of a guy who really loves his work. I took this photo of Stephen Gerike’s tat as he showed us new ways to break down half a hog. Stephen, who works for the National Pork Board, was demoing where some of the new cuts are coming from—cuts like pork flat iron that you and I may be seeing in restaurants in the coming months and eventually even in the grocery store.
The hog (or more precisely, half a hog) was laid across a folding table with the sun above and the dusty parking lot below. We were tailgating outside the Nascar Kobalt Tools 400 race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The Boston butt is on the top half of the pig (head end, despite it’s name) and right under it, towards the leg, is the picnic shoulder:
Here is the shoulder topped by neck bones:
(See the very end of this post for photos of the finger-lickin’ ribs we ate several hours later)
We were there thanks to Kingsford (the charcoal people), which brought together a group of food writers to teach us about charcoal grilling and related matters like fast cars, portable pits, bourbon, and tailgating.
Sometimes I think I may be one of about twelve people in the whole country who doesn’t regularly tailgate. And I am sure I know less about NASCAR than just about anyone on the planet, including members of remote tribes living near the Serengeti Plains.
But really, that’s why I love what I do. It would never have occurred to me to go to Las Vegas Motor Speedway to spend a day in the parking lot surrounded by RV’s and grills, and I would have missed out. I learned a whole lot I can now share with students and readers about grilling, hog parts, mixology, Wagyu, pit building, and the world of competitive barbecuing. And I had a blast. Oh, and check this out:
But I am no Chris Lilly. He is the world championship pitmaster known for the having the “best pork barbecue in the country”. He is also the chef at Alabama’s renowned Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q restaurant, author,and spokesperson for Kingsford.
Chris taught us that a good spice rub is made up of dry seasonings that fall into four categories: salts and sugars (white and brown sugars); ground pepper (cayenne, white, black and chili pepper); transition spices (including cumin and paprika); and signature flavors (which might be any of a bazillion dried herbs including rosemary, oregano, thyme and sage; or spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and turmeric).
Here’s a rub he uses on brisket:
Chris Lilly’s Brisket with Dry Rub
1 tablespoon bouillion base
5-6 pound brisket (flat)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup beef broth
First, smear the beef bouillon base (it’s sold in grocery stores near the bouillon powder and canned broth) over the entire surface of the meat, then coat it with the dry rub. Cook the brisket cooks over indirect heat on a grill heated to 225F for 4 hours, until the meat reaches 160-170F.
Place the brisket in an aluminum pan and add 1 cup of beef broth; return to the grill and cook until the meat reaches 185F, about another 1 -2 hours. Let the meat rest about half an hour before slicing across the grain.
Apply the wet rub…
We also learned how to trim brisket.
This is the whole brisket:
The trimmed flat brisket is the one above this, getting the wet and dry rubs.
The point end, which is much fattier, is used to make “Burnt ends” while the flat, which is the part most of us think of as brisket, is a lean muscle with a visible grain. That’s the one I braise every year for Passover, and the cut I used to develop this incredibly easy, five-ingredient stovetop recipe in the March 2011 issue of Cooking Light.
We ate these sweet, salty, savory ribs courtesy of Chris Lilly and the guys from Pitmaker, who fabricate the incredible pits you see below.
BBQ Spare Ribs
The vertical pit
And here’s me, posing with Ebo and having a blast as we begin to apply what we’ve learned.