Tag Archives: Brisket

Review: Dead End BBQ, Knoxville, TN

For our return trip from Lynchburg, Jay Prince and I ended up travelling through Knoxville, TN.  Naturally, I sent out a tweet asking if anyone had any recommendations for good BBQ in Knoxville.  Within 5 minutes or so, I got a response giving me a place to try out.  So we made a beeline for Dead End BBQ in Knoxville, TN.

At the end of a dead-end street, a group of neighbors gathered to hone and perfect the art of barbecue.  From this group the Dead End Society was formed.  Owners George Ewart and Robert Nutt continued to hone their craft in the dead end as well as on the competition BBQ circuit, and the end result was Dead End BBQ located on Sutherland Ave. in Knoxville, TN!

The restaurant was very neat and clean when we walked in.  The kitchen is partially open, but the area where the smoker is located and the meat prepared is completely transparent and behind a glass window.  The walls are decorated with memorabilia from the area, and some of the walls contain relevant quotes from famous people in the world of BBQ.

I decided to go with a combination plate of pork and brisket with pimento mac & cheese and beans & smoked sausage.  While waiting for my order, I found that Dead End BBQ offers three different sauces, each varying in levels of heat from a mild sauce to a hot sauce.

After about 5-10 minutes, my order arrived, and I have to admit that the food sure did look tasty!  I couldn’t wait to dig in!

Both the pork and beef brisket had an excellent flavor, and I could tell that this was some serious ‘que.  The only drawback was that it was slightly dry.  Saucing the pork definitely helped.  I tried all three of the sauces with pork (because I just can’t bring myself to voluntarily sauce brisket).  All three of the sauces were excellent.  The mild sauce was sweet and reminded me of a sauce made from beer or some other alcoholic beverage (maybe rum or whiskey).   The medium sauce, my personal favorite, added a touch of heat on the back end to let you know that it was there.  The hot sauce packed more heat and flavor into its punch.

The sides were excellent!  The mac & cheese was a very tasty and rich mac & cheese.  The beans and smoked sausage — wow!  I could have made an entire meal off of a large bowl of that!  It was a perfect blend of proteins that complemented each other very well.

The price point was right about where I expected for a combination platter, so it wasn’t insanely expensive.  I think the guys who run this place definitely have a good thing going on with Dead End BBQ.  I just happened to get some meat that was a little dry, but I won’t let that stop me from recommending this place.

Dead End BBQ is located at 3621 Sutherland Ave., Knoxville, TN 37919.  You can find their website at http://www.deadendbbq.com, and you can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Brisket Burrito, anyone?

[tweetmeme source=”brownkw” only_single=false]

Leftover brisket from Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse… check.  Habanero peach BBQ sauce… check.  BBQ rub… check.  Sounds like the makings of a brisket burrito to me!  Let’s get started… I apologize for the crappy cell phone cameras.  It’s all I had with me at work.

Burrito-sized tortilla

Burrito-sized tortilla

Diced brisket

Diced brisket

BBQ sauce -- this is peach habanero sauce

BBQ sauce -- this is peach habanero sauce, also courtesy of Meyer's Elgin Smokehouse

Your favorite rub.  I used C-Dub's BBQ Rub

Your favorite rub. I used C-Dub's BBQ Rub. It's my work emergency stash!

Take one tortilla shell…  add meat…

The start of a beautiful friendship...

The start of a beautiful friendship...

Add some rub, some sauce, and some cheese…

Almost there...

Almost there...

Roll it up… and just for the heck of it, garnish with more sauce and leftover brisket.

The finished product... TA-DA!

The finished product... TA-DA!

And there ya go!  If you have any rice, you can add that to your fillings as well.  It’s pretty much limited by your imagination and what you have handy.

My First Taste of Texas Brisket from Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse

First off, Happy Independence Day to everyone!  I recently won a giveaway sponsored by Man Up: Tales of Texas BBQ.  The grand prize was a BBQ feast courtesy of Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse which consisted of a 4-6 lb brisket and lots and lots of sausage.  My wife and I decided to try out the brisket.

The brisket

The brisket

The brisket was shipped in a Styrofoam cooler.  I’m not sure if it was packed on dry ice or using some other form of cooling, mainly because my wife received the package.  The brisket is hickory smoked, seasoned, and fully cooked (only needing to heat it up).

Brisket out of the package

Brisket out of the package

Here were the steps I followed to reheat the brisket:

  1. Preheated the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Lined a 9×13 casserole dish with aluminum foil and placed the brisket fat side up in the pan.
  3. Added 1/4 cup water over the brisket.
  4. Sealed the casserole dish with another large piece of aluminum foil.
  5. Placed the casserole dish in the oven to cook for 50 minutes at 375 degrees.  The package indicates to cook for 50-60 minutes for a 4-6 lb brisket.
Brisket prior to cooking/reheating

Brisket prior to cooking/reheating

When I took the brisket out of the oven, it smelled wonderful!

Finished brisket

Finished brisket

Slices of heaven

Slices of heaven

My wife and I were both a bit concerned that the meat was going to be tough.  It was anything but tough!  The brisket was very tender and flavorful, chock full of pepper and everything good about Texas brisket!  The only snafu about the whole meal was that I sliced the first few slices with the grain instead of against the grain.  But that’s what happens when an ignorant North Carolinian gets a hold of Texas BBQ.

So in short…  best brisket I’ve ever eaten.  Hands down!  Tonight I’ll be trying out the jalapeno and cheese sausage.

The restaurant for Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse is located at 188 Highway 290, Elgin, TX 78621 (approximately 24 miles east of Austin, TX).  Their website is http://www.cuetopiatexas.com, and their products are available for online purchase here.  You can also find Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse on Facebook and Twitter.

Review: Midwood Smokehouse — Charlotte, NC

A couple of weeks ago, I heard rumor of a new BBQ joint opening up in Charlotte.  As I read more and more about it, I started getting excited and determined that I just had to check this new place out soon.  Well that new place is Midwood Smokehouse, and I took the opportunity today to check it out before having to head in to the office.

Midwood Smokehouse

Midwood Smokehouse

Nestled in the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood of Charlotte, NC, Midwood Smokehouse is the newest restaurant opened by longtime Charlotte restauranteur Frank Scibelli.  Scibelli is the brain child behind several popular Charlotte restaurants such as Big Daddy’s Burger Bar and Paco’s Tacos and Tequila.  As noted in an interview with Charlotte Magazine, Scibelli’s restaurant fully intends to produce serious, authentic BBQ using a cooker fueled by nothing but wood (thank you for the correction regarding this).  To accomplish this goal, he traveled around North Carolina to research the state’s well-known pork barbecue joints, and he also collaborated with James Beard award winner Robb Walsh on the intricacies of Texas barbecue (read: brisket).  My task for today was to see how close he came to meeting this goal.

While the location of the restaurant may be in a trendy part of the city, the interior decor was inviting.  A mirror behind the bar stated the daily specials as well as some rather interesting one-liners:

The bar with its specials

The bar with its specials

Good Wood, Big Racks, Great Times

Good Wood, Big Racks, Great Times

Since Midwood Smokehouse has been open for less than two weeks, the menu was a little limited.  However, plenty of options were still available, ranging from Eastern Carolina style pork to brisket to sausage made on the premises.  After perusing the menu, I ordered a half-rack of ribs (St. Louis style) with a side of BBQ baked beans.  I requested that the ribs be sauced.  In addition, I ordered an additional side of bacon-wrapped jalapenos stuffed with cheese (which I lovingly refer to as ABTs, or atomic buffalo turds).  The server was very pleasant, taking her time to go through several of the menu options and offer her personal recommendations.  After about 10 minutes, my order arrived.

My order -- ribs

My order -- ribs

The first thing I notice is that the ribs were served with sauce on the side instead of being glazed on the ribs (as I expected).  The food certainly looked appetizing, and I will get to my thoughts on the food shortly.  As I was taking pictures of my food, the general manager came over to my table.  I introduced myself to him (as I emailed him a few days ago about arranging a time to see their smoker), and he immediately offered to bring me a sampling of their other menu items.  How could I possibly refuse?  As if I wasn’t already starting to feel full enough, out comes a sampling of pork, brisket, prime rib, sausage, and other goodies.

A sampling of meats

A sampling of meats

Smoked Prime Rib and Brisket

Smoked Prime Rib and Brisket

In addition, I also got to sample all of the sauces that Midwood Smokehouse offers as well as a small sample of collard greens.  Now on to the verdict…

The ribs had an excellent flavor. The meat was not too smoky, and I could actually taste the pork rather than an overabundance of rub to mask the flavor of the meat.  However, there were two things I immediately noticed:

  • The back membrane had been left on the rack when it was cooked.
  • The rib meat pulled right off the bone without any resistance, which signified that they were a bit overcooked.

The sausage was a very mild sausage.  It had a bit of a crumbly texture.  Since I’m not an expert on how authentic Texas-style sausage should taste, I won’t give an opinion on that.  The brisket was good, with a nice texture and taste.

The pork was, in short, PERFECT!  It had a perfect savory flavor, and the texture was on point (and not mushy like a lot of Eastern Carolina style pork can be).  Honestly, the pork did not need any sauce, but I decided to try it with the vinegar-based sauce.  The sauce added an extra dimension to the pork.

Finally, the prime rib…  why didn’t someone introduce me to smoked prime rib before?  Completely and totally droolworthy!  This one is definitely on my repeat list.

So would I recommend this BBQ joint?  Absolutely, with no reservations whatsoever!

The website for Midwood Smokehouse is http://www.midwoodsmokehouse.com.  You can also find them on Facebook here.  They are located at 1401 Central Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205.  

Midwood Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Confessions of a First-Time KCBS Judge

As a lot of you probably already know, I like barbecue a little bit.  If you didn’t know that… well now you know.  In October of last year, I finally broke down and joined the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS).  Soon after joining, I learn that there would be a judging class in November of that same year not too far from where I live.  I took the class and joined that elite society known as KCBS judges.

With my newly anointed judgedom, I set off in search of competitions to which I could apply to be a judge.  One of the first competitions I was accepted to judge for was the Firehouse BBQ Cookoff in Kings Mountain, NC.  For those who are interested in the results, you can find them here.  As the day grew closer, I started to get a little more nervous.  Even though the judging class was very thorough in covering what to expect for judging a competition, I was still not sure what to expect.

For those of you who do not know, KCBS-sanctioned competitions have four main meat categories: chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket.  These categories are judged according to set criteria.  Each individual contest may have additional ancillary categories, but they each have the four meats.

Once I walked in and was given my assigned table, it was like an episode of Cheers — where everyone knows your name.  The others at the same table as me were all very friendly and pleasant to talk to and made this newcomer feel welcome!  Once again, my perception of BBQ people being absolutely genuine held true!

Now to my opinions on the food… it was all excellent!  Each piece of chicken, rib, serving of pork, and brisket was all very tasty.  Obviously some were more tasty than others.  The one thing I did notice — especially with ribs and chicken — is that an overly sweet sauce was used as a glaze on the meat.  Now I don’t mind sauce on chicken or ribs… but the sauces seem to take away from the meat rather than enhance it.  The sauces seem to be just sweet and didn’t really have any depth to them.  I’m not sure if this is a trend in competitions nowadays.  Maybe one of the competitors can give me some insight into it.

All in all, the money and time invested in becoming a judge was absolutely worth it!  The Firehouse BBQ Cookoff was well organized and fun to judge.  I’m looking forward to future competitions and hopefully applying to judge the Firehouse BBQ Cookoff again!

A Tasket, A Tisket, I Just Cooked My First Brisket

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that this weekend would be the weekend that I would cook my first brisket.  And as it turned out, the weather could not have been more perfect!

The brisket was an 8 1/2 lb whole packer brisket — small by normal standards, but plenty for just two of us.  Because this was my first brisket, I knew better than to get a Wagyu brisket, so mine came from the glorious meat market known as Wal-Mart.  Yeah… I know what you’re thinking…  but it’s my first, and I’m not gonna buy a $50 piece of meat for my first trial run.

I took it out of the freezer Wednesday evening and put it in the refrigerator to thaw out.  Last night was prep night for me.  I attempted to trim up the brisket without taking out too many hunks of meat (which I feel I did an adequate job).  After trimming, I patted the meat dry, seasoned it liberally with Strawberry’s Shake-On Bar-B-Que Seasoning, and put it back in the refrigerator.

This morning, I fired up the smoker (a New Braunfels Bandera vertical offset) and got the brisket in by 8:15am.  After a lot of research, I decided to go with a little higher cooker temperature, keeping the smoker between 250 and 300 degrees.  As a treat to myself, I also put some pig candy in the cooker a few minutes after noon today.  As a result, I took the opportunity to get a sneak peek at my experiment:

Brisket @ 4 hours in.

Brisket @ 4 hours in.

So far it was looking tasty.  At around 4:15 this afternoon, I took a temperature reading.  The thermometer shot up to 185 degrees, and the probe slid in like butter, so off it came!  After resting a few minutes, it was time to slice.

Brisket sliced

Brisket sliced

Single Slice

Single Slice

Multiple slices

Multiple slices

Then it was time for the taste test.  I gave two pieces to my wife — one closer to the thinner end of the brisket, and one closer to the point.  She noted that the outer bark was a bit salty (probably a product of using too much rub).  In her opinion, both slices were very tender.  The slice closer to the point was much more moist, but the other slice had more flavor.

All in all, the brisket turned out about as well as I expected it to.  While it was not a competition-winning brisket, it didn’t completely suck either. The encouraging bit of information from today was that my wife (a self-professed non-fan of brisket) said she would eat it again.

It’s progress, but back to the drawing board…

Review: Mac’s Speed Shop — Charlotte, NC

I often lament the lack of good quality BBQ joints here in the Charlotte, NC metro area.  It really is a shame that in a city the size of Charlotte, the closest good BBQ joint is a 45-60 minute drive away.  There were a couple of joints close to my previous employer that were okay, but they were nothing spectacular.

So I did another search for BBQ joints close to my current employer, and lo and behold I came across Mac’s Speed Shop.  They have three locations in the Charlotte metro area, so I went to their South Blvd. location (since it was an approximately 10 minute drive from work).

As I am on my way inside, I immediately noted something that gave me a promise of hope: the smoky smell of meat cooking on a fire.  I walked in and was seated less than 5 minutes after arriving, even with the large lunch crowd they had.

(WARNING: I forgot my digital camera’s memory card, so all pictures are courtesy of my LG Ally phone)

Lunch Crowd at Mac's Speed Shop

The Lunch Crowd at Mac's Speed Shop from My Seat

After browsing the menu for a few minutes, I decided to go with an appetizer and a main course.  For the appetizer, I could not say no to the Tabasco fried pickles.

Tabasco fried pickles at Mac's

Tabasco fried pickles at Mac's Speed Shop

The texture of the pickles indicated that the batter was a cornmeal batter.  Also, the pickles were probably soaked in Tabasco for some period of time prior to being battered and fried.  There was not an overwhelming taste of Tabasco in these pickles.  I enjoyed eating them, although they were not quite as good as the fried pickles at the Penguin.

I had trouble deciding on a main course, so I decided to go with their combo platter.  The combo consists of four different meats to choose from (out of five) and two sides.  Being the heart-healthy, health-conscious person that I am, I ordered the pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs, and chicken for my meats.  For my two sides, I chose macaroni & cheese and baked beans.  I was thinking that there would be a little bit of each on my plate… and then my plate arrived.

Combo Plate at Mac's Speedshop

Combo Plate at Mac's Speed Shop

Before I get into the specifics of the plate, I had two initial thoughts.

  1. That’s a LOT of meat!
  2. Only one piece of brisket?  Disappointing.

Immediately I dive in to the brisket.  The brisket was smoked for about 12 hours and then finished off on a grill with their red BBQ sauce (KC-style).  The texture of the brisket was outstanding, and I did enjoy seeing the grill marks on the meat.  However, I was hoping for a little stronger smoke flavor.  All in all, I was pleased.

Next came the ribs.  The ribs were spare ribs trimmed down to a St. Louis cut, dry rubbed, and smoked.  They were served with the red BBQ sauce glazed on top.  I was pleased with the brisket, but I was AMAZED with the ribs!  Finally — a BBQ joint in Charlotte where I can actually taste the smoke in ribs!  The texture was just right: the ribs did not fall off the bone.  The bite marks left in the ribs were just right.  The ribs were a winner here!

And then comes that big hunk of chicken leg quarter.  The chicken was served naked (no sauce), which was just fine in my opinion.  The meat was very moist, tender, and juicy.  The skin didn’t have as much flavor as I would have liked it to have.  There was a faint smoke taste that complemented the meat very well.  Again — another winner here.

Then I finally made it to the pulled pork.  Out of the four meats on my plate, this was the one that impressed me the least.  While there was good flavor with the pork, by itself the meat was a bit on the dry side.  I had a few bites with both their vinegar-based sauce and their “Carolina style” sauce, and this greatly improved the dryness of the meat.  The pork was pulled and not chopped.

Wow… all of that writing, and I didn’t even talk about the sides.  The mac and cheese was very rich and creamy, and the baked beans had a very nice bold flavor.  Mac’s Speed Shop makes its claim as the best BBQ in Charlotte.  After dining there, I would find that claim hard to argue.

Website: http://www.macspeedshop.com/

Mac's Speed Shop BBQ on Urbanspoon