Hey, give it a rest, will ya ???

One of the questions we hear at the shop a lot is:

“Do you smoke your own meat ?”

The answer is “yes”.

In fact, we pretty much do everything, start to finish, right here in our little joint. We make all our sauces here, smoke the meats and beans, make our own Corn Bread/Cake from scratch, make our own Cole Slaw Apple Vinaigrette here, etc. The only thing we don’t make is the King’s Hawaiian Breads that we use exclusively.

Which leads to another question: “How do you smoke your meats so they don’t come out like shoe leather?”

And that is what this post is REALLY about…

If you’re reading this, you have access to the InterNut… C’mon, let’s face it, without the InterNut there would be no KarKrashians, Skateboarders taking themselves out of the gene pool, talking dawgs and cute kitten videos… All that being said, there are a gazillion YouTube videos on how the build a smoker, use a smoker and burn down the neighborhood with a smoker. As a matter of fact, there are YouTube videos showing you how to make a smoker (I swear to Gawd) out of a old metal FILING CABINET !!!

Well, we use a commercial smoker, here at the joint. It is American Made, relatively easy to use and works pretty darned good. But no matter how good your smoker is, technique is what makes good BBQ. Sure you can just throw meat on the racks, set a fire underneath it and “cook” the liven’ daylights out of it, or you can do what we and every other good “pitmaster” does – cook with low temps, over a long period of time, then let the meat “rest” before cutting and serving.

Resting the meat, in a pre-warmed ice chest, for instance, allows the muscle fibers to relax. The best example I can think of, is you’ve just had a bunch of strenuous exercise and you go sit in your recliner with a 6 pack of beer…10 minutes later every muscle in your body is screaming at you that you “over did it”… Yet, professional athletes take time to “cool down” before they relax. Why? Same reason a hot shower after exercise feels so good, your muscle fibers need to “rest” and relax from being tightened up.

They and your hot brisket (for example) have been heated up and those muscles have gone from loose and full of blood to being starved for blood as you stop moving resulting in that “tightened up” feeling. An athlete knows that those muscles he worked need to gradually loosen during the “cooling down” period or he could either get cramps or damage them due to not giving them the time to SLOWLY come back to a resting condition.Your hot meat needs time to relax and as it does, all those juices that collected in the center of the meat and in the foil or butcher paper, slowly will wick back into the fibers where it was squeezed out.

For our briskets, we take them out of the smoker and place them in our holding cabinet. Once there, surrounded by constantly moving warm humid air, they can come down from the 205°F internal temp we pull them out of the smoker at, and let them have time to “relax”, reabsorbing the juices and unwinding those tight fibers.

I am sure everyone has had a “dry” turkey at Thanksgiving… Usually, the bird has not had a chance to rest long enough. There’s a reason Grandma set her turkey on the counter for half an hour while she finished the side dishes. She was letting all those tight muscle fibers unwind and redistribute the moisture. She may not have known the reason “why” but it certainly worked, so that is why she did it.

For those of you thinking “Won’t it get cold?”. That’s where you dedicate an ice chest to letting your meats rest.

Before opening the joint, I used ( and still use for transporting hot food ) cheap ice chests you can find at Walmart for under $20… I would put towels soaked in hot water inside to “pre-warm” it. Right before I was ready to put the meat in to rest, I’d remove my wet towels, put in dry ones, plop the meat in, close the lid and then go do something else for half an hour to an hour. The heated mass will not cool down THAT fast… Trust me, if you preheat the cooler, it won’t cause the meat to cool too quickly. This is the same technique I use when running lunch to my lovely wife and the savages she works with… Food always stays hot and is tender when I get there.

Trust me, if you took an hour to get your smoker fired up to your stabilized cooking temp, spent another hour trimming and seasoning that $90, 18 pound monster brisket, watched it like a hawk for 10 hours to get the bark perfect, wrapped it in butcher paper, threw it back in the smoker to finish in another 3 hours… Hell, after all that, why not let it rest for an hour before cutting it? 15 hours of work for shoe leather or 16 hours for an “OMG FOOD COMA !!!!” worthy piece of meat ?

Really folks, give it a rest.