Chicken Tenders in the Smoker

By: Jack Mancuso

Date: October 04, 2023

If you look in the culinary book’s dictionary under versatile, you might well find chicken tenders. Well, you’ll find chicken cooked in many ways there, including smoked. Think of the applications! Marinated for Greek salad On sandwiches As a “main” with sides In fajitas, tacos, burritos, enchiladas Pot pie Chicken Alfredo Pizza topping Rice casserole Well, you get the idea.  Smoked Chicken Tenders vs. Smoked Chicken Strips When you go shopping, you’ll see chicken nuggets, tenders, strips, fingers, etc. The nuggets are easily recognized, being made from ground chicken meat. But the rest? Not so much so. To add to consumer confusion, the terms “chicken tenders” and “chicken strips” are often used the same way, even though they’re different cuts. Of the two, chicken tenders are juicier and cook more quickly, especially if you wrap them in bacon. The tenders are a special cut of chicken taken from the pectoralis minor (the inner chicken filet), just below the breast. Strips come from the other side. Chicken fingers can be tenders if taken from this region. Strips, on the other hand, may not be a whole slice of meat. Some are like nuggets, formed and breaded. Best Smoking Woods You have a world of smoking woods from which to choose. Fruit woods like apple, cherry, and peach impart a hint of sweet smoke, ideal for tenders. Alternatively, consider pecan for nutty notes.  Tip: Slow smoke tenders at 225F. The safe internal temperature for chicken strips is 165F. However, if you can hold your tenders at 145F for 8 minutes, you get the same results.  Let’s Get Spicy Before you smoke your chicken, you can apply a barbecue rub of your choosing.It helps if you can let them set in the refrigerator with the rub for a few hours. Just remember to bring the tenders back to room temperature before you cook.  At CusoCuts, we have several all-natural rubs you can use for flavoring your chicken tenders.  Cuso’s Hot Honey Seasoning: moderate heat with sweet honey Cuso’s Lemon Pepper Seasoning: a classic blend containing both lemon extract and lemon flavoring. Cuso’s Coconut Rum Seasoning: gives chicken a facelift and amazing aromatics. Cuso’s Tequilla Lime Habanero Seasoning: A smoky edge blends heat and citrus. Split your tenders and make half this way, and the other with the Coconut Rum. Cuso’s Spicy Garlic Buffalo: Trim your tenders with the flavor of traditional Buffalo wings.  INSTRUCTIONS Set the smoker to 225F. Lay out the tenders on the smoker racks (make sure they do not touch each other for even smoke distribution). Generally, they take 90 minutes, but do a temperature check after an hour to ensure you don’t overcook them. Serve At this point, you can offer your guests dipping sauces like ranch, your favorite barbecue sauce, mustard, teriyaki, ginger-scallion, or white wine with lemon.

Smoked Pork Shoulder

By: Jack Mancuso

Date: September 27, 2023

Pork shoulders are massive when you first look at them. Ready to eat 18 pounds? The beauty of smoked pork shoulders is you can portion out the meat for different recipes. Examples include Burnt ends  Filler for dumplings and wraps Pork Mac n Cheese Pulled pork (add your favorite BBQ sauce and have at!) Sliders with cheese Topper for rice or pasta  Well, you get the picture. A Peek at Pork Shoulder As the name implies, this cut of meat comes from a pig’s shoulders. Besides smoking, pork shoulder produces awesome textures and flavors from braising and slow cooking. The crispy skin is a delight. You can thank a layer of fat on top of the shoulder for that spectacular result. Timing Trick: If you are using a boneless shoulder, it needs between 1 and 1-½ hours. Bone in needs more time: 1 ½ hours to 2 hours per pound. Smoking is ideal for pork shoulder. As it cooks slowly, the fat cap dissolves along with connective tissue. When you rush smoking shoulder, it’s going to be chewy. Smoking Wood There are a variety of smoking woods on the market. I recommend maple, apple, alder, and orange. You want smoke that doesn’t erase the flavor of the pork.  How to Season Pork Shoulder You can smoke pork shoulder without seasoning, but why miss out on the opportunity to saturate your meat with flavors? Apply your chosen rub the day before you plan to smoke for best results.  Cuso Cuts has several delectable spices you can try on pork shoulder. Cuso’s Maple Bourbon Seasoning Cuso’s Hot Honey Seasoning Cuso’s Dust Seasoning Cuso’s Grass Seasoning    Once on the grill, don’t be tempted to open the smoker too often (no, really, it smells inviting, but there’s a reason). You lose smoke and temperature that way.  When your shoulder reaches 205F, pull it off and tent it for a half hour before carving.  PitMaster’s Memo: Shopping for Pork Shoulder No one goes into a market knowing everything about various cuts of meat. It’s vital your meat has a secure seal. If not, get a different piece. Look for pork shoulder with good marbling. Put the shoulder into your fridge immediately. Pull it out a half hour before smoking. Sides Apple dumplings Butternut squash Cesar salad Stuffed mushrooms Sweet fries From the Bar  Apple martini Bordeaux Ginger Beer strawberry ginger ale Whisky

Smoked Pork Shank

By: Jack Mancuso

Date: September 20, 2023

There are many types of pork, all of which have delicious possibilities. In my videos, you may have seen pork belly burnt ends and pork mac n’ cheese, for example. Today, we’ll explore making a smoked pork shank that’s downright yummy.  What is Pork Shank? The pork shank is a tougher cut because it comes from the front forearm of the pig. This region’s muscles are well-developed. In turn, the meat is leaner. When cooked properly, slowly, the connective tissues in pork shank break down and give the meat a distinctive texture and taste. Tip: Don’t overlook the pork shank bone marrow. It’s mouth-melty like butter! A pork shank’s characteristics make it perfect for low and slow barbecue and smoking. Is a Pork Shank the Same as a Ham Hock? If you can’t find one, the other is interchangeable, but there are slight differences. Where pork shanks come from an area of the leg near the foot, ham shanks come from just below the shoulder or hip of a pig, making them meatier. Both meats require cooking methods like slow braising, stewing, and smoking to make them tender.  Cost-wise, they’re very close with the shanks being slightly higher in price. Even at a low cost, you can make them taste sumptuous. You want unsmoked shanks, and you can cook them like a lamb shank. Use the resulting meat in things like:  Soup  Pork n Beans As a topper for pasta, rice, couscous Off the bone for sandwiches and more.  When you’re buying, bear in mind that 5 pounds of shank translates to one pound of cooked meat.  Smoking Wood Choices There are dozens of woods from which to choose for your smoking. I prefer maple (a natural pairing). There's also pecan, oak, hickory, or apple wood.  Buying Pork Shank If you cannot find pork shank at your local supermarket, the butcher will probably have it. Look for firm meat (but not hard). Firm meat means more fat. Also, look for striation in the muscle with a grainy surface.  Preparing the Pork Shank for Smoking Step one in preparing your pork shank is trimming excess fat and silver skin. Unlike ribs, you can leave some skin on for extra flavor. Put hash marks in it with a good knife—that helps keep the seasonings in place.  Step two is adding binder and seasonings. Your binder can be anything, including mayonnaise, olive oil, and applesauce. I prefer old-fashioned yellow mustard.  As for seasoning, Cuso Cuts has several that work beautifully with pork. They are: Cuso’s Dirt® Seasoning Cuso’s Maple Bourbon Seasoning Cuso’s Hot Honey Seasoning Cuso’s Grass Seasoning   Cuso’s Dust Seasoning   Apply the binder evenly, followed by the seasonings, and let the meat set in the refrigerator for 12 hours before smoking. Remove the pork from the fridge a half hour before cooking it. If there’s extra moisture on the meat, carefully pat it off with a paper towel.  Step three is getting your smoker up to temperature. 250F is preferable. Spritz the pork with apple juice once every 45 minutes to an hour. This keeps the meat from drying out. The average pork shank will take about 4 hours to reach a safe internal temperature of 140F. Now crank the smoker up to 300F. Continue smoking until the internal temperature reaches 185F. Remove the shanks and tent them in foil. No cheating! Let the meat rest for fifteen minutes before service.

Successful Seasonings for Vegetables

By: Jack Mancuso

Date: August 07, 2023

Successful Seasonings for Vegetables As Mother said, eat your vegetables! For some, however, the lack of seasoning in their meal made for bland memories. Just like other things we cook and grill, you can enhance vegetable flavors by using any of our Cuso Seasoning selections. Go beyond salt and pepper! Bring new flavor profiles to your favorite vegetable dishes. Now here’s the glitch. There are over 1,000 vegetable species (whew!). So, identifying overall seasoning choices that will work nearly all the time is a little difficult. Instead, I have set up a list of vegetables for you with the seasonings that make each pop.  Vegetable Spice Vocabulary Asparagus: There is no mistaking the flavor of asparagus, so it can hold up to bolder spices like curry, dill, rosemary, and even nutmeg. Suggested pairing: Cuso’s Grass Seasoning. Beans: Oregano, basil, garlic, onion, dill, chives, and red pepper flakes: Suggested Pairing: Cuso’s Gravel Seasoning. Broccoli: Basil, chives, curry, dill, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and oregano. Suggested Pairing: Cuso’s Grass Seasoning. Brussels sprouts: You can treat these like mini cabbage. Spice options include caraway, garlic, mustard, oregano, parsley, onion, and thyme: Suggested Pairing: Cuso’s Dust Seasoning. Cabbage: Cabbage tastes great with bay, dill, fennel, garlic, parsley, thyme, and caraway. Suggested Pairing: Cuso’s Hot Honey Seasoning. Carrots: Carrots create a naturally sweet edge. Use cinnamon, ginger, cumin, sage, nutmeg, garlic, onion, and parsley. Suggested Pairing: Cuso’s Dirt® Seasoning.Cauliflower: Cauliflower has a gentle flavor. Try it with garlic, basil, oregano, and parsley. Suggested Pairing: Cuso’s Coconut Rum Seasoning. Corn: Look to dill, lime zest, cilantro, jalapeno, and smoky paprika. Suggested Pairing: Cuso’s Gravel Seasoning (or Cuso’s Tequila Lime Habanero Seasoning. Cucumber: Chives, dill, onion, garlic, mint, tarragon, and coriander. Suggested Pairing (citrus edge): Cuso’s Lemon Pepper Seasoning.  Leeks: These are part of the onion and garlic family, so you can’t go wrong with those two herbs, along with celery seed: Suggested Pairing: Cuso’s Lemon Pepper Seasoning. Peas: Have a very mild flavor. Use hints of garlic, onion, mint, marjoram, and sage: Suggested Pairing: Cuso’s Dust Seasoning. Potatoes: Potatoes are like a glorious blank canvas: Look to basil, oregano, sage, thyme, ginger, onion, and chipotle. Suggested Pairing: Cuso’s Tequila Lime Habanero Seasoning. Spinach: A hardy-flavored vegetable that goes well with dill, garlic, basil, chives, and thyme. Suggested Pairing: a sprinkle of Cuso’s Dirt® Seasoning. Squash (winter): These are slightly sweet, so give them a little boost with ginger, cinnamon, curry, parsley, and basil. Suggested Pairing: Cuso’s Maple Bourbon Seasoning. Sweet Potatoes: Your baking spices go well with these, including ginger, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. For a little warmth, look to garlic and red pepper flakes. Suggested Pairing: Cuso’s Hot Honey Seasoning (or Cuso’s Coconut Rum Seasoning). Tomatoes: These are actually fruits. Try them with basil, dill, garlic, curry, rosemary, oregano, parsley, chili, and even mint. Suggested Pairing: Cuso’s Gravel Seasoning. Can’t Choose? Unless there’s a powerful theme running through a meal, you’d be hard-pressed to find vegetable recipes with just one or two seasonings. Sometimes it’s hard to choose. So why not look at options? Build your own 3-pack of rubs: Pick out any three that you find alluring. We’ll bundle them into savings. Cuso's Essential Seasoning - 3 Pack (Cuso’s Dirt® seasoning, Grass, & Lemon Pepper Seasoning): If you feel torn between flavors, start out with our essential seasoning pack to begin your spice array. Cuso’s Seasoning 4 Pack: Dirt®, Gravel, Maple Bourbon, Coconut Rum - Moving up from a three pack. How about a bundle with three of our newest and most playful seasonings alongside our premier blend? Cuso's Variety 6 Pack Seasonings: When the cupboard looks bare, consider this cost-saving pack:  Dirt®, Gravel, Grass, Spicy Garlic Buffalo, Lemon Pepper, and Maple Bourbon. Cuso's Variety 10 Pack Seasonings:  Go for the gusto! Get all 10 of our seasonings in one pack. PitMaster’s Memo:  Many people think of vegetables as a side dish, and they are certainly wonderful in that capacity. The brightness of fresh vegetables especially adds harmonizing colors and flavors to a meal. The key caution with vegetables is that some flavors easily overwhelm them. So, add slowly (remember you can put in, but not take out). Turn your side dish into a main remove, and amp up both the amounts and variety of vegetables you serve. Toss in nuts. Add edible flowers. Think about potential fruits for your dish. A central vegetable dish always benefits from having fresh bread and butter.  Some Drinks Featuring Vegetables Bloody Mary Carrot Ale Cucumber Cocktail Pumpkin Beer Rhubarb Wine Spinach Smoothie Links to Recipes Featuring Vegetables World’s Hottest Peppers Pepper Stuffed Flank  Grilled Onion Smashburgers Steak & Hasselback Potatoes Loaded Baked Potato Pesto Cheesy Baguette with Sundried Tomatoes

Seasoning for Successful Fish

By: Jack Mancuso

Date: August 05, 2023

Fish Fish are rather unique in the culinary world in that there’s a wide range of types, all of which have distinctive flavors. This versatility brings joy to the culinarian soul. Mild fish: Halibut, cod, grouper, tilapia, often buttery with a delicate sweetness Medium-flavored fish: Mahi Mahi and tuna. A little more potent. Flavor comes through even with slightly bolder spices. Strong: These are higher in fat. Salmon, herring, and mackerel. Heart Healthy. Swimmingly Awesome Uses for Fish Like all proteins, there are ways of transforming your fish or using up leftovers.  Ceviche Chimichurri trout  Crispy bass filets Curry Fish cakes Fish Rillettes Fish salad for a dip Pasta dishes Poached carp for stir fry Sandwiches Sashimi Seafood chowder Stuffed red snapper Summer rolls Sushi Tacos Tartar Seasonings for Successful Fish Basil: Fish love lemon, and lemon loves basil. It’s a perfect paring. Basil is slightly sweet with citrus notes. Tasty on pan-seared fish. Cuso’s Grass Seasoning includes basil. Cayenne: While hot, cayenne has a fruity edge. It brightens seafood as part of sauces and rubs. Other types of chilies appear in our rubs, too, including Cuso Seasonings that include types of chili peppers include Hot Honey, Spicy Garlic Buffalo, Cuso’s Dirt ®, Maple Bourbon, Dust, Grass, Tequila Lime Habanero.  Garlic powder or granules: Garlic powder is less bold compared to fresh cloves. Add it to breading for your fish, or sprinkle it while broiling. Cuso Seasonings that include garlic include Cuso’s Dirt ®, Spicy Garlic Buffalo, Hot Honey, Maple Bourbon, Dust, Gravel, Tequila Lime Habanero, and Lemon Pepper. Looking for GARLIC? Try the Spicy Garlic Buffalo blend.  Onion powder or granules: Onion becomes a background flavor on which you can easily build. Go easy with onion with delicate fish. Great in tartar sauce. Cuso Seasonings that include onion are: Hot Honey, Dust, Lemon Pepper, Tequila Lime Habanero, and Maple Bourbon. When you want onion forward, use the Tequila Lime Habanero Seasoning. Oregano: A peppery-tasting fish, but use sparingly. Excellent in shrimp scampi and with a spice mixture on salmon. Use Cuso’s Grass (with oregano) Seasoning for a Mediterranean flair.  Paprika: Paprika is earthy with a hint of spice. Snapper and halibut both benefit from paprika (smoked). Cuso Spices that include paprika are Cuso’s Dirt® Seasoning, Spicy Garlic Buffalo, Dust, and  Hot Honey. Rosemary: Rosemary has lemon notes, perfect for seafood. It is also a bold flavor, so use it with restraint. Rosemary is an ingredient in Cuso’s Dirt® Seasoning, and in Cuso’s Grass Seasoning. Mix the two together for a compound butter.  Salt (Sea, Himalayan, Pink, etc): Salt brings out the flavors in food that might otherwise hide. It makes a dish more distinctive. Great for grouper and swordfish. Cuso Seasonings with salt are Grass, Hot Honey, Lemon Pepper, Spicy Garlic Buffalo, Cuso’s Dirt ®, Maple Bourbon,  Dust, Tequila Lime Habanero, and Gravel.  Thyme: Thyme is a bit like rosemary but gentler. Perfect for whole fish combined with lemon.  Cuso’s Dirt® Seasoning and in Cuso’s Grass Seasoning both have thyme. Decisions, Decisions Unless there’s a powerful theme running through a meal, you’d be hard-pressed to find fish recipes with just one or two seasonings. Sometimes it’s hard to choose. We can help with this. You have several options.  Build your own 3-pack of rubs: Pick out any three that you find alluring. We’ll bundle them into savings. Cuso's Essential Seasoning - 3 Pack (Cuso’s Dirt® seasoning, Grass, & Lemon Pepper Seasoning): If you feel torn between flavors, start out with our essential seasoning pack to start your spice array. Cuso’s Seasoning 4 Pack: Dirt®, Gravel, Maple Bourbon, Coconut Rum - Moving up from a three pack. How about a bundle with three of our newest seasonings alongside our premier blend? Cuso's Variety 6 Pack Seasonings: When the cupboard looks bare, consider this cost-saving pack:  Dirt®, Gravel, Grass, Spicy Garlic Buffalo, Lemon Pepper, and Maple Bourbon. Cuso's Variety 10 Pack Seasonings:  Go for the gusto! Get all 10 of our seasonings in one pack. Some Side Dishes for Fish Baby potatoes (seasoned) Bok Choi with garlic-basil sauce Classic coleslaw Lemon risotto Pearl couscous with tomato Sugar snap peas and baby sweet peppers (blistered) Some Drinks that Pair with Fish American Lager Cucumber coolers Cuso's Key Lime Habanero Margarita Fresh Squeezed Lemonade Peach sangria Pinot Noir Links to Fish Recipes Catch and Cook Dry Age Fish Experiment Honey Smoked Salmon Ice Fishing Tacos Salmon Burnt Ends Sushi BLT

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