What is a Brisket?

By: Jack Mancuso

Date: November 27, 2023

I use Brisket frequently in grilling. Examples include the tri-tip brisket and brisket on a stick. But when you’re thinking about putting together a creation of your own, you may have questions like when to wrap a brisket or how to know when your meat is done. This blog gives you some tools for making the perfect brisket. What is a Brisket? A brisket is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of beef or veal. It is a cut known for its significant amount of connective tissue, which makes it a tough cut of meat. Therefore, knowing cooking tricks will turn the brisket into tempting tenderness.  You can cook Brisket in various ways, including baking, boiling, braising, roasting, and smoking. It is a popular choice for barbecue in the ​United States, especially in ​Texas, where people dub it the "National Dish." And you’d be surprised at brisket’s versatility. Here are some popular dishes and preparations.  Barbecue Brisket: In Texas-style barbecue, brisket is king. It is slow-smoked for several hours until tender and juicy, often with a dry rub or a flavorful marinade. The result is a melt-in-your-mouth meat with a smoky and delicious flavor. Corned Beef: Brisket is often used to make corned beef, a cured and cooked meat typically associated with St. Patrick's Day. You bring the brisket in a mixture of salt, sugar, and spices, then simmer until tender. As a side? Why cabbage and potatoes, of course! Braised Brisket: Brisket is a fantastic cut for braising. Searing develops a rich crust. Then, slow-cooking in a flavorful liquid like broth, wine, or barbecue sauce breaks down the tough connective tissue, resulting in a tender and flavorful dish. Brisket Tacos or Sandwiches: Thinly sliced brisket is a popular filling for tacos or sandwiches. And the option in toppings seems endless.   Beef Stew: Brisket is a superb choice for hearty beef stews. The rich, marbled meat adds depth of flavor and becomes tender. Add vegetables, herbs, and broth while slow cooking, and YUM! Pho: In Vietnamese cuisine, brisket appears in pho, a flavorful noodle soup. Thinly sliced raw brisket goes into piping hot broth, which cooks the meat to perfection. Serve with rice noodles, fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and other toppings for a satisfying and aromatic dish. PitMaster’s Memo: Methods of Smoking Smoking brisket is a revered cooking method that imparts a distinctive smoky flavor and tenderizes the meat. In each approach, put your meat thermometer in the thickest part of the cut. Offset Smoker: Also known as a barrel smoker or horizontal smoker, is a popular choice for smoking. It consists of a firebox attached to the side of a cooking chamber. The brisket goes into the cooking chamber. The smoke and indirect heat from the firebox slowly cook the meat to perfection. Charcoal and Wood: Charcoal provides consistent heat, while the wood adds a distinct smoky flavor.  Low and Slow: Smoking brisket is all about low and slow cooking. The phrase “low and slow” was probably coined by an ancient grill master! The cook begins at a low temperature (usually between 225°F to 275°F) over an extended period.. Dry Rub: Before smoking, I enjoy coating my brisket with a dry rub to enhance the flavor and create a delicious bark. Some favorites include Cuso’s Gravel, Cuso’s Maple Bourbon, and Cuso’s Grass Seasoning. A typical dry rub combines spices like salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper. This goes on all sides of the brisket evenly. Give rubs a little time to infuse flavor.  Mop or Spritz: Throughout the smoking process, some pit masters use a mop sauce or spritz to keep the brisket moist and add additional flavor. A mop sauce is typically a thin, vinegar-based marinade. A spritz, on the other hand, is a mixture of liquid (such as apple cider, beer, or broth) and seasonings sprayed onto the brisket at regular intervals. Resting: Once the brisket reaches the desired internal temperature (around 195°F to 205°F), it is crucial to let it rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Resting allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, producing a juicier final product.  Sides Baby potato crisps Corn casserole Moroccan spiced carrots Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Feta Sweet n’ Sour Braised Cabbage Deserts Cobbler Coconut cookie bars Key lime tarts Pineapple meringue pie Strawberry shortcake From the Bar Brown Beer Cuso’s Maple Bourbon Old Fashioned Hard Cider Virgin Pina Colada Zinfandel

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

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