What is Skirt Steak

By: Jack Mancuso

Date: April 18, 2024

The popularity of skirt steak is growing. For beef lovers, you can’t deny the intense beefy flavor. It’s even stronger than flank steak! You’ll need about a half pound per person. Types of Skirt Steak There are two varieties of skirt steak: inside and outside. They resemble each other with a thick gran and long muscles. Both are thin, and both aren’t small. A skirt steak can measure 4 inches across and 24 inches long.  The outside skirt steak has a membrane. You’ll need to remove it like you might with ribs. If you’re getting your meat from a butcher, they’ll likely have finished this step for you. Of the two, the outside steak is thicker and uniform. On average, it weighs two pounds. The inside skirt steak is less tender and flavorful than the outside cut, but it’s far less expensive. This meat responds well to high-temperature cooking (1 minute per side), resting wrapped for 15 minutes, and proper slicing (against the grain). It’s great for stir-frying and fajitas. Marinate? If you like marinated meat, skirt steak takes to a variety of spices perfectly. It’s thin and has a large surface area, giving your marinade plenty of room to work its magic. Some of the common components of skirt steak marinade include: Apple cider or balsamic vinegar Cracked pepper Dijon mustard Honey Italian seasoning Minced garlic Olive oil Orange, lemon, or lime juice Red pepper flakes Salt Soy sauce Worcestershire sauce For best results, leave the meat in the marinade overnight Rub the Right Way If you want to use a dry rub on your steak for more texture, start by patting your meat dry. Use an olive oil binder (you don’t need a lot). Follow with your rub all over. We have some great all-natural seasonings for your skirt steak, including: Cuso’s Grass Seasoning: Very earthy Cuso’s Gravel Seasoning: Great texture! Cuso’s Roasted Garlic-Onion Seasoning: A familiar taste that doesn’t overwhelm the meat Cuso’s Southwest Sand Seasoning: Vibrant, fresh flavors Cuso’s Tequila-Lime Habanero Seasoning: Turn your skirt steak into Birria Grilling Skirt Steak You’ll want to oil your grill grates before preheating. Turn your temperature setting to 425F. Place the Skirt steak right in the middle of the heat action. Grill it for 3 minutes per side. These are best when medium rare (125-130F internally). You can use this basic process on your stove using a hot cast iron pan. For decadence, add a pat of butter on the second turn. To braise, add some red wine. PitMaster’s Memo: Using Skirt Steak You may be wondering how to use your grilled Skirt Steak. Here are some ways I recommend: Carne Asada Fajita Pita with Chimichurri Gyros Kebabs Philly cheesesteak Salad toppers Saltimbocca Steak and ale pie Stir-fry Stroganoff Tacos Tortillas  Sides: Blooming onion Charred leeks Green beans with citrus vinaigrette  Panzanella Poblano corn salsa (or chimichurri sauce) Desserts Chocolate torte  English custard Macarons Pear-apple pie Rhubarb tarts From the Bar Boston Lagar Cabernet Franc Manhattan Single Malt Unsweetened Tea

How to Smoke Brisket

By: Jack Mancuso

Date: February 28, 2024

When you smoke brisket properly is meaty, tender, and tasty, which is why I love it. But you have to be careful. Overcooking brisket results in something akin to shoe leather: tough and dry. Watch your timing and temperature.    What Exactly is Brisket Brisket comes from just above the front shank of a cow. Butchers usually separate pieces of the brisket to make it more manageable. The flat (first) cut is shaped like a rectangle with even thickness. It has rich marbling from fat. This piece appears frequently during the Jewish holidays.  The second cut of brisket is pointy on one end and has a roundish shape. The thickness is not even like the first cut. On the upside, the second cut has even more marbling than the first. So, the meat will flake when you cook it down, perfect for sandwiches.  Time to Trim When you learn how to smoke a brisket, preparation is important. Brisket comes with a thick layer of hard fat. This won’t render down, so you want to cut it off. There will be a lot of it! If you slide your Chef’s knife along the fatty edge, you can slice it off. This is also a good time to remove any uneven brisket parts. Tasty Additions Brisket loves cooking low and slow. It’s ideal for smoking. Before putting it on the grill, however, you can treat your meat with some flavoring. Some people marinate, but a dry rub does the trick most often.  Cover your brisket with a binder like mayonnaise, mustard, olive oil, applesauce, or even melted butter (yum). Wrap it in plastic and put it in your refrigerator overnight. Bring it to room temperature the next day while you’re getting your grill up to temperature.  Cuso’s Gravel Seasoning: If you appreciate the texture, this seasoning adds to the brisket’s exterior. Hot Honey: Honey and brisket are a match made in heaven. This adds a little sassy heat.  Maple Bourbon: Maple is another flavor that pairs with brisket, adding just a hint of smoky paprika. Roasted Garlic-Onion: You can’t go wrong with the classics. How to Smoke a Brisket I like to start brisket with the smoker at 180F. The estimated cooking time is 1.5 hours per pound of brisket. At this temperature, the meat’s fat does all the tenderizing work for you. Just bear in mind that this temperature doesn’t create a crust. My solution is to bring my smoker up to 225F toward the end of the smoking process. This helps produce a smoke ring and coveted crust. When your brisket reaches 185F internally, pull it out and let it rest for at least 30 minutes (an hour is better). PitMaster’s Memo: Smoke Sensations You have numerous choices for smoking wood. If you want the flavor of the brisket to stand out with the smokiness, go with cherry or apple pellets. For something stronger, maple or hickory. Sides Carrot Parsnip mash Grilled baby sweet peppers Lemon-garlic green beans Pickle tray Smoked Deviled Eggs Desserts Blueberry crumble Buttermilk cookies Chocolate rice bites Strawberry shortcake Watermelon sticks with honey dip From the Bar Cognac Cuso’s Maple Bourbon Old Fashioned Ginger beer Montepulciano Shiner Bok

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

By: Jack Mancuso

Date: February 25, 2024

The term spatchcocking isn’t something you hear every day. But once you learn how to do it, you’ll love the results you get from your recipes. I use the technique in various applications, and it almost feels like a “secret” ingredient to making amazing chicken. But you may wonder how to spatchcock a chicken. Read on.  What is spatchcocking? The term spatchcocking is synonymous with butterflying. The method cysts out the backbone initially. That may sound hard, but you can usually do it with kitchen scissors. Next, you open the chicken like a book, then flatten it on a solid surface like your cutting board. Why Fuss so Much? There are a lot of benefits to spatchcocking, the biggest one of which is even cooking. If you were to cook a whole bird, it would take you minimally 15 minutes more than one that’s butterflied. Sometimes, the lovely breast is undercooked, while other parts of your bird are too tough to eat. Spatchcocking is the solution. And you will be able to make skin with that perfect crunch. How to Spatchcock a Chicken: Step by Step Get out your cutting board and a pair of sharp kitchen shears Put the chicken on the cutting board with the breast side downward Use paper towels to pat it dry before going further Cut closely along the spine on both sides of the chicken Lift the backbone out of the bird and set it aside. This makes incredible stock. Don’t waste it! Now, turn the chicken breast side up.  Push firmly on the breast in the middle. There should be a cracking sound. The bird now lies flat on the ribs.  At this point all that remains is patting it dry once more, then marinating or using a dry rub for your recipe. I have created some all-natural rubs, some of which are ideal for chicken, including Cusos Coconut Rum Seasoning: A taste of the Caribbean in your backyard Cusos Dust Seasoning: GIves the meat a slightly smoky edge Cusos Hot Honey Powder Seasoning: The perfect blend of sweet and heat Cusos Smoky Garlic Buffalo Seasoning: Chipotle brings a subtle heat and smokiness Tips for Success Don’t rush yourself when you’re first learning. Pat your chicken dry all over. They’re slippery suckers, and you don’t want them rolling around on the cutting board.  Make sure you get as close to the backbone as possible when you cut. Why? You’re preserving meat. You’ll want to dry it again before treating it with seasonings. Get herbs everywhere you can on the bird’s surface. Let it rest a while to absorb flavors in the refrigerator.. Always bring your chicken up to room temperature before cooking. When it’s done, don’t cut into it immediately. Resting helps redistribute juices that create both tenderness and flavor. PitMaster’s Memo: Storage Once the leftover chicken cools, keep it in the refrigerator for about 5 days. Make sure it’s in a covered, airtight container. Do the same thing when freezing, keeping the chicken good for about 3 months.  Sides: Apple nut salad Cheesy cauliflower Orzo salad Potato bacon salad Squash in brown butter sauce Desserts Angel food cake with berries Banana cream pie Chocolate chip cookie bars Dessert waffles Gelato From the Bar Limoncino Merlot Sweet tea Wheat beer Whisky sour

How to Trim A Brisket

By: Jack Mancuso

Date: February 18, 2024

When you look at a brisket, you’ll see a long piece of meat with a lot of fat. So, you may rightfully wonder how to trim a brisket. But wait one second. You can thank some of that fat for brisket’s marvelous flavor. It’s dense and really beefy. If you are looking for savory and tender, you can’t go wrong with brisket. Learning how to trim the fat is one of the keys to a fantastic meal.  How to Shop for Brisket First, you should know that a whole brisket can weigh as much as 14lbs. However, you’ll see smaller ones at the store or have them cut by a butcher. In the supermarket, look for a bright-red prime brisket. It has a higher fat content. Lower grades are not as satisfying. This is going to sound odd, but pick up the brisket and see if it’s flexible. Now, turn it over and check for good marbling. You want a brisket that has both abundant marbling and flexibility. Tip: There are more briskets in the back. Don’t be shy about asking to see a few other than those in the case.  Avoid any brownish briskets. The color indicates exposure to oxygen, meaning the seal was not ideal. Why Trim a Brisket? The way you trim your brisket affects your cooking process. If there’s too much fat on top, smoke (and other flavors) won’t penetrate the meat fully. If you have uneven fat, the meat likewise cooks unevenly. You want the meat tidy! By the way, you are going to want a sharp Chef’s Knife for precision. How to Trim a Brisket Now you’re going to give your brisket a proverbial hair cut before you cook it. This process can yield a pound of fat easily.  Step by Step Turn the brisket fat cap down. There’s a large piece of fat just waiting for your attention.  If you wiggle your fingers into the edge of it, you can lift it up.  With your other hand, slide the knife into the pocket you’ve created.  Move your knife back and forth. Keep lifting that fat! Look at your brisket and trim it so it’s as uniform as possible Shape the brisket sides into a square by trimming along each. Don’t go crazy. Just thin strips for an even shape Move to the ends of your brisket. While they won’t be uniform, get rid of loose meat pieces and hanging fat.  Remove the silver skin and any large pieces of fat.  Time to flip it over! You do not want to get rid of all this fat. Rather, trim it to about ⅓ inch thick. Don’t touch obviously thin pieces. Again, you are going for evenness.  You can now cook your brisket however you wish (smoking is a great option). Pit Master’s Memo: Flavors for Brisket Those who grill or smoke their brisket often amp up the flavor by using a dry rub or a marinade. Applying either is a 24-hour process (leaving the meat in the refrigerator after treating it). A common marinade includes red wine, liquid smoke, onion & garlic salt, ground pepper, Worcestershire, and brown sugar. Some recipes swap soy for Worcestershire, adding some vinegar to balance out the sweetness.  If you want to use a dry rub, you’ll first need a binder so the spices stick. Binder choices include mustard, olive oil, mayonnaise, hot sauce, or even a bit of beer. Feeling decadent? Use melted butter.  But what about the rub itself? Look to garlic powder, onion powder, chili pepper, salt, a little brown sugar, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, and mustard powder; all pair well with brisket. At CusoCuts, we have a line of all-natural seasonings created lovingly by Jack himself.  There’s Maple Bourbon Seasoning, for example. This enhances the flavor and brings out depth in meat. Or, if you’ve used hot sauce for a binder, you might try our Hot Honey to add some sweetness. You might also consider Cuso’s Gravel Seasoning. It gives texture to the outside of your brisket for a great bark and has a natural smoky flavor. Then too, there’s something calm and traditional like Roasted Garlic Onion. Sides Baked Sweet potato Blistered Peppers Corn Casserole Shirazi Salad Zucchini Fries Desserts Blueberry Crumble Carrot Cake Grilled Caramelized Watermelon Lemon-raspberry Popsicles Strawberry Blondies From the Bar Espresso Mojito Red Zinfandel Stout Whisky

How to Smoke a Pork Shoulder

By: Jack Mancuso

Date: February 15, 2024

Ever wonder how to smoke pork shoulder? I mean, this is “hunky” meat, sometimes weighing in at 18 pounds. That’s a lot of pork, and it certainly will feed you for more than one meal, let alone as an ingredient for several recipes. Uses for Smoked Pulled Pork One of the most common applications for smoked pork shoulder is in pulled pork. You can gussy up the sandwiches any way you want, be it by adding spicy slaw or dab of apple sauce.  Go the Asian route and use it in pot stickers, as part of fried rice, or Tepong pork. How about in chili, pork tamales, or Carnitas? There are also pork empanadas, grilled mac n’ cheese, Cuban sandwiches, Irish stew, or perhaps burnt ends.  Is it Pork Shoulder or Pork Butt? It is easy to confuse pork shoulder and pork butt because they come from the same region of the pig. The pork shoulder is at the thinner end and has less fat. By comparison, pork butt is from the thicker part where more fat resides. Two other names for pork shoulder are “picnic shoulder” and “picnic roast.” Shopping for Pork Shoulder What should you look for in pork shoulder when you go to the market? If you’re not getting it from a butcher, look at the package. If there is any sign of an insecure seal, don’t buy it.  Watch for good marbling (for flavor and tenderness). The meat’s color is reddish pink, and the cap should be ivory white (not grey).  When you return from the store, make sure you get the pork into the refrigerator right away.  Flavoring the Pork Before Smoking Coconut Rum: Add a fruity glaze like mango. Gravel: Especially if you’re using it for Mexican dishes. Hot Honey: Hey, some like it hot. Sweet and heat make pork shoulder delectable. Maple Bourbon: A match made in heaven. You can’t go wrong with pork and maple pairings. These are just four of our delicious line of natural seasonings, created by yours truly. Make sure to apply the dry rub the day before smoking. Leave it in the refrigerator and take it out about 30 minutes ahead of cooking.  How to Smoke Pork Shoulder: The Process Set your smoker to 225F Place a small pan of water beneath where the pork will sit Place the pork on the grates Spritz it with apple cider vinegar mixed with apple juice Let the pork shoulder smoke  Every hour, spritz it with an apple cider and apple juice mix (50/50) After four hours (for an 8lb pork shoulder), give it another spritz Cover it with aluminum foil Return to the smoker for 4 more hours. Don’t open that cover! It makes for uneven cooking, and you lose smoke.  Check the internal temperature of the meat. If it’s 200, remove it from the smoker. Let it sit covered (or tented) for at least 30 minutes. Put the finished product to work as you intended. PitMaster’s Memo: Why Pork Shoulder? The texture and flavor of slow-cooking pork shoulder are simply succulent. When cooked properly, it’s juicy on the outside, but on the outside, it produces a crispy skin. Smoking is a perfect vehicle for pork shoulder because the fat cap dissolves, creating all that flavor and tenderness.  Don’t rush the process. If you smoke at a high temperature, the meat won’t have as much time for the fat to dissolve and do its job. You’ll have chewy pork shoulder. For smoking wood, I recommend apple, orange, and maple. These are gentle woods, so you can still taste the pork.  Sides Acorn squash Apple sauce (warm) Braised cabbage Fingerling potatoes Honey carrots Desserts Bacon chocolate chip cookies Braised goat cheese pears Maple fudge Mexican flatbread Soft pretzels with caramel dip From the Bar  Cabernet Franc Hoppy IPA John Collins Rum Sparkling cider

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