The 3 most flavorful beef cuts to smoke and braise
There aren’t many “absolutes” in this world but if there was one in the BBQ scene, it’s that we just can’t ever get enough of that beef flavor.
Ironically enough though, as butcher shops and supply chains take a modern turn, a lot of what was once known as “beefiest” cuts are now thrown away or simply reduced to ground beef.
Some of these cuts are slowly seeing a resurgence, while some others are just being looked over as if they were never anything to begin with. If you look well enough, you may just be lucky enough to find a butcher who cares and will be delighted with the orders you will put in.
It’s time to gain some respect back with these cuts and introduce you to some best kept secrets in the meat department.
Smoking and Braising
Today’s list showcases some of the best beef cuts, but most of them are very rough by design. Therefore, they would not come off great if you were to only smoke them.
By mixing the two techniques together, you will be able to get the best of both worlds and reinvent yourself on a regular basis
Braising is a very popular cooking method in fine cuisine, as it requires you to stew meat in a cast iron dutch oven with a broth or liquid. This does not come naturally to most pitmasters.
Most of them want to maximize the smoke for as long as possible and the idea of locking meat away to “steam” is just shut down instantly. It also requires more work and accessories but people fail to realize how great it feels to get out of our comfort zone sometimes.
Smoking and braising is a great combination of cooking techniques as it allows you to add a smoky flavor to your meals, while giving you a wider range of possibilities when it comes to cuts of meat.
The following cuts are amazing for this type of approach.
I really wanted to start with the oxtail because it is, to me, one of the most delicious sections of the beef. As the name implies, you guessed it, this cut comes from the tail. This cut requires some work as the tailbone crosses right down the middle, surrounded by multiple sections of cartilage and meat.
Still sought after by professional chefs around the world, the oxtail never really was a big thing on the BBQ scene. Oddly enough, it has all the requirements to becoming a newfound people-pleaser.
It’s gelatin-rich meat makes it perfect for low and slow cooking. Compared to short ribs or brisket, oxtail will be silkier in texture and more tender to the bite.
Oxtails can be smoked at 275 for 2 hours or until the outside bark gets a nice mahogany colour, then braised in beef stock with onions, celery and leeks. Within 2 to 3 hours, your oxtail should be fork tender and ready to serve over rice, making for a hearty family meal.
If you can look past the fact that the meat comes from the tail and try a single bite, you’ll come back for a second full serving. I promise you that.
The shoulder clod was once known as the beef king cut up until the 60s, where the brisket made its appearance on the commercial market. This cut is one of the least expensive cuts, taken from the upper portion of the shoulder, and consists of 5 different muscles all attached to one another.
It has a very beefy/carnivore-friendly flavor that’s very interesting to work with. What’s great about this cut is that it’s got a fat cap allowing you to get soft meat with a crisp layer on the outside, making way for more texture than what the brisket can offer.
Despite being located very close to the filet mignon, the shoulder clod is very chewy as this muscle system is put under a lot of stress throughout the animal’s life. Give it time to loosen up however and it will give you a bold beef flavor profile and will have you rediscovering your pot roast in new ways.
You can smoke the shoulder clod for 2 hours at 250, and braise it with a beer-based broth for the ultimate smoked beef stew.
Pro-tip: Slowly reduce a Stout beer with some HOBE’s Montreal spices, add some garlic and Worcestershire sauce and you’ve got one hell of a braising mixture.
If you like tacos and have never had beef cheeks, you’ve been doing it wrong this whole time.
There is nothing like beef cheeks and homemade flour tortillas.
Beef cheeks are like little beef pillows ready to be gently smoked and bathed in red wine.
They are as delicate as flavorful and even though they require work, the payoff is worth it.
A cow can chew up to 40 000 times in a day. This means that these facial muscles are highly solicited and therefore they are filled with collagen, making them ideal for pulled beef. Nothing says pulled beef like beef tacos.
What’s great about beef cheeks is that they are very forgiving so you can smoke them for 3 hours at 220 with a nice layer of Steven Raichlen’s Malabar Steak rub, then wrap them in an aluminum pan with some red wine until they are fork tender.
Add some to your tacos, topping it with some cilantro, queso blanco and lime juice and it will feel like summer on the west coast all-year round.
Beef has a lot to offer. We often fail to honour the animal by playing safe, or blocking away specific cuts based on cultural biases.
Open your mind and see each cut as single muscles, forget where they come from, and give them a try.
Your next favourite cut may very well await you if you dare to try.