In "Shigging," we ask barbecue experts to give us some specifics about how they smoke their meats. In the spirit of barbecue secretiveness and competitiveness, they're allowed to lie once.
This week, I'm asking Wayne Mueller (pit master and supreme badass at Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Texas) how he smokes his brisket. After hearing his answers, I have decided that he is my new favorite meat person on the planet.
What is the name of your smoker? I have four ladies, and their names depend on how temperamental they act on any given day -- but mostly (and privately) -- I refer to them as Hera, Athena, Aphrodite and Persephone (plus the occasional colorful metaphor).??
What kind of smoker is she? It's interesting that you would presume that my smoker is a female...I think you know more than your letting on, Ms. Laussade...I have two vertical flow pits (all steel), one horizontal flow (brick with a steel lid system) and one hybrid of the two (all steel and mobile) and all are totally female.
How old is she? Hera is 68, Athena is 55 (inclusive of some cosmetic work, though her stack remains FABULOUS), Aphrodite is 15 and Persephone is 5.??
What kind of capacity does she have? Hera holds 250-275 sausages and a dozen racks of spare ribs during a single show, Aphrodite can easily manage 275+ hot guts per session, Persephone can pack 100+ racks of beef ribs and still have room for 10 pork shoulders, and Athena can cook up to 30 briskets at a time. The Queens and their Meat -- there are none better.??
At what temp do you cook your briskets? One of the most asked questions, and yet one of the most relative. How about a range? 325-220.??
For how long do you cook them?? Until they're done? -- I'm sure you've already had that one... How about: Until my fingers do the Happy Dance after a thorough brisket frisking.
Do you have a complicated rub, or do you keep it simple? Grandpa (Louie Mueller) was fond of saying K.I.S.S...He was right to keep it simple for me!
?What's in your rub? Get a pencil, paper, and a comfortable chair -- this could take awhile. Our beef rub consists of: nine (9) parts course black pepper and one (1) part salt (by volume). Now let's discuss Plato's Forms and why they ultimately fall short.
Do you inject? Do you spritz? Only when a gun is pointed toward my head...or if it's particularly gusty that day.
Do you mess with the brisket while it's cooking (move it around inside the smoker, or flip it or make out with it)? I'm always playing with the meat -- it's how I teach the process. In fact, I train our pit staff to cook using their hands and eyes alone as their sole instrumentation. It is through poking, prodding, handling and squeezing the meats that the pit staff comes to know the meat(s), understand the meat(s) and respond to the meat(s)...how else does one reach Nirvana? And besides-- who couldn't use a good hand?...Or two?
For how long do you let your brisket rest? I love for the babies to rest at least two hours before going on-stage. The additional time really mellows their entire being, assisting them to settle into the gelatinous stage -- that unmistakable jiggle that the brisket displays when it's PERFECT!!! Oh, the serotonin...
Brown paper or foil wrap? You're one of those, huh? Why must you assume that if it's paper, it must be brown? We've been using butcher paper for 68 years and it's always been white... well, that is, unless it gets greasy, then it becomes semi-translucent and revealing. ??
What kind of wood do you use when smoking your briskets? We use post oak for all our meats -- it's the abundant hardwood of our area. If I were Tennessee, I'd use hickory. If I were in Washington, I'd use apple. If I were on Easter Island-- I'd be screwed.
??What's your personal preference, lean or fatty? Since I am all about the jiggle trait of the PERFECT brisket, I am a lover of fatty because it's the foundation of the brisket jiggle -- and it's so damn good!!!!
Do you own any items of clothing that don't smell like smoke? Everything I own, including things that never been to the restaurant (such as towels and throw pillows and the laundry room in general) smell of smoke and grease. I can't seem to remove the smell from my hair....Any suggestions? Tomato juice or something?.... ?.... Hit me up on Facebook with any suggestions, please.
?What kind of smoker do you have at home? You're kidding, right?
??If you were just smoking meats on the weekend at home for friends, where would you buy the goods? I'd first try to find a neighborhood butcher. Your chances of finding Choice or higher grades of beef are better in that environment than they are going to the local grocery box store.
Louie Mueller Barbecue will be in Dallas this October 4th at Smoked BBQ Fest, and on Nov 16th, Wayne Mueller will be back to judge Meat Fight 2014. Louie Mueller Barbecue is currently working on four major projects: expanding catering services to include the entire state of Texas (and the continental US); introducing automatic ordering and domestic shipping from their new website (due up in a few weeks); introduction of new barbecue sauces; and the opening of a new location in Houston, TX in 2015. This man is on fire.
Everybody make the drive to Taylor and check out the meat wonders that Wayne Mueller is smoking. (I think they charge extra if you want to smell Wayne's hair, so bring money for that.)
And this glorious weekend, if you're not smoking barbecue or eating barbecue, I'm kicking you out of Texas.