What makes Caldwell County Texas BBQ so good? There’s no secret really, it’s just good old-fashioned love of that sweet tender meat falling off the bone and melting in your mouth! But that doesn’t just happen by chance, it takes hard work and dedication to make the finest BBQ available in Arizona.
BBQ is a method of cooking that involves a live fire. It can be grilling, putting the meat directly over a fire or hot coals, cooking in the ground or for Texas BBQ, “slow offset cooking.” Anyone can throw some meat on a fire, but coming up with something that is tender, moist and delicious like Caldwell County Brisket, requires knowledge and experience.
ART AND SCIENCE OF BARBECUING
Some say it is an art, which is certainly a part of it. But also, there is a science behind BBQ that needs to be understood for a superior product. How the wood burns, how airflow works, the fluid dynamics inside of a cooker, the nature of meat, many things that are behind the “art.”
There are two things we are looking at here, the properties of meat that affect the BBQ, and secondly, the cooking process and the smoker.
So, let’s get started with the science behind Central Texas-style BBQ. And I want y’all to take notes, there may be a test at the end of this blog! If you pass it, you will be a certified Caldwell County BBQ expert!
To fully understand the science of BBQ, we need to know a little about the meat we’re cooking. Meat, in general, is muscle, which is primarily protein, fat, some vitamins and minerals, and a whole lot of water. If you want to keep the meat moist, you need to retain a lot of that water content. When the meat is cooked on an open fire and grilled or seared, a lot of the moisture is going to be evaporated.
The secret to keeping meat from drying out – which is no secret really, for Texas BBQ, is “low and slow offset cooking.” Offset means the fire is not directly on the meat but offset on the smoker. This keeps too much water from evaporating, so the meat remains moist.
But what about tender? What makes Caldwell County BBQ so tender? Let’s talk about beef and how it factors in. Specifically, our brisket, which is the ultimate expression of Central Texas BBQ.
The Science of Brisket
The brisket is a “primal” of the beef carcass. It’s one of the eight primals in the beef carcass. There are two per cow, which hang between the two front legs in the lower chest region of the animal.
A whole brisket has two primary muscles:
- A lower piece or deep pectoral called the brisket flat.
- A superficial pectoral referred to as the brisket point.
If you want to know the science behind Texas BBQ, then understanding this bit is important.
Because of where the brisket flat sits in the animal, it’s a working muscle that helps move the cow’s legs. This gives it a higher amount of connective tissue that contains collagen, which is tough to chew. If you cook meat fast, the collagen proteins snap-tight like a rubber band and have about the same texture.
When collagen is heated slowly for hours and internal temperatures reach from 185 to 195°, the long-chain collagen proteins break down. As water works its way in, the collagen turns to gelatin, exactly the same stuff in Jell-O.
Although the muscle fiber gets a little tougher as internal temperatures go up because the connective tissue has become soluble, falling off the bone BBQ results. Failure to reach this stage will result in a tough barbecue.
The brisket point is support muscles and has low connective tissue. So, when a whole brisket is cooking, the process has to be controlled so the tough connective tissue in the brisket flat becomes tender and the brisket point isn’t overdone. That is where the art comes in, as it is something you just learn from experience and sense intuitively.
Briskets are an ideal cut of meat because it is a less tender cut that requires a long amount of cooking to break down the collagen. With this low-temperature slow process, there is lots of time to get that wonderful aroma and flavor from the smoke.
WHAT GIVES BBQ MEAT ITS FLAVOR?
The Maillard Reaction
What is the Maillard Reaction? Is it a famous Arizona band or a new movie? Well, that would be a cool name, but it’s not. (is it?)
Here is some more science for you that they probably didn’t teach you in school. An important part of what makes BBQ Brisket or any meat so tasty is the browning that occurs. The Maillard Reaction is a chemical reaction between the nucleophilic amino group of the amino acids in proteins and the caramelization of reduced sugars that give browned food its distinctive flavor.
Maillard reactions can produce hundreds of different flavors depending on the chemical elements in the food, temperature, cooking time, and the presence of air. This is why every BBQ joint may have a product that has a different flavor.
Consistency in our Caldwell County BBQ cooking process means you can expect to always have the same distinctive flavor and quality of Caldwell County BBQ each and every meal.
The hardwoods used in the BBQ smoker have a lot of cellulose and lignin. When burnt slowly, the cellulose caramelizes into sugar molecules and flavors the meat. Also, the lignin is converted into all kinds of aromatic chemicals that add other flavors to the meat.
The types of wood and how you’re using it, green, dry wood, post oak, hickory, mesquite, pecan, all impart a different taste to the meat.
Here is another chemical reaction important to the flavors in BBQ. When low and slow smoked meat is cooked properly, a region of pink-colored meat, about a 1/4-inch-thick, will be under the surface crust (called bark.)
The smoke ring forms when burning wood produces nitric oxide and combines with myoglobin, an iron- and oxygen-binding protein in meat. The smoke locks in this prized pink color as the reaction forms nitrosyl hemochromogen, a pigment found in cured meats.
The best meat for BBQ has a good amount of fat. Animal fats are made of triglycerides which are composed of three fatty acids, of which there are 2 types – saturated and unsaturated.
Saturated means that each carbon atom in the fatty acid has the maximum number of attached hydrogen atoms. These saturated fatty acids have a much higher melting point than unsaturated fats. As the saturated fats in the meat slowly heat up, the hydrogen bonds are disrupted and turn to liquid.
The combination of the liquefied fat and the gelatin from the melted collagen makes the brisket very tender and oh so delicious.
Now we have discussed some of the science behind BBQ meat, we can’t forget the smoker that does the magic to an otherwise hard to eat piece of meat.
The smoker and how it is managed has everything to do with the quality and taste of the BBQ. Muscle tissue is very complex and there are many factors involved when cooking it in an advanced smoker like Caldwell County BBQ’s Max Woodruff.
It’s not just about the temperature gauge, it’s about the heat curve, how long it lasts, and getting the wood to do what you want.
Controlling the temperature of a BBQ Smoker is a challenge. You want it to reach certain temperatures at certain stages of the process. But then there is BARBEQUE STALL.
The BBQ stall is what happens after a large piece of meat like brisket is placed in the smoker, and after several hours the temperature of the meat hits about 150°F and stops rising. The stall can last for up to six hours before the temperature starts rising again.
This happens because the rising temperature of the smoker evaporates the moisture in the meat. Evaporative cooling balances out the heat being produced by the smoker’s wood, causing the temperature of the meat to plateau.
Put Our BBQ to the test
So you can see that there’s a science behind creating the juicy tenderness and natural smoke flavor of Central Texas Style BBQ.
Visit Caldwell County BBQ soon and do some scientific investigation of our brisket, ribs, pork, sausage, and turkey. Test if the chemical reaction between the nucleophilic amino group of the amino acids in proteins and the caramelization of reduced sugars is true!