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food science Q re: internal temps of cured beef product

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    food science Q re: internal temps of cured beef product

    Hi, all! This question, I think, is better suited to Dr. Blondin or anyone who has more than just anecdotal stories to tell on this topic.

    I make Montreal smoke meat from scratch, at home. For the good Americans out there who haven't been blessed with a trip to Smoke Meat Pete, or Deli Bees, or, heaven forbid, Schwartz's (all three in Montreal), MSM is a kissing cousin of pastrami. Spiced a little differently, made with brisket, not plate, tends to be more piquant than pastrami, and is a quintessential part of Jewish Montreal food. (For greater clarification, the differences are better explained here: http://www.mrbbq.ca/2010/01/smoked-m...f-brisket.html)

    The method is pretty simple. Dry cure it for the requisite amount of time using spices, salt, sugar and #1 (I suppose you can wet-cure, but call me a snob, purist, whathaveyou- I dry-cure), smoke it, let it rest, and then steam it. The steaming is an integral part of the method. Why? It completely changes the texture from something delicious, but firm, into something that that has enough integrity that it can be cut into slices with a knife, but at the same time is tender enough that the connective tissue is barely holding on, and may be flaked off with a spoon. You might dream of Katz's; I dream of Smoked Meat Pete.

    In any event, I've been making it for years, but get inconsistent product. I'd smoke it "till done" and steam it "till done". Makes no sense and is the reason, I think, that I get inconsistencies in results.

    My question to any food-sciency guys or gals out there:

    Big hunks of meat like texas brisket are relatively easy- low-and-slow to about 203F, potentially using the crutch and a cambro to help things out. How does the curing change the process and the end temperature to be achieved while smoking? How does the steaming affect the end temperature to be achieved while smoking? How much of each is too much, versus not enough? What, ideally, are the temps you want to aim for in both the smoking and the steaming, in order to get a consistently fabulous, tender, melting off the sandwich, punch-your-best-friend-in-the-face deliciousness?

    Thanks in advance to anyone who dares to take a stab at this one. I'm a week or two away from buying 30 lbs of brisket, cutting them into chunks and experimenting by rote!

    #2
    You're right on with the brisket temp of 203. It sounds like your MSM is essentially the same process as pastrami as far as cooking. Take the meat to 203 when smoking it, hold if you wish in a faux cambro to soften like you would a brisket. THEN, chill it in the fridge overnight or a few days. When you want to dine on your finished product, steam it by putting it in a roasting pan on a wire rack, on top of the foil it was wrapped in on top of the rack, cover the pan with its lid or foil to seal it, and steam it until it's back to 203*F IT. Then slice and punch your friend in the face!

    I've forwarded this to Dr Blonder to see if he has any further tips or knowledge to share.

    Comment


      #3
      Now, here's what I don't understand- how can it make sense to bring it up to 203, cool it down, and then bring it back up to 203? Happy to stand corrected, but intuitively, it seems wrong to cook something twice to the same temp.

      This is why a second opinion from someone who knows the science behind the method is being sought.

      Your input, though, is very much appreciated!

      Comment


        #4
        I'm not entirely sure to be honest, I am not a pastrami afficianado (but it's next on my list!). I'm just going by Meathead's recipe, and his instructions here on the Katz's recipe page.

        Comment


          #5
          I am very specific about temps in my article on pastrami and pastrami and Montreal are kissing cousins.

          Comment


            #6
            Tremendous! And thanks for your reply! Now, if you'll forgive the inquiry: why those temps, and not something greater or smaller? Why smoke to 190-200F, and then steam to 203F? Has it been tried at 160F smoke, 203F steam, and points in between? And I don't ask to be challenging or obnoxious- I adore reading about the chemical processes which explains why we do what we do- collagen/gelatin conversions, maximum smoke intake, etc., as an attempt to explain what we intuitively know, in an attempt to understand and maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of cooking technique. Curing, smoking, and steaming: what's the why for what we do? Thanks, all!

            Comment


              #7
              Also- I typed the above on my cell phone, with paragraphs, which didn't translate across platforms. Strange, no?

              Comment


              • Huskee
                Huskee commented
                Editing a comment
                The same happens to me when I do it on my phone. I can't post pics, formatting becomes one long paragraph (although proper when typed live), and I cannot edit if I notice misspellings after the fact.

              • David Parrish
                David Parrish commented
                Editing a comment
                Known issue. We need to see what things look like after the vB upgrade. That and two other projects are taking all of our development time at the moment.

              #8
              Also, I'd be only too pleased to contribute my formula for MSM, which, when good, is good enough to make grown men cry. Virtually literally (episode #2, which is SFW, unless you work in a Yiddish-speaking office: yidlifecrisis.com/videos/)

              Comment


                #9
                I've smoked to 160F, cooled overnight, then steamed the next day. Took longer in the steam, but turned out fine. Cooking to 190F, then steaming the next day is slightly better (darker bark, fat rendered more fully), but either way is fine.

                At Katz's in NYC, they low-temp smoke for hours (trade secret time temp), then simmer for 4-6 hours in water, then steam for 3-4 hours. But when they simmer they are cooking 100 or more briskets tightly packed, so the bark creates a braising liquid. Won't be the same if you simmer one brisket in a big pot of water. Maybe if you tightly wrap in the crutch.

                All these steps are designed to convert collagen to gelatin. This step takes humidity and time for the reaction to complete. One can be traded off against the other- more humidity/less time. More time/less humidity. For me, the most critical step is the bark- I like mine dark and flavorful and prefer to smoke at 200F for hours, even if that means I put the meat in the fridge when it hits 175F instead of 190F. The steam the next day tenderizes no matter what.

                BTW- don't "steam" over a rolling boil. A light boil is superior.

                Comment


                  #10
                  Hm.

                  Having it cook twice would likely do away with the temp precision needed for other product- or at least very much widen the window. What's the practical difference between smoking it to 180 or 190 or 200 when you're going to be steaming it the next day, anyways?

                  It'd be interesting to measure the different combinations of smoke time and steam time- and the heat of the steam being used (presuming your recommendation that the light boil is preferable to the rolling is that you'd want steam, like on a smoke, to be near or at the 225F temp, noting that steam can be produced between, what, 212F, obviously, and as hot as 700F, even if not under pressure).

                  Obviously I'm mindful of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and shrines to meat like Katz's or Smoke Meat Pete know what works- because it does work. Still, I can't help but think that the method might not be improved if we were to find out to what extent, if at all, the smoke/steam process is redundant (i.e.: don't bother smoking and/or steaming more than X hours, to X degrees, internal, since it doesn't add anything to the end product) and then to eliminate it.

                  Comment


                    #11
                    Originally posted by biggreenmatt View Post
                    Hm.

                    Having it cook twice would likely do away with the temp precision needed for other product- or at least very much widen the window. What's the practical difference between smoking it to 180 or 190 or 200 when you're going to be steaming it the next day, anyways?
                    The smoke process cooks the meat, begins the melting of collagen, and helps the spices and exterior of the meat develop flavor and bark. Steaming also cooks meat and melts collagen, so take the meat off the smoker when you have your preferred level of bark. Cook the meat and melt the rest of the collagen through the steaming process.

                    Originally posted by biggreenmatt View Post
                    Hm.

                    It'd be interesting to measure the different combinations of smoke time and steam time- and the heat of the steam being used (presuming your recommendation that the light boil is preferable to the rolling is that you'd want steam, like on a smoke, to be near or at the 225F temp, noting that steam can be produced between, what, 212F, obviously, and as hot as 700F, even if not under pressure).
                    The steam is not going to get much over 212F because the steam is being created by boiling off water. Once the water turns to gas it's no longer in contact with the stove-top's heating element and therefore won't heat up any more. The light boil vs rolling boil dictates how much steam you have, not how hot the steam is.

                    Originally posted by biggreenmatt View Post
                    Hm.

                    Obviously I'm mindful of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and shrines to meat like Katz's or Smoke Meat Pete know what works- because it does work. Still, I can't help but think that the method might not be improved if we were to find out to what extent, if at all, the smoke/steam process is redundant (i.e.: don't bother smoking and/or steaming more than X hours, to X degrees, internal, since it doesn't add anything to the end product) and then to eliminate it.
                    Meathead has made this recipe a bazillion times and has given you what he considers perfect target temps for each stage of the cook. Cooking is both science and art, though, so try the recipe a few different ways and let us know how it works out for you!

                    Comment


                      #12
                      I don't mean to be a smart alec, but what is your perspective with all of this? If all roads lead to smacking your grandma good meat, why fret the details?

                      Comment


                        #13
                        Question of efficiency, really. The process of turning a raw brisket into Montreal smoke meat takes about two weeks to do. Two of those days, being the smoke and steam, are active, and I need to stick around the smoker, making sure that the damn thing keeps on target. Being able to trim off time, while making consistently delicious product (consistency is my issue- I get tougher and nicer briskets all the time) is my end-goal and the reason for my peppering anyone who cares to respond with questions!

                        There's nothing like eating (and serving) specialized deli meat you make yourself. Virtually nobody makes it at home anymore, and it's special when it's done, never mind done right.

                        Comment


                          #14
                          Gotcha and I agree on the nothing like making it yourself statement. Are the meats you're buying consistently the same grade? If so that's a toughy. If not, my next suggestion is find a certain supplier you've had good luck with, makes notes, buy the same grade each time, make notes, repeat.

                          Comment


                            #15
                            Taste is pretty consistent (bloody fantastic)- it's the texture that changes. Hence the interest in smoke/steam/temp.

                            Comment

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