Thursday, June 24, 2010

Slagle and the Clod

A friend and coworker of mine invited a group over to share in his smoked meat festivities. There was pulled pork, ribs and sausage, but Scott Slagle had promised a brisket, which he failed to deliver. Instead we were treated to one of the most incredible cuts of smoked beef I've had the pleasure to enjoy. It was a shoulder clod doused in hickory smoke.

Coming in 14-20 lb hunks, this cut isn't carried at your normal supermarket, so Slagle had to order his through his friends at Good 2 Go Taco in Dallas. What is a shoulder clod, you ask? If you're familiar with the big boys in Lockhart, then you've probably sunk your teeth into some clod. Both Smitty's and Kreuz Market offer lean beef and fatty (or moist) beef. The moist beef is brisket while the lean beef is shoulder clod. This cut is from the beef shoulder (you'd normally purchase a portion of it as blade steaks, like the flatiron, or chuck roast), and much like a pork shoulder, it's loaded with intramuscular fat that renders out slowly while it smokes. Also like a pork shoulder, it's pretty much bullet proof in the smoker.

Brisket's place in the BBQ lexicon is fairly recent. Most joints in Central Texas were smoking shoulder clods for a large part of their history, probably because it's a fairly common cut for European butchers. Black's in Lockhart claims to be the first joint in Texas to serve brisket exclusively, and while they may have been smoking briskets since their opening in 1931, the brisket didn't gain widespread popularity in BBQ joints across the state until the fifties and sixties.

As I enjoyed this piece of history, I noticed a few distinct differences between this cut and a brisket. First, the fat cap is much more uniform on the clod, and this even coverage of the surface keeps it moist while allowing for more of a sugar cookie flavor over the whole surface. Second, the intramuscular fat keeps the meat moist, but it's nowhere near the silky tenderness of a brisket point. Lastly, the clod is such a compact and thick muscle, it's much harder for the smoke flavor to penetrate this meat like a brisket. While brisket will probably remain my favorite for its shear moisture and smokiness, a clod will certainly find it's way on to my smoker it home after this experience. Thanks Slagle.

- BBQ Snob

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Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.