How To Prepare A Turducken

A Turducken is essentially a Boneless Turkey, Boneless Chicken and a Boneless Duck stuffed one inside the other with a good contrasting meat—usually sausage—crammed between the layers of poultry.  The whole enterprise is tied together with twine and then slowly roasted.  At Mister Brisket, we use homemade spicy Italian Sausage as well as our sweet and salty Thai Sausage.  Also, we sub in a duck breast for a full duck.  This allows for faster cooking.

Turducken is originally a Cajun specialty originating in Louisiana.

Cooking Instructions:

Allow your Turducken two full days to defrost for two full days in the fridge prior to preparation.

  1. Season your Turducken liberally with your favorite spices such as kosher salt, pepper and paprika.  Add fresh garlic if it suits your taste.
  2. Place the TD Breast side up on a flat oven rack in a shallow roasting pan.
  3. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees.
  4. Place your Turducken in the oven and baked uncovered for 3 hours.  Now place a layer of foil over the TD and put back in the oven.
  5. Your TD should take roughly 5 hours to finish cooking.  The TD is done when a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees in the center.  Take the temperature at several different spots to make sure the TD is through cooking.
  6. Cooking times are not etched in stone.  Some TD’s may cook quicker; others slower.  There are a number of variables that affect cooking time.

Try A Meyer Natural Angus Tri Tip

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to eat great meat on a regular basis.  Last night, I tried my hand at Tri Tip.  This cut comes to Mister Brisket courtesy of Meyer Natural Angus.  This means the beef comes from cattle that are 100% angus and certified to have been humanely raised.  In addition, they were never given antibiotics or growth hormones.

Tri Tips come from the top of the bottom part of the Sirloin section in the hindquarter.  It’s typically tender if you slice it properly (against the grain)  The slicing is important because a full tri trip weighs 2-3 pounds and has grain moving in a few different directions.  For slicing instruction, I recommend watching this video.

The pic above is my dinner. My preparation was simple.  I placed the tri tip in a plastic bag with a few cups of BBQ Sauce, one cup of soy sauce and some granulated garlic.  Not fancy but it adds flavor.

Next, I allowed the meat to marinate for 24 hours.  It’s not necessary to do it for that long but I’d forgotten we had Open House at school for one of the kids.  Hence there was no time to cook dinner so my we picked up KFC while the Tri Tip sat in the fridge.  Incidentally, each KFC meal probably shortens my life but it is undeniably tasty.

The grilling is straightforward.  Place on one side for about 8 minutes then flip.  Tri Tips are thick so you have to take your time.  I removed from the grill when the internal temperature in the thickest portion hit 130 degrees.  Because this cut is not uniform in thickness, the fullest portions were rare to med. rare with the edges a little more done.  If you like your Tri Tip more well prepared, follow the advice given by the “Tri Tip Guy” from California.

I allowed the meat to rest for about ten minutes, then carefully sliced.  With baked potato and asparagus, it was a terrific meal.  I also have some wonderful leftovers.  I plan to slice them thin over the weekend, melt cheese on top, place on some crusty bread, add some raw onion and enjoy a Tri Tip sandwich.

60 Days of Age Follow Up – How It Turned Out

When Geoff Hewitt asked us to age a USDA Prime Rib Roast for 60 days, we were skeptical as to how it would turn out.  But, on Saturday, January 4, he picked up his meat. The image above is what it looked like.

We were skeptical as to how it would turn out.  Our assumption was that by the time we finished trimming the steaks, there would be little meat left.  Surprisingly, however, we didn’t have to trim as much as expected.  The rib almost seemed to have entered a state of  “suspended deterioration.”  Well, lets get to the point.  After cutting it into about 8 nice steaks, we gave the beef to the customer and asked him to provide a report.  Here’s what he had to say:

My outdoor gas grill unfroze and I was finally able to properly cook the first of the 60 day dry-aged steaks.  I took it out of the refrigerator this morning to allow it to get to room temperature before grilling.   I lightly Kosher salted both sides.  No trimming was necessary as your meat cutter did a fine job of removing edge fat and overly dry parts.  The steak had no smell at all, even at room temperature.  I heated the grill, all three burners on high, for twenty minutes until the thermometer read about 750F.  I grilled each side for approximately four minutes which gave me a steak with beautifully charred crusts on both sides, the grill marks being pitch black as were the edges.  As soon as I took it off the grill and walked inside, a big difference was noted – the steak smelled unlike any steak I’ve had before.  It was the exact smell I had been looking for for years; a fairly strong, almost funky aroma.  Would that hold up in the taste?  I let it rest for a few minutes while I dug into a side dish and finally cut off a small piece.  The interior was a perfect pink color top to bottom.  Just a perfectly medium rare piece of meat.  I was expecting the meat to be slightly dry due to the long drying but it was just as juicy as any steak I’ve had.  I know the roast lost four pounds in weight but I think most of that was a water loss, not a fat loss so the fat remained.  Losing all that water just concentrated the meaty umami flavor and added an earthy flavor that was better than I had hoped for.  Most steaks I’ve eaten lose quite a bit of liquid during eating and my steak often ends up in a pool of brown water/fat but that was not so with this steak.  It oozed very little moisture onto the plate since it was devoid of most of its water to begin with.  A huge plus.  That was probably the reason is developed such a beautiful char while cooking – it didn’t steam in its moisture while on the grill.  The funky taste I had hoped for was there but not to an overpowering level, just a nice additional flavor layer.  I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

As I told you, I’ve had many 28-day dry-aged steaks but really couldn’t see any difference in those from non-aged steaks.  I think 60 days is just about perfect.  The exterior of the roast was very hard at that point, requiring some, but minimal trimming, much less than Sanford and I thought and I doubt if aging for a longer time would make much difference as the remaining moisture would be locked inside by the dry crust. I have now spoiled myself to the extent that I’ll be having this done again.  No more supermarket steaks for me!

Thanks again, Hank and Sanford.  It’s a real treat to work with folks who take food seriously.


50 Days of Age – A Rib Roast Challenge

Mister Brisket has never been a big proponent of dry aging beef.  In our experience we’ve found it has no discernible impact on flavor.  Enter Geoff Hewitt, a resident of New Franklin, who found us on the internet.  Hewitt emailed and wanted to know how we felt about aging a rib roast–for 50 days.

“30 days doesn’t really change the flavor,” Hewitt wrote, “but do it for 50 and you’ll notice a difference.”

That got our attention.  When we’d aged beef in the past, it had never been for more than 30 days.  50 days?  Who knows?

Then he wanted to know if we’d be willing to age a roast for him.  We emailed back and forth discussing the issues involved.  The biggest problem is how much useable meat will be left in 50 days.   We agreed to keep him informed as to how the aging process was going so if it looked like there was any trouble a decision could be made as to what to do.  Then we selected a Meyer Natural Angus USDA Prime Rib Roast for him.  The weight is nearly 20 pounds.

We wiped it dry. And marked it.

And placed it in our cooler to age…until Jan. 4, 2013.

Will there be anything left by Jan. 2013?  And, if so, how will the flavor have changed?  Who knows?  But there’s one certainty…we’re gonna find out.  Stay tuned as we’ll periodically show pics of this aging roast so you can see how the meat is physically affected.   In the meantime, we salute Mr. Hewitt for his curiosity and interest in quality beef.

Hot Dogs—Our Thoughts On What’s Best and Why

People have a lot of opinions about what constitutes a really good hot dog.  And at Mister Brisket, we’re no different. But here’s the thing–Mister Brisket is not just a Butcher Shop. We’re also a research institute. If we sell a product, it’s because through trial and error (hopefully not too much error) we feel it’s the best one available. Over the years we’ve sampled many hot dogs.  Best Kosher…Hebrew National….Sabretts….just to name a few. We’ve experimented with shapes and sizes. And we’ve tried them in various forms.  Two things are apparent to us. First, the best hot dogs are all beef. Specifically, they’re made from bull meat which is chopped, seasoned and then cured. Secondly, texture is as important as flavor.

In our experience, the best hot dog is an all beef Chicago Style dog in a sheep casing. The flavor is outstanding–not too highly seasoned or garlicky or somehow mucked up with gimmicky flavor enhancements. And the sheep casing provides a wonderful texture. You get a snap and a crack when you bite into a quality beef hot dog in a sheep casing. Larger dogs in hog casing will be more chewy. And skinless dogs, which are very popular in Cleveland, lack the firmness of a natural casing dog. The picture above shows exactly what we sell.  It is a fabulous dog and comes six to a pound.

Three Mister Brisket Natural Casing Hot Dogs grilled in shop on a bun with deli mustard (Batampte), sauerkraut and swiss cheese. Yes, we sell this at our shop!

The next issue with hot dogs is method of preparation. Sentiment often plays a big role. Some people enjoy them steamed because of memories from old Cleveland Stadium. Others boil them because that’s what Mom did. Some will put their hot dogs on a stick and hold them over a fire in order to relive camping adventures.  Ultimately, however, you gotta grill the dog. The reason? Texture. The natural casing dog on a hot grill will slowly expand then fissures will develop where the casing cracks. The picture above gives you a look at your model citizen. Consistent grill marks and cracks in the casing show that these are perfect for consumption. As to what to put on the dog, well, that’s up to you. Purists insist solely on mustard but if you like ketchup as well, it’s your prerogative.

Hot Dogs are often thought of as a summer item but true aficionados enjoy them year round. If you like hot dogs, Mister Brisket wants you to give ours a shot. In addition, to the ones in natural casing, we’ll get you skinless by request. Or, if you want, we carry a jumbo version of the same dog that comes two to a pound (aka Frankenwurst). We have a dog for all styles. Just tell us which one, and we’ll have it for you.  Please note–Mister Brisket Natural Casing Hot Dogs are a special order item. If you want a large quantity, give us several days notice so we can make sure to have them in stock.

Fresh vs Frozen Turkey–Is there a Difference?

A common customer request at Thanksgiving is for a “wonderful, fresh turkey.”  The wonderful part is easy–we sell you an Empire Kosher Turkey, you follow our instructions and get a great result.

But the fresh part–well, that’s problematic.  The simple fact is that most turkeys sold as fresh-regardless of the purveyor–were previously frozen.  How do we know?  Simple.  An entire nation consumes turkeys on Thanksgiving.  Now, are we supposed to believe that all these animals are raised, slaughtered, processed and transported to markets at roughly the same time?  If all the turkeys sold as “fresh” had recently been killed, it would require massive numbers of turkey migrant workers streaming across the borders.  Turkey farmers would have to raise these animals simultaneously and then spend the rest of the year waiting for Thanksgiving to return.  Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Furthermore, here’s what the USDA has to say about the labeling of turkeys:

What Does “Fresh” or “Frozen” Mean on a Turkey Label?

The term “fresh” may ONLY be placed on raw poultry that has never been below 26 °F. Poultry held at 0 °F or below must be labeled “frozen” or “previously frozen.” No specific labeling is required on poultry between 0 and 26 °F.

The intriguing part of that statement is the last sentence.  Specifically, it indicates you can store a turkey at 1 degree–keeping it quite frozen–and not have to sell it as frozen.   And that is undoubtedly how Turkeys are sold as fresh that have previously been frozen.  Quite simply, the USDA is defining “frozen” as zero or below.  Just one degree above, however, gives you the chance to slack out the bird and allow the consumer to assume it is fresh.

Most importantly,  numerous tastings have been done with “frozen vs fresh” turkeys and the results have invariably demonstrated that the tasters can’t tell the difference.  Bottom line–enjoy a wonderful bird at Thanksgiving from Mister Brisket without concern.  We’ll make sure it tastes good–whether it was recently pecking the dirt or used as a hockey puck by warehouse workers.

Alternative Method for Roasting a Turkey

I have an alternative to my traditional turkey roasting method.  What follows is a method I’ve ripped off from Julia Child,you know who she is, and, Harold McGee, the author of “On Food and Cooking” and a few other complicated tomes about the chemistry and physics of cooking.

First McGee:

A few years ago he wrote an article in the New York Times about how he “ages” a turkey. This means you pat the bird dry ,inside and out, with a bath towel. Then you put it on a plate in your refrigerator(uncovered) and let it dry out. You do this for a few days. McGee does this because he believes,as I do, brining  is an exercise in futility. But that’s fodder for another discussion. Anyway,after the turkey is dry, you roast it in the usual way.  The good news is that it tastes amazing. The bad, forget about the gravy. There is none!   The turkey,though, turns out to be moist. You must remove it at 165 internal temp.

Now Julia:

In one of her cookbooks she cuts- up the turkey into 5 parts;I.e., the whole breast with the wings on and  two legs. You take the two legs and separate the thighs and drumsticks. Now you got 5 parts. The rational is that the turkey will roast faster. If the leg parts finish before the breast, it’s no hassle to take them out of the oven and finish off the breast.  Again you have to watch internal temp.

Ok. What I’ve done is to combine the two methods. I dried  out the turkey, cut it into the 5 parts and roast it. I left the breast intact with the wings tied to it with butcher twine. I did not remove the backbone. This was done so the stuffing,I stuff my turkey, would not fall out and make a mess in the roasting pan. The results were amazing. Not only was the turkey , around 20lbs.,done in about three hours, it was  perfect. Moist,tender and to use a Yiddish term, mit a tom. Tasty!

If you want to try this method, I’ll take a 20lb. turkey, feeds around 12-15 people,”age” it in our cooler,cut it into the 5 pieces and tie the wings to the breast. I’ll include written instructions for roasting. If you’re interested, PLEASE let me know at least 2 weeks before Thanksgiving or Christmas. Oh yeah, Empire Kosher Turkeys are the best for this methodology. Reason? I never use anything else.

Making Roast Chicken

So, what’s a good meal to complement two consecutive days of rain?  Well, if you run a meat shop, and you have a cooler full of good stuff, you might want to roast a chicken.  So, that’s what I decided to do.

I started off with one of these amazing dry pluck fryers.  That’s the chicken I keep talking about in emails with no growth hormones or antibiotics that’s never scalded when it’s processed.

Ok…enough plugging…you can keep buying at the supermarket if you like the chicken equivalent of a Dr. Kevorkian patient.

Since I possess sharp knives and modest meat cutting skills, I decided to process this chicken like the ones we send to L’Albatros.  That is to say, I opened up the back and boned out the breast.  Next, I rubbed with olive oil and seasoned with the usual suspects–Kosher salt, Black pepper, Paprika and Granulated garlic.  Here’s what it looked like:

Please note…I am not a professional photographer nor do I play one on TV. Nevertheless, what you have here is a 3 1/2 pound bird with a boneless breast.  Legs and wings are attached.  Paprika is plentiful.  Next I added a breast, which I also de-boned and seasoned.  After all, I’ve gotta feed a wife, two kids and eke out a few leftovers for Buttons the Dog. See how little he is?

Next, I flipped over the chicken so the skin was on top.  This way, the fat runs onto the meat–not away from it.  Then I placed it in my oven and roasted until the internal temperature hit 160 degrees–which is done for poultry.  It’s tricky because the breast will get done a bit faster than the thigh.  This is because dark meat–which contains fat–takes longer to cook.  It’s important to take the temperature in both the breast and thigh to assure the chicken is thoroughly done.  I should mention that I cooked the chicken in a convection oven on a flat surface at 300 degrees.   My recommendation would be 325 degrees if you’re using a conventional oven.

Because the breast is boneless, the whole chicken roasted in roughly 40 minutes–faster than if it had the bone in.  Here’s your model citizen.

Now, there is no question but that the look of the chicken would have benefited greatly from the presence of a food stylist.  However, it is delicious. In addition, look how nicely Buttons filled out after eating quality chicken.

Just add some baked potatoes and your favorite green vegetable and you’re in business.


Tell It Like It Is

So, I received a call this morning around 10am (Oct. 23) from a woman in New York. She quickly identified herself as the daughter of a long time customer and explained that her mother had been bringing her items from Mister Brisket for years. How, she wondered, could she get a few things herself without needing her Mom to serve as courier? I quickly explained how easy it was for us to ship to her via UPS ground and that it would take two days to arrive–still frozen. We discussed items she’d recently had and really liked–including our amazing beef pastrami and Meyer Natural Angus USDA Prime Beef Skirt Steaks. I told her the cost on these items and how much she could expect shipping to add to her total. She added on a Meyer Natural Angus USDA Prime First Cut Brisket for the slow cooker and decided that was enough for her first order.

Ok, I said–now the last thing needed is a credit card number. Susan told me to hang on and then came back to the phone. The card is in my husband’s name she explained which led me to immediately think to myself that this is information I don’t want. In truth, I need the numbers, exp. date, special code and billing address zip. Plus, the other phone was ringing and someone had walked in for an early corned beef sandwich. But, before I could tell her not to bother, she finished telling me his name–Aaron Neville. Funny, I replied, there’s a famous singer with the same name.

Yes, she told me, that’s my husband.

Wait a second. You mean your husband is Aaron Neville? THE Aaron Neville? The guy who sang Everybody Plays The Fool, Tell It Like It Is?


You mean the Aaron Neville who did those duets with Linda Ronstadt? Yes.

You mean the guy from New Orleans who has performed for years with his brothers? That I saw down at Jazz Fest around twenty years ago?

Susan patiently explained it was indeed that Aaron Neville. Then she told me that even as we were speaking, he was sitting across from her eating Mister Brisket Pastrami with scrambled eggs.

Susan, I told her, snap a picture of your husband eating my pastrami and I’ll pay the shipping costs on your order. She didn’t respond to that particular request but just said “hold on.”

Next, there was a man’s voice on the other end. Had he spoken in falsetto, it would have sounded familiar. But it was just a guy telling me that he really liked my pastrami and skirt steaks. I thanked him and, and….I really don’t know what else I said. I was conscious of trying not to talk too much. I did mention that I’d seen him perform. And then I just said thank you and he handed the phone back to his wife.

And then Aaron Neville, a 3 time Grammy Award winner, presumably returned to eating his pastrami and scrambled eggs.

I finalized Susan’s order. Then I went to the counter and made a corned beef sandwich for a customer.