The art of brittle

Brittle, brittle, brittle, brittle … ah, a peanut! John Spalding just didn’t like the brittle he was seeing in the marketplace and since he really loves brittle, and his mom had a great recipe, he decided to make his own. Now the Brittle Brothers in Goodlettsville are booming with a brittle that holds as many nuts as possible. As we head into brittle season, John explains how he makes the brittle and what it has taken to get where he is today.

The Brittle Brothers

The mystery of cashews

In the Brittle podcast, John Spalding told us that cashews don’t grow in America. So, where are they grown?

The Christian Science Monitor says: “The cashew nut—native to Brazil and now grown extensively in Africa, India, and Vietnam—is a readily available kidney-shaped nut popular with eaters all over the world. But, not as well understood, is that a single cashew actually grows out the bottom of a cashew apple, which is about three times the size of the nut. Unlike other nuts, the cashew—which is actually a seed—cannot be bought in a shell, because the cashew’s shell is toxic. Due to this toxicity in the lining of the shell, many Latin Americans and West Indians ate the cashew apple and threw the nut away.”

Biologically, Cashews are related to pistachios, mangos and poison ivy. The poisonous part of the cashew is the same stuff that makes poison ivy “poison” and is also found in the mango plant.

Nutritionally, if you’re watching your weight, you’ll want to limit  your cashew munching. Cashews are high in calories. 100 g of nuts provide 553 calories.

On the plus side, cashews are abundant sources of essential minerals. Manganese, potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium are especially concentrated in them. A handful of cashew nuts a day in the diet would provide enough of these minerals and may help prevent deficiency diseases.

Competition barbecue

Barbecue is one of the major food groups and people around the country take their barbecue serious. Few are as serious as competition barbecue pit masters who stand to win good money if a group of judges favors their food. In this episode, we talk with the Hot Coles Barbecue Team of Gallatin, TN, and we learn tips of the trade so that you can make your own ‘cue the best in the neighborhood. Read more in the blog on this episode along with the temperatures our guests suggest are right for four types of meat.

Read the blog post that goes with this episode

Kansas City Barbecue Society

Barbecue song

Pig Meat song

There was a LOT of information that came out of the podcast on Competition Barbecue and I’ve more to add here. Let’s start with the cooking temperatures the pros recommended in case you weren’t able to jot them down as you listened.

Chicken – Breast meat should be about 165 and leg or thigh meet to about 185. As always with chicken, make sure the juices running out of the piece are clear to be sure the meat is fully cooked.

Ribs – Because they are so thin, rib temperatures are difficult to gauge. As with other meats, you’re shooting for around 200 to 205, but there are other more reliable tests. One is to prod between the fourth and fifth bone for tenderness. Another test is to pick up the rack (it WILL be hot!) and bend it. If it flexes easily, they are cooked.

Pork butt – The pros say to put it on the smoker for about four hours or until it hits 190 degrees, then wrap it heavily in aluminum foil and let the temperature come up to 200 or 205. There is a saying among barbecue cooks: “I didn’t start winning until I started wrapping.” Wrapping keeps moisture in the meat.

Brisket – This is a difficult call. The pros said to start checking it at about 200 degrees. Like ribs, if you can pick it up and it folds into a “U”, then it’s in good shape. If you’re just cooking tip, then follow your thermometer. Again, you can cook it to about 190, then wrap it and let it come up to temperature.

In ALL cases, the meat needs to rest before serving. For chicken and ribs, that runs about 15 minutes. For pork and brisket, that easily be 30 to 45 minutes. The meat will be fine and still warm. Be patient, it will be worth your time. This is also good advice for grilling steaks and other meats.

When I’m talking about taking the temperature, I’m not talking about an instant-read device. Invest in a probe thermometer with a cord that extends outside the cooker to a display. The probe should be inserted into the deepest part of the meat. This will give you accurate readings without poking holes in the meat that allow juices to escape.

As I mentioned in the podcast, I’m a Kansas City Barbecue Society master judge and have done more than 75 contests over 10 years. In that time, I’ve learned a lot from different teams and my own cooking. Now is my chance to share some of that with you.

Perhaps most importantly, you’re cooking for your taste, not to make competition barbecue. It will cost you a fortune to produce competition barbecue and you won’t get a company to sponsor your backyard cookout. Cook it the way you like it.

That said, many people think if meat is falling off the bone, it’s cooked just right. In judging competition barbecue, that is considered overcooked. Test it for yourself: Take a bite of a rib or pork and press it against the top of your mouth. If it’s mushy, then you’ve lost the texture of the meat. If you like that taste or texture, then go for it!

Another important thing to know is that any meat will take all the smoke it’s going to take in two hours. You can cook it longer, but it won’t get any more smoke flavor. That gives you lots of options. For example, if you’re cooking a pork butt, you can put it in the smoker for two hours, then finish it in the oven. The same is true of brisket. When I cook ribs, I braise them in the oven at about 200 degrees for a couple of hours, then put it on the smoker to finish. That keeps them moist and tasty.

Pro teams will inject liquid into their meats. The pros we spoke with said that wasn’t necessary, but I disagree. Injecting chicken can be difficult because the pieces are so small. If I inject chicken, I do it with chicken stock – preferably homemade. Injecting ribs makes no sense for home cooks.

I always inject my pork butts. The meat is so thick and the cooking time so long that I feel the extra moisture helps. My injections are based on pineapple juice, a little orange juice, garlic powder, onion powder and a few other things. When you taste it, it won’t taste good. Use it anyway. If you want to know the other things, it will cost you a drink – maybe two — and you should know I like premium booze.

If you like pulled pork, don’t make yourself crazy using forks to pull it apart. Break out Kitchenaid mixer with its beater attachment. Cut the pork into medium chunks and beat it a few pieces at a time until you get the texture you like. Be sure not to overbeat it. If you want sauce in your meat, this is a great time to add it in. It’s also a good time to season the meat with salt and pepper as needed.

Most of all, your goal should be to have fun and enjoy some good barbecue.

Listen to podcast

Kansas City Barbecue Society

Barbecue song

Pig Meat song

BONUS: Podcaster found guilty of culinary crime

There are some things that are just not tolerated … like ketchup on a hot dog. Geez, who knew people were so touchy about this? While I have been found guilty of this culinary crime, I am seeking to redeem myself and win a pardon in this special bonus episode.

Cori’s Doghouse

Hot dog etiquette

What are hot dogs made of?

Restaurant branding

It takes more than a sign and a catchy jingle to brand a restaurant. It takes attention to details so that the brand fulfills its promise to its customers and makes them want to come back for more.

In this episode, Amy Dennis of Nice Branding gives us a look inside what it takes to make a restaurant image successful

Nice Branding

For more details on branding, read our blog post

Food commissaries

Commissaries are where food trucks go at night, where caterers prepare meals for large crowds and where speciality food makers go to start up new businesses.

In this episode, Irene Bradley, owner of The Cooks Kitchen, tells us what it takes to make a commissary work and the challenges of running a 24-hour operation

The Cooks Kitchen

Learn more about food commissaries on the blog post for this episode