BEEF BASICS: Become a Pit Master








Grilling is an American staple and many home grill masters yearn to take it to the next level, impressing their friends and families with tasty, mouthwatering smoked beef. Smoking is a timeless technique that elevates the beef people crave by delivering rich flavor and tenderness.

What do you need to become a pit master? Here are the basics from the Beef, It's What's For Dinner, National Cattlemen's Beef Association Culinary Center.


Selecting your beef

Large cuts, such as brisket, roasts and ribs, are prime candidates for smoking, but even a burger can benefit from a hint of smoke. Some of the most popular cuts of beef for smoking are:

* Back ribs - A barbecue must, these ribs are flavorful and a great value.

* Brisket - This smoking classic is a fan favorite - sliced or shredded, can't go wrong here.

* Rib-eye steak - Rich and juicy, rib-eye is known for exceptional taste and generous marbling.

* Tri-tip roast - Boneless and tender, this rising star is growing in popularity.

Regardless of the cut you select, always remember that time, patience and practice pay off - don't be afraid to tweak your technique to suit your tools and tastes.


Choosing a smoker

Your smoker should fit your space, budget and preferred heat source. Here are a few options to consider:

* Kamado or ceramic smokers use lump charcoal and are very versatile, providing heat retention and consistent high temperatures.

* Pellet smokers use an electric-powered auger to feed wood pellets into the smoker. They have a grilling area big enough for large cuts of meat.

* Electric gas smokers are great for beginners, making it easy to select and gauge temperatures.

* Charcoal smokers are favored for the low, slow cook many pit masters prefer. They offer a more natural flavor, but also need more temperature monitoring.






Picking the right wood

Once you've selected your smoker, you can further customize your smoking experience with different types of wood. Some variations to choose from include:

* Hickory is popular for smoking due to its strong, hearty flavor.

* Mesquite offers a very smoky flavor, great for cooking smaller cuts for shorter periods.

* Oak has a subtle flavor that's great for larger cuts of meat.

* Apple smoke provides a sweeter taste.

* Pecan has a rich, sweet, nutty flavor.

* Cherry offers a hint of fruitiness.

* Maple leads to a sweet, mild smoky flavor.

Experimenting with types of wood allows you to add your signature twist.


Deciding on a rub

Next up is creating a rub to complement the flavors provided by the beef and smoke. There are two main types of rubs to consider:

* A dry rub typically starts with a base of sugar and salt and incorporates a variety of bold spices and herbs to create a flavorful crust on the outside of the meat.

* Wet rubs contain wet ingredients, such as oil, vinegar, citrus juice, Worcestershire sauce or even molasses, combined with dry herbs and spices. One benefit of a wet rub is that the seasonings can have an easier time adhering to the meat.

When creating your rub, keep in mind your beef should always be the star of the show. Rubs play a supporting role by enhancing the taste beef innately brings to a smoker.






Ready to put your skills to the test?

Try this recipe for Classic Smoked Beef Brisket from the chefs at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association Culinary Center.

Classic Smoked Beef Brisket


* 1 whole beef brisket (approximately 12-13 pounds)

* 1/4 cup granulated garlic

* 1/4 cup sweet paprika

* 1/4 cup cracked black pepper

* 2 tablespoons kosher salt


Add wood chunks, chips, pellets or charcoal to smoker according to manufacturer's instructions. Preheat smoker to 225°F.

Combine spices in small bowl. Press spices into brisket on all sides and edges.

Tip: Brisket may require trimming fat to ensure the rub contacts the beef.

Place beef on rack in smoker. Set timer for 12 hours.

Tip: To prevent dryness and accelerate the cooking process, try the "Texas Crutch" - wrap aluminum foil around the meat along with a little liquid, such as water, juice or beer.

Carefully remove beef from smoker after 10 and 1/2 to 11 hours or when temperature reaches 195°F for beef that slices easily. For beef that can be shredded or chunked, carefully remove from smoker at 12 hours or when temperature reaches 205°F.

The Best Way to Keep Deer out fo the Garden
By: Tammy Clayton

Battling Bambi: The Best Deer Repellent

Deer eating your yard? Today's your lucky day! The best deer repellent allows you to control deer, reliably, without a fence. If you've tried a few and none of them worked, you're not alone. Deer repellents disappoint many for various reasons... inferior product, poor rain-resistance, leaf burn, stains everything, people-repelling smell, and/or directions not followed.

Deer-resistant plants are not the best way to keep deer out of the garden. While they do help to keep the yard looking better, deer might eat the flowers and new leaves anyway. Some years they eat things they never have before. So, you need to spray. Everything. Especially tender new growth and flower buds.

Even with the best deer repellent, you need to monitor plant growth and the weather to win the war against Bambi. You want a foliar spray based on eggs, not garlic or blood, and heaven forbid - no coyote urine. Years ago, Connecticutt Ag Experiment Station research found both blood and predator urine are ineffective repellents.

You don't have to deal with foul-smelling stuff like garlic. No chemicals are necessary, those that repel deer are toxic. And hot peppers? The Illinois Walnut Council found hot pepper ineffective. Several studies found egg-based sprays highly effective for White Tail Deer. The deer in my neighborhood agree.

Of course, the best deer repellent has excellent rain-resistance, which means it contains a sticker agent. Products that use a latex, like Wilt-Pruf, aren't the best thing for your plants when applied long-term. Spice oils, however,  provide great rain-resistance and add to the repelling benefits. For best results, you want over 3% stated on the label. These light oils don't inhibit leaf functions and can give you 3-4 weeks of protection on the leaves you've sprayed. Periods of excessive heavy rainfall will reduce the sticking time.

So, what is this awesome stuff? All-natural and pleasant-smelling Deer Stopper. In my decade of battling Bambi in the heart of a national forest, it shines as the best deer repellent of all. It works great, no alternate needed, and stops all damage. Start spraying when the first leaves open in spring. Repeat every 7 days for 4-6 weeks as early season new growth comes rapidly. You can go 3-4 weeks between applications for the rest of the season. And it works in winter, as long as the spray can dry before it freezes.

You can't apply deer repellents to fruit and vegetable plants, though, even all-natural sprays. They alter the flavor of your harvest. Here you need a different approach, a deer deterrent. A three-strand electric fence (1' + 2.5' + 4' high) provides excellent veggie protection from deer, rabbits, and tomato-lovin' turkeys. But due to HOA restrictions, not everyone can put a fence in their yard.

So, your options become limited. Firstly, barrier-type deer repellents might work, but don't hold your breath. Motion-activated sprinklers offer more effective veggie protection. But you want a quality-built unit, because the cheaper ones are highly prone to leaking and failure. Mechanical failure certainly wouldn't give you the best deer deterrent. However, the Yard Enforcer is made by an irrigation company. It has a 3-year warranty, so you know it's well-made.