Thursday, May 30, 2019

Event: Certified Angus Beef BBQ Summit 2019

[FTC Standard Disclosure]  I was fortunate to have my travel, food, and lodging for this trip paid for by Certified Angus Beef® Brand.

May is National BBQ Month and Certified Angus Beef® Brand kicked things off by hosting their first BBQ Summit at their Culinary Center.  They brought in amazing pitmasters from legendary BBQ joints across the country to do some hands-on butchery lessons, discuss the science behind the sizzle, light the spark of new recipe concepts, and share their BBQ stories.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand

The BBQ talent that attended this event was so incredible that if I were to start dropping names, you'd have to put on steel-toed boots!  I was thrilled to be invited to tag along, and I wanted to share the fun and information with you.

Day 1 Travel and Reception Dinner

The first day was a travel day for everyone, but the chefs and crew at the Culinary Center put together one heck of a reception and dinner.

Airport routing is always interesting, I flew into Cleveland from Knoxville by way of NYC.

The Certified Angus Beef® Brand's Culinary Center is located in Wooster, Ohio, adjacent to their corporate headquarters.  It houses a gorgeous meeting room, offices, a newly expanded dining facility, a full-service bar, the Meat Lab, and two commercial kitchens - one front facing and a typical "back of the house" kitchen.

The reception started off with a vast charcuterie table featuring many of their house-made dried beef sausages.  I could have just eaten that and been fat and happy.  

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Do you remember The Big Salad episode of Seinfeld?  Chef Brad Parker does! Here he is putting together a huge salad, Elaine would approve.  I'm not sure if that is a paella pan or a satellite dish stolen from a deep space observatory, that thing is gargantuan! 

The kitchen displayed a few live fire cooking alternatives.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Smoked beef ribeye resting before Chef Gavin slices it up.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Chef Brad's amazing Heart of Palm Salad was a crowd pleaser.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Chef Brad using a torch to melt compound butter on a mountain of thick, juicy tomahawk steaks.

Potatoes Anna, a variation of potatoes au gratin, was creamy and my favorite side dish served that night.

Chef Ashley used cap steak to make these spinalis pinwheels stuffed with lobster and spinach.

Chef Gavin Pinto 2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Chef Gavin slicing the smoked prime rib for the crowd.

The smoked ribeye was dark on the outside and delightfully red on the inside, impeccable!

Chef Peter, Mallory Robbins, and Chris Lilly 2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Chef Peter serving his homemade hominy from a huge Parmesan cheese wheel definitely captured the attention of Mallory Robbins of Evie Mae's BBQ and Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson.

Day 2 Meat Lab and Science of Sausage

The Certified Angus Beef® Brand had a full day planned in the Culinary Center, especially in the Meat Lab.
The day started off with a brief session on the "State of the Steer."  The Certified Angus Beef® Brand was created as a reaction to the broadening of the USDA Choice designation in the mid-70s and a lousy steak dinner "enjoyed" by one of the C.A.B. founders.

Beef has experienced a raising of standards in the past 10 years, a shift from commodity beef to quality beef.  A decade ago, select beef accounted for 33% of beef, but now it has dropped to 17.7%.  Meanwhile, the availability of Certified Angus Beef® Brand has skyrocketed from 9.2% to 18.5%. 

Meat Lab 2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
The Meat Lab is the heart of the Culinary Center.  It is a fully functional butchery chamber complete with walk-in coolers, grinders, cutting tables, and even an overhead rail for handling sides of beef.  People visiting the Culinary Center get "hands on" in the Meat Lab, learning about underutilized cuts of beef, creating signature grinds, experimenting with charcuterie, and examining dry-aging.

DIana Clark 2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Diana Clark is a bonafide Meat Scientist, has her Master's degree in animal science, and even teaches at the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute.  But more importantly, Diana has a passion for maximizing the quality and use of beef and shares that excitement with everyone at the Meat Lab.  

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
We broke into six teams, and each team got a half steer to break down.  We started with processing the forequarter.  Diana would demonstrate a specific cut, and then we would perform that method on our steer.
2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Nick Drumm finishing breaking the forequarter in half.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Matthew Gillett and Nick Drumm of Saddleback BBQ show the beautiful cross-section of the plate.  I enjoyed working with these two and look forward to stopping by their BBQ joint later this year.

This one table is a superb example of the level of BBQ talent at this event.  Here you have Ray Lampe (Dr. BBQ - Tampa/St Pete), Barry Sorkin (Smoque - Chicago), Kent Black (Black's BBQ - Lockhart), and Malcolm Reed (How To BBQ Right). 

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Mikey Kay of Man Meat BBQ  showing off the gorgeous plate ribs that we were trimming out.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Matthew Gilbert removing the bone-in brisket from the forequarter.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Mikey getting after that brisket.

That is Mikey removing the outside skirt steak from the forequarter.  While we kept working on our steers, the wonderful chefs of the Culinary Center cooked a few of our skirt steaks for us.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Diana shared some short rib secrets. First, despite the popular opinion that plate short ribs are better than chuck short ribs, several blind-tests revealed no preference between the two.  Second, she shared a few alternative fabrications, like the Osso Bucco rib.  Third, she showed how to make a faux-plate rib. 

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Next, we worked on breaking out the chuck short rib.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
The great thing about this crowd was that everyone was willing to share their knowledge, practices, and stories.  Here Amy Mills of the famed 17th Street BBQ has an exchange about beef ribs with Michael Ollier and John Lewis.  Speaking of which, John Lewis made the best beef rib I've ever had, back in 2017.  That isn't particularly important here....I just saw him in the picture, and once again, I thought about how damn good that rib was.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Diana explains things so well and makes it seem so easy......until you go back to your steer to practice it, and then it's like, "Wait.....what do I do again?" Fortunately, one of the sharp Certified Angus Beef® Brand team members was always nearby with helpful advice, step-by-step assistance, and insights.  They do a great job of making you not feel so incompetent ;)

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
There were a lot of fascinating stories amongst the crowd.  For example, Black's BBQ is a fourth-generation family BBQ joint.  Here, Kent Black watches his grandson Barrett honing his skills.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
The Osso Bucco fabrication of a beef rib involves bisecting the meat side and leaving half attached to a bone at each end.  Then you roll it up like this. It makes for a neat presentation.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Breaking down the last of the forequarter is the most challenging part for me.  Fortunately, Diana explains it quite well.

After the long day in the Meat Lab, the chefs at the Culinary Center once again put out a beef feast for lunch.  Someone call NASA because it was out of this world!

Chef Gavin preparing family-style plates of sous vide chuck flat.   I noticed that he uses the same Chef Works shirts that I do for our team and he also hasn't found a better thermometer to fit the sleeve than the Thermoworks RT600C.  The ladies version of this shirt now will fit a Thermapen, so hopefully, the men's shirt follows suit.  That's what I like about these chef meetups, you learn about all sorts of trade tips that go way beyond recipes and cooking.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Chef Peter reworked his hominy into fantastic polenta.
2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
I love watching this team of chefs in action.  Chef Tony was making some killer smoked chuck roll tostadas, and Chef Ashley and Chef Michael were right there making sure he had everything as they finished up.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Chef Peter made this wild Southwestern grilled corn and cucumber salsa.  I'm totally stealing the plating idea.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
This Asian-infused beef shank was delicious on bao buns with slaw.
Smoked Chuck Flap at 2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
The sous vide chuck flap was tender, rich, and fabulous.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
It is easy to be on your feet all day in the Meat Lab with the kitchen is feeding you lunches like this!  

Stay in your lane - I absolutely love the fact that the kitchen outsourced their desserts for this event.  First, they were amazing.  But more importantly, we're beefing it out here! Nobody has time to be whipping up desserts ;) 

After lunch, we had a tour of the complex.

The chefs probably didn't think a whole lot about the photography studio, but we grilling bloggers turned as green as a Big Green Egg with envy over the prop room. 

Did you know that the Certified Angus Beef® Brand also carries Natural and USDA Prime categories?  We are lucky enough that our Food City in Knoxville often sells C.A.B. Prime.  

When I first got seriously into grilling and BBQ, it was hard to find USDA prime beef because it all went to upper echelon restaurants.  Forever it seemed that USDA Prime was limited to about 3% of all beef.  But in the last 5 years, the percentage has jumped.  This isn't because of changes to the grading, it is because of successful breeding and feed programs.  Prime is more accessible these days, and that is a great thing!

After lunch and time for a siesta, we reconvened in the Meat Lab where we talked about the Science of Sausage.  Diana Clark, Meat Scientist, opened up the session talking about the basics.  I was writing furiously but still missed a few things.  Here are a few of my notes.

  • Nitrites vs. Nitrates for curing - nitrates are slower to break down and are used in more long term curing.
  • Dextrose is suitable for sausage because it isn't as sweet as sugar.
  • Always cook a sample and taste before wasting your time stuffing.  (Lesson learned on my batch which had the proportions way off.)
  • Flavors in sausage change over time as long as the sausage is fresh.  This stops with cooking.
  • Binders - she doesn't typically use a binder unless she is adding liquids.  They use activated charcoal for fake blood sausage.
  • Fat blend - She likes an 80/20 mix depending on the application, but it isn't just percentage.  She also likes to use fats that are high in oleic acid, unsaturated, and high in Omega 9, such as brisket (60/40 when whole), chuck roll (80/20), or short rib (80/20).
  • Shoot for 1.5 to 2% salt in your recipe.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Then the pitmasters, like Kent Black, started sharing.  When you have legends in the room sharing their secrets, you listen!  This was a Master Class in sausage.
I won't share restaurant names or give full details from any one joint because they were sharing with each other, not for the Internet.  But here are just some of the things that these top pitmasters shared about sausage making just to get your gears turning.

  • One uses 90% beef and 10% pork from spare rib trimmings, adds a binder, sugar cure, and water.  They cook theirs fresh.
  • One uses a hydraulic stuffer.  
  • One uses brisket and pork shoulder.  They use dried milk as a binder and add things like garlic, jalapenos, cumin, and chile powder.
  • One uses a small die on the first pass using just meat and then uses a larger die on the second pass after adding larger add-ins like cheese and diced vegetables.
  • One does a beer and butter hatch chile sausage using brisket and eye of round.  It was described as "really BLEEPING slutty."  I got to sample theirs, and I have to agree, it was crazy good.
  • Another one uses 85% lean brisket and 15% pork with pink salt, green chile, and cheddar.
  • One joint's sausage was described as a cross between kielbasa and andouille.  They use a paddle to combine the spices and herbs.

Then we got down making some sausage.

What do you do when you misplace the plunger for the meat grinder?  An English cuke does the trick.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Ray Lampe operating the sausage stuffer while Diana Clark controls the casing and Chris Lilly takes pictures.

Then we had a literal sausage fest.  Kristina Gaardbo of the Chicago Culinary Kitchen masterfully chose the beer pairing for each sausage.

Of course, the Culinary Center team loaded us up with an array of sides, too.

Fortunately, this was the last event of the day...I was having meat sweats and needed to sleep it off.

Day 3 Ranch Trip, Meat Lab, and BBQ Ideation Lunch

The final day of our BBQ Summit included a trip to a nearby ranch, some more time in the Meat Lab, and a lunch created by all of us.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
We loaded up in two limo buses and headed to Atterholt Farms to see an Angus seed stock ranch in operation.  [Photo from Certified Angus Beef® Brand]

Ray Lampe 2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Ray Lampe rocking his "farm boots."  To protect the cattle from potential disease, we all had to wear these plastic booties.  Like they told us, "We don't know where you've been." :)

Chef Ashley welcomed us with kettle fried donuts. 

These super fresh donuts were absolutely fantastic.  All Chef Ashley needed was one of those Krispy Kreme "Hot Now" signs :) 
If you know Chef Tony Biggs, you know that he lives up to his name - he does everything in a big way.  In Hawaii, Chef Tony roasted a half a steer on a colossal spit.  

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
When we arrived at the farm, and I saw pitchforks (new and sanitized) loaded with Certified Angus Beef® Brand sirloin and a boiling vat of oil, I knew that Chef had delivered once again.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Chef Tony submerged the steaks in, being careful that everyone stayed back. Don't try this at home. Just like deep-frying turkeys, if the oil were to go over the top of the vat, you would have a pretty big fireball.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
The steaks came out with a crispy crust on 100% of the exterior.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
They cooked the steaks for about 2 minutes, but of course, they just used time as a rough guide and relied on temperature for doneness.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Despite being so crispy and deep mahogany on the crust, the interior was a perfect medium rare.

Chef seasoned the steak when it came out and served it with a duck fat bearnaise sauce. 

Murphy, the cattle dog, surveying his domain - all that he can see.

As a seed stock farm, Atterholt Farms is breeding cattle to be sold off to other farms and ranches.

Eric explaining some of the differences between a seed stock operation at Atterholt Farms and a bigger steer raising ranch like Blythe Family Farms in Kansas.

As a seed stock farm, the Atterholt family focuses heavily on quality.  They artificially inseminate the cows with select bull semen from steer who have specific features measured by metrics known as "expected progeny differences."  They even use a portable ultrasound to have the most detailed information possible for raising the best quality beef.  

Because of their diligent work, their farm has a 50% acceptance rate which is way above the average for earning the Certified Angus Beef® Brand label.

Chris Lilly Ray Lampe 2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Chris Lilly and Ray Lampe with some of our hosts, Mandy and Claire Atterholt.

After the ranch trip, we returned to the meat lab for a tour through the hindquarter.

2019 BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef Brand
Diana Clark showing us how to break out a merlot steak from the calf of a steer.
Our final session of the week was the BBQ Ideation Lunch where each team selects one of the cuts we have fabricated during the week and turn it into a tasty recipe for the group.

Each team had to pick a unique cut, so we drew numbers and there was a tie.  How do you break a tie in the Meat Lab?  Rock paper scissors, of course!

We had a little over an hour to prepare our dish so the teams scurried about in the kitchens trying to beat the clock.
The recipes were amazing, all of the teams did a smash up job.

Barry of Smoque serving Amy Mills of 17th Street BBQ some of the soup.
Certified Angus Beef® Brand's 2019 BBQ Summit was an amazing event and I was thrilled to be a small part of it!  

The picture on top is a bone-in steer and the bottom is a boneless steer ;) :)