Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sous-Vide BBQ Beef Belly

To say that I have been wanting to do this for a while is a huge understatement. I live in the Northwest and sourcing Beef Navel/Belly has been quite challenging. To give you an analogy consider this. I contend that acquiring White Truffles would be less problematic than Beef Navel. If this doesn't paint a picture I don't know what else will. I am being serious here too. 

Back in the day when I first attempted to make what I thought would be Meat Nirvana I purchased what I believed was Beef Navel and to my dismay received full on plate. At the time of course I didn't know any different. I am no butcher so of course I left this to the professionals. I even went to an old fashion Butcher where they break down primal parts right in front of you. If anyone knew what I was talking about it had to be these guys right? I asked for Beef Navel and he said oh... you mean the plate. So I brought home what he gave me and made beef bacon from it. Not the best bacon I ever made nor even a close took 6th in my bacon contest; 6 th being the worse. The plate was hard and was hard to cook. "Anyhow I guess all Navels come from the plate but not all plates are Navels." LC

When you walk up to the counter and ask if they could special order Beef Navel/Belly (called plate too) you either get this blank stare or they say "Do you mean Brisket" After the third or fourth time you want to say Hell No I don't mean Brisket. I went to QFC, Safeway, Albertsons, several Butcher chops, and had some contact with local butchers online and to my disappointment everyone came up short. The only place that was able to help me was Haggens. About 6 months ago Haggens took over the safeway store thank goodness. Not a fan of safeway. 

I have been dreaming of using this meat meat for over three years and now that I have five of them I am going to town. There are several things I will be doing with this cut of meat. And alas this opening paragraph will accompany several posts. I plan on making Sous-Vide BBQ Beef, Pastrami, Corned-Beef and Bacon. 

Now for the backstory on Navel. Before Brisket there was Navel. Would it surprise you to know that Navel dominated all forms of BBQ (from south to north and east to west) and Cured meats such as Pastrami and Corned Beef. Pastrami is Jewish BBQ with Chutzpah!! Corned-Beef of course is just cured beef without going through the transformation that makes it Pastrami. You cannot have Pastrami without Corned-beef. I have a passion for cured meats such as Pastrami, Corned-Beef and of course Bacon (and everything cured). I have posts dedicated to them. But none of them were ever made with Beef Navel until now. Anyhow you get my point Navel was King and it was and is cheaper than Brisket. In fact where I live Brisket sell for $7.99lb and the Navel cost $2.49lb. I might want to keep this a secret because if it becomes popular it might drive the cost up a bit. 

Childhood memories brings me back to my first real deli food which was none other than Katz Deli in New York City EST 1888. I won't go into a long story but suffice it to say they served Navel everything. You know that famous movie When Harry Met Sally? The famous scene was filmed at Katz's. Enough said!!!!

Ok enough rambling. On to the Sous-Vide BBQ Beef Belly. I am going to copy my already perfect Sous-vide BBQ Brisket recipe found here HERE. It's already perfect so why reinvent the wheel. I will post some details but for a full in depth expose I suggest clicking on the above link.

Both sides of the Beef Navel.

A simple uncomplicated rub with brown sugar added. I rubbed it into both sides. Notice it's a heavy rub. 

Dry-Rub-Dry-Brine which just means I added salt. It will sit in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours. 

I had to use my Gamesaver Vacuum Sealer with 15 inch bags. I double vacuumed sealed the meat for the long thermal bath it will undergo tomorrow. I never trust bags even when they are extra heavy duty. 

Get ready, get set....GO. The Belly will cook at 135F degrees for 48 hours. After the long cook the Belly will be given an Ice-bath-shock and will be refrigerated until ready to be smoked. Probably two days because of my schedule. I will smoke the meat for at least 4 hours with additional rub at 180-200 F degrees. If the weather is good I will use my weber smokey mountain with Charcoal and wood if not I will use my Propane smoker. Of course you get a different flavor profile using charcoal wood. I would like to encourage all those that are reading this to use charcoal and wood when you can. 

Picture #1- Sous-Vide at 135˚ƒ for 48 hours, shocked and refrigerated for two days. 
Picture #2- Unsheathed from Vacuum bag.
Picture #3- Additional rub
Picture #4- Going in for the hot smoke 180-205 degrees until a temp of 150˚ƒ is reached. 

Gratuitous pictures and review follow

Review- Just about perfect. What will I change? Almost nothing. Beef Navel is amazing. Way different than brisket but then again I love the fat. Kinda reminds me of the point on a brisket. 

The Sous-Vide temp of 135˚ƒ at 48 hours was perfect. And the BBQ internal temp of 150˚ƒ was perfect too. These temps are great for my needs and for what I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to be able to slice and reheat by frying. I had so much Belly that I needed a way to reheat without drying it out. As you can see by the picture above it looks grandiose. 

Here is the caveat to what I just wrote and a slightly different way to cook the belly. If you were to serve this to a crowd meaning it comes off the BBQ and you are going to slice it up and serve it right away I would cook it just a little differently. I would SV the belly at 145˚ƒ to render more fat. I would also BBQ it to an internal temp of 165˚ƒ. 

Oh one last thing. The rub was great but I might reduce it a little and use just a tad less brown sugar. 

update- 10/1/2015- after making my Navel Pastrami I have changed my opinion. A future BBQ Navel will be Sous-vide at 145 degrees for 48 hours and BBQ-Smoked to an internal temp of 190 degrees. This undoubtedly will produce a perfect Belly just like the pastrami.   

update-10/18/2015 - talking with a friend of mine he has had great success with 158˚ƒ for 24 hours. I have to try this this new time and temp.