July 4, 2011

The Pitmaster

One thing we Texans love is Barbecue. Not grilled meat, (although we love that a lot, too) but slow-smoked barbecue. Right now, I'm tending a brisket on my smoker, letting it cook over very low heat from a fire of Hickory and Mesquite wood. Normally, a brisket is a tough, fatty cut of meat that isn't very good for much of anything. But, with the right technique, seasonings, and smoke, it can be transformed into some of the best food you can find. Back when I was young, brisket was considered to be a "trash" cut of meat, and it was mostly discarded and made into animal food.

Briskets are covered with a thick layer of fat, and are difficult to trim out when raw. The lean meat under the fat is shot through with tough connective tissue that shrinks up and becomes almost bullet-proof when cooked in a conventional manner. But, an experienced pitmaster can use these bad qualities to make a mouth-watering masterpiece. The smoke surrounds the meat and covers it with a black crust, but it also penetrates into the meat, leaving a red smoke ring around the meat that lets you know it's going to have a rich and smoky flavor. The low heat and long cooking time lets the connective tissue convert into gelatin, leaving the meat tender and juicy, and allows the fat to coat the meat, helping to prevent it from drying out. What looks like a lump of charred meat when brought out of the smoker is quickly turned into glistening, juicy slices of meat that are the hallmark of Texas barbecues.

Isn't that the way God is with a lot of us? I'm not one of those people that is a part of God's Kingdom here like a Ribeye or a Sirloin is on a cow. I couldn't be cut from the carcass and be useful as a delicious cut of meat immediately, I had to get seasoned and tenderized from the loving technique that only the true Master of the Barbecue could deliver. It might have taken me a long time to become ready, but I now have a different flavor that you won't ever find in a T-bone, Ribeye, or Sirloin type of person.

I'm pretty sure that if Jesus had come to Texas, there would have been a parable about the Pitmaster and the Brisket.

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