What better way to celebrate our country’s Independence Day than firing up the smoker and slow cooking some meat! Sure, you can grill burgers, brats or dogs…and we did that too, but if you plan ahead, you and your friends and family (if you want to share) can also enjoy the smoked version of your favorite cuts!
Leading up to the long holiday weekend Tonya and I were debating on smoking ribs, a pork butt or beef brisket. Even Cornish Hens briefly entered the discussion, but not seriously. Cornish? Fourth of July? Nah.
What decided it for us was a visit to Franklin, TN’s Farmer’s Market, where we visited the booth for Red Cedar Bison Ranch and picked up a 3 and 1/2 pound bison brisket! Red Cedar produces 100% grass-fed bison on their ranch in Chapel Hill, TN.
Bison, also know as buffalo (even though no buffalo are common to North America), has been a healthier alternative to other red meats for years as society seeks a flavor-able meat, produced without the use of growth hormones and antibiotics, that has less fat and fewer calories. We’ve tried “beefalo” burgers before and there are many buffalo burger recipes around but buffalo is not native to America. In fact, what people often refer to as buffalo is actually bison.
Because bison has less marbling, cooking times tend to be quicker than beef, which the kind folks at Red Cedar Bison Ranch explained to us (“low and slow”), while also suggesting a simple coffee marinade, along with some other smoking suggestions.
(Incidentally, On May 9, 2016 our President signed the National Bison Legacy Act which adopted this beloved bovid as a “historical symbol of the United States”. Who knew?)
So we took the cut home, thawed in the refrigerator, then proceeded to cover the bison in a marinade of strong coffee in a pan and refrigerated overnight. At the same time we also soaked a bag of apple wood to generate the smoke. We chose apple because it produces a milder flavor that wouldn’t overpower the taste of the coffee-marinated and rubbed bison.
Once we were ready to smoke this sucker we covered the brisket with a rub that included maple sugar, paprika, chilies, garlic, yellow mustard powder, black pepper and a little bit of Ghost Pepper Sea Salt, purchased from Gulf Coast Saltworks, on a recent trip to the PCB area of Florida.
Bison brisket should be smoked fat-side up to allow the juices from the fat to drip down into the meat. We pre-heated the smoker and used a beer and water mixture for our drip pan to help keep the brisket moist. Since the idea is “low and slow” the apple chunks need to be good and soaked to avoid flare-ups and keep the temperature down.
After about 3 hours of smoking, the bison brisket reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees as suggested by several online recipes. The recipes also said the bison brisket is best served just after taking off the smoker (I tried to let the meat sit for awhile but was too impatient! Who doesn’t love the taste of food just out the oven or just off the grill/smoker?)
The finished brisket had a fantastic smokey flavor from the apple wood and just a hint of coffee mingled with the spices. While the bison is leaner than beef the taste is very similar and no ‘gaminess’. Sliced just like a beef brisket it’s a great healthy alternative!
We put some of the brisket aside and for leftovers the next day, we heated the sliced bison in a pan with onions, fresh jalapeno peppers and tomatoes, wrapped in a flour tortilla, garnished with some more jalapenos and avocado slices and created a tasty smoked bison brisket taco!
If you are looking for ‘the other red meat’, look no further than bison. No hormones, grass-fed, lean and less fat…cooks quicker than beef. It’s certainly worth the try!
And since bison is so lean, there is plenty of room for a beer to wash it down! While I used some ‘stock’ beer for the smoking, I also sampled some of these: Pogue’s Run Porter brewed by Flat 12 Bier Works in Indianapolis, IN. Like most good porter’s it’s not as heavy as a stout and has a great blend of chocolate and caramel. It was very smooth with a hint of coffee which tied in great with the coffee marinade used for the bison!