Well, you asked for it. Here, Smoky answers the most commonly asked questions. He is direct, honest and offers an insight into the time proven techniques to preparing great barbecue that is unavailable elsewhere. If you are unable to locate the exact answer you are seeking, feel free to contact him directly and ask!
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FAQ Subject: Buying and cooking a side of beef
I am planning a party for 200 people and want to serve a side of beef as the main course. How does one go about buying a side of beef? And more importantly, how do you cook it?
The real question is: "Do you want to serve tasty, properly cooked beef to 200 people or do you want to make a show screwing up a 400 lb chunk of meat."
The different muscles of a beef carcass require different cooking techniques to present them at their best. The shoulder clod, or whole front shoulder has enough interspersed fat to make barbecuing a good method for cooking. But as a practical matter whole chuck roasts, parted from the whole shoulder, are superior to the rest and 10 times easier to handle. This section and the brisket are really the only parts of a beef carcass that would benefit from barbecuing, i.e. cooking at 200° until the internal temperature reaches 185°+.
From the front shoulder to the hind quarter contains the rib and the loin section, containing the tender muscle longissimus dorsi which runs from the front shoulder to the hip joint. It is probably criminal, and if not should be, to cook these parts past medium rare. These should be broiled in steak size cuts at 700°+ or roasted at 350° until no more than medium rare.
The hindquarter cuts lack enough fat to render tender at low temperatures without larding and only the sirloin tip will be tender enough to roast (350°)
So if you really want to serve your guests barbecued beef, I suggest chuck roasts and brisket. If you want to serve them excellent roast beef, I suggest several sirloin tip roasts cooked at 350° to 140° in the center. But if you really want to show out, serve them rib roasts roasted to 135° in the center.