Monday, August 17, 2009

Trent Willmon: "Beer Man" Becomes Sauce Boss

Posted By on Mon, Aug 17, 2009 at 1:30 PM

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Country singer/songwriter Trent Willmon has decided to diversify his portfolio. Already collecting mailbox money from several Top 40 radio hits he has either recorded himself or written for other country stars such as Brad Paisley, Eric Church and Montgomery Gentry, Willmon has returned to his Texas roots to create and market his own brand of barbecue sauce.

No celebrity dilettante slapping his face on a label of generic product, Willmon is serious about this endeavor. An ex-cattle roper from West Texas, Trent definitely knows his way around a smoker. His custom pistol-chimneyed behemoth could be seen for years outside of Judge Bean's BBQ joint, where he had loaned it to Mr. Aubrey, his friend and fellow Texan brisket broiler.

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As part of the promotion for his Beer Man album, Trent dragged this monster smoker behind his tour bus from city to city cooking for fans and radio stations. His experience as a caterer around Nashville came in handy feeding the masses at each tour stop. His specialty was his brisket, and his sauce is designed with beef in mind.

Making the move from small batches of homemade sauce to mass production by a sauce manufacturer out of Ponca City, Oklahoma was a process that Willmon managed personally. Originally available in two heat factors, "Hoss" and "Wuss," the commercial version settled in the middle with a "Hot & Sweet" offering. The current batch is the third attempt at matching Willmon's vision of what he used to make in his mother's kitchen. A stickler for quality, he is finally satisfied with Sauce 3.0.

A beef baron in the middle of pig country, Willmon knows that he has a slight uphill battle to fight for acceptance of a brisket sauce. Judge Bean has agreed to sell the sauce in his new location in Brentwood so that Trent can preach to the choir. Primarily designed as a brisket dipping sauce, Beer Man Sauce is also suitable to brush on ribs or chicken during the last 15 minutes of cooking on your grill.

The low sugar content of the recipe and the thinner consistency should help to prevent the danger of overcarmelization that some brand name sauces are prone to, but it is still thick enough to stick to a basting brush. The heat level could be a little higher, and Willmon hopes to release a hotter version if the Hot & Sweet takes off. Hints of lime and garlic balance the slight black pepper burn nicely.

If you're willing to try something different, step away from the shoulder, buy a big ole brisket and follow Trent's recipe below. His Beer Man Cookbook has this and 150 more recipes and is available as well as the bottles of sauce at his website www.trentwillmon.com. If you'd rather hear him sing instead, be on the lookout for a new live DVD filmed at Gilley's, the ultimate Texas honky tonk that is due out later this month.

WEST TEXAS MESQUITE SMOKED BRISKET

This is one of the hardest things to master. The main reason is that it requires an internal heat of 185-195 degrees to be done, but on such a large, thick cut of beef, it must be done slowly, or it will turn to rubber and be chewy. This takes a minimum of 14 hours, sometimes up to 20 hours (allow about an hour per pound of raw meat, briskets are 16-20 pounds). That is a lot of tending the fire, refueling it every 3-4 hours.

Here is another option. I have seen little difference in the end product and even purists are fooled. It is my theory that after about 8-10 hours, smoking at 200-225 degrees, the smoke stops penetrating the meat, therefore most brisketeers will wrap them in foil and put them back on the smoker, finishing them out another 6-10 hours at the same 200-225 degrees. After they are wrapped in foil, the only thing the smoker contributes is heat. So an oven at 200 degrees is much more practical for finishing out the brisket, although you better have a good drip pan. I rarely use this process, since most of the time when I smoke one brisket, I smoke several, and ovens are smaller than my smoker.

HINT: CHOOSING A GOOD BRISKET can determine if the end product is tender. At the supermarket, grab one end of the brisket with both hands and hold it straight up in front of you. The more it flops over, the more tender it will be when smoked. The stiffer it is, the tougher it will be.

16 to 20 pound brisket(s), untrimmed, washed

Brisket Rub

Beer Barbeque Spray

Basic Brisket Sauce

Lots of soaked mesquite chunks

Big bag of charcoal

Rub down the briskets liberally with Brisket Rub.

Experience with your individual smoker will tell you how big a fire to build and how often to feed the fire to maintain that magic 200-225 degree temperature. Adding the water soaked mesquite chunks will lower the temperature a little and keep a slow, smoky fire going after you shut the lid. Make sure you build a good charcoal fire, let it burn to medium coals, then add mesquite chunks before putting briskets on. Always smoke brisket FAT SIDE UP, allowing fat to drip down into the meat while smoking.

Things to remember:

1. Maintain the 200-225 degrees as best you can, adding a couple handfuls of charcoal and a couple soaked mesquite chunks as needed. Also adjust vents as needed.

2. Every about 2-3 hours, I spray down the briskets quickly, then quickly shut the lid as not to change the temperature so much.

3. After about 10 hours, wrap the brisket in aluminum foil or Saran Wrap (will not melt if you keep temp under 225 degrees), this ensures a tender, moist brisket.

4. Cook about 1 hour per pound of raw meat. Peel off foil and slice, serving with Sauce on the side.

5. Slicing tips: Run your knife between the top and bottom layers (fat separates the two), and remove the top layer. The grain runs a different direction than the bottom layer. Slice both layers AGAINST THE GRAIN, in 1/4 inch slices.

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