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'BBQ Pitmasters': What in the World Is a Beef Shoulder Clod?

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

All three competitors on Destination America's BBQ Pitmasters were confounded by an unfamiliar cut of meat, but one of them mastered it to take home this week's win.

This week, the BBQ Pitmasters were in Austin, TX, cooking—what else?—beef. Three restaurants were competing, looking to please the judges: Tuffy Stone, Myron Mixon and guest judge Aaron Franklin, owner of Franklin Barbecue in Austin. This week, cooking beef ribs and beef shoulder clod, were the following Pitmasters:

  • Garry Roark, Ubons BBQ of Yazoo, Yazoo City, MS
  • Glenn Gross, Fat Jack’s BBQ, Philadelphia, PA
  • Michael Character, Character’s Famous BBQ, Adairsville, GA

“Looks like a piece of dragon tongue,” Pitmaster Michael said, obviously not familiar with shoulder clod.

“Um, a few times,” Pitmaster Garry said unconvincingly when Judge Mixon asked him how often he had barbequed shoulder clod.

So, What IS Shoulder Clod?

According to the judges—who recognized that none of the Pitmasters seemed to know exactly what the cut of meat actually was—the shoulder clod is the top part of the shoulder, lots of muscle, not a lot of fat, and potentially really tough. “It’s an enormous piece of meat,” Judge Franklin said. “There is no way you can cook this thing whole and get it tender in 12 hours; you’d have to be a miracle worker.” Therefore, breaking it down into smaller pieces to cook was their suggestion among themselves.

“They gave it to us whole, let’s cook it whole,” Team Fat Jack’s agreed, deciding to cook it like a brisket, but as one whole piece.

Potential pitfall, right from the beginning?

Pitmaster Garry, on the other hand, also decided to handle it like a brisket, but broke it down, did some injection, and rubbed it down before putting it on the grill for a long cook.

Pitmaster Michael decided to quarter the “dragon tongue,” dry-rub it, and get it going.

All of the teams were, of course, familiar with cooking ribs, but the shoulder clod really seemed to confound them all, although by the time each time got it cooking, their confidence levels about cooking the unfamiliar piece of beef seemed to be on the rise.

To the Judging Table

After a long day of barbequing, it was time for the judging—and, as always, the judges were not afraid to let their opinions fly.

Starting with the beef ribs, the judges seemed to agree that Pitmaster Michael had a good entry; Pitmaster Garry’s ribs were “herbaceous,” according to Judge Stone; and, although the judges agreed that Pitmaster Glenn’s very dark ribs weren’t much to look at, they seemed to all enjoy the taste.

The unknown factor was the shoulder clod. For not knowing what the meat cut even was, the three Pitmasters did a good job overall. Pitmaster Glenn’s entry was criticized for the saucing technique—“either sauce it or don’t” they complained about the stream of sauce down the middle--and Judge Franklin noted a chunk of fat he got with his bite of chopped clod. Pitmaster Michael got good feedback, from looks to eating. And, Pitmaster Garry’s entry also got good marks on taste, although Judge Franklin said it looked “pretty roast-beefy,” lacking the smoke ring he likes to see.

And the Winner Is ...

So, who got the high scores this week?

Pitmaster Michael, bringing it home with his masterful preparation of “dragon tongue!”

Pitmaster Glenn came in second, and Pitmaster Garry finished third.

BBQ Pitmasters airs on Destination America on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. E/P.

Image: Destination America