Biggest Baddest Beef Recipes: Beef Shoulder Clod
Barbecuers seem to give pork shoulder (a.k.a. Boston butt) all the love, ignoring its beef counterpart, shoulder clod.
That’s a shame, because it’s easy to cook, drop-dead gorgeous to serve, and if you love beef, a slice of this tender, crusty, smoky meat will make you feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven.
Haven’t heard of it? Clod is one of the sacred meats in the Central Texas Barbecue Belt and nearly unknown everywhere else on the planet.
I first enjoyed beef clod at the Kreuz (rhymes with “brights”) Market in Lockhart, Texas, where it came off the pit dark and shiny as a lump of coal, the outside as crusty as the end cut of a prime rib, seasoned simply with salt, black pepper, and cayenne. (If you can’t make a pilgrimage to Lockhart, Kreuz sells shoulder clod on its website for $16.49 a pound plus shipping.)
What you may not realize is that clod was the headline smoked beef in Lockhart until the 1960s, when brisket eclipsed it in popularity.
I say it’s time for a comeback. Not only is clod one of the most economical cuts of beef (it sells for $5.49 at my local, normally pricy Whole Foods), but it feeds a crowd—20 people or more. (That makes it prefect for tailgating.) Most important, shoulder clod delivers a big carnivorously beefy flavor, and unlike brisket, you get a crisp, salty prime rib-like crust.
Technically, beef shoulder clod is the upper portion of the chuck primal and sits atop the brisket and the shank. It can weigh from 13 to 21 pounds, and in butcher-speak, is known as 114 NAMP. (That’s code for North American Meat Producers.) Rarely will you see a whole clod displayed at a meat counter. Most often, it’s broken down into blade or flat iron steaks (114D), chuck arm roasts (114E), stew meat, ground chuck, and a particularly delectable 12- to 16-ounce cylinder of meat known as a “mock tender” (114F) because of its resemblance to beef tenderloin. Often, it’s a special order, so give your local butcher a heads-up if you want to try this spectacular cut of meat. (Whole Foods asks for a week’s notice.)
Shoulder clod is noticeably leaner than brisket, but is a bundle of muscles that requires the same low and slow treatment to break down fat and collagen. As a rule of thumb, allow up to 1 hour for every pound of shoulder clod, maintaining smoking temperatures at or below 250 degrees. If planning an overnight cook, invest in a good remote thermometer—one you can program to alert you if temperatures stray out of bounds. Another help is a digital temperature control device, such as BBQ Guru’s PartyQ, a battery-operated unit that maintains smoker temperatures while you sleep or are otherwise preoccupied.
I like to wrap my shoulder clod with unlined butcher paper once it reaches an internal temperature of 175 degrees on the remote or an instant-read meat thermometer. Then continue cooking until the meat hits 200 degrees. You’ll have to bury the temperature probe up to the hilt to get to the center of the meat: a whole shoulder clod is huge! Once done, I remove the butcher paper, wrap in several layers of heavy duty foil (save yourself grief and buy the wide roll) and thick towels, and rest in an insulated cooler for at least 1 hour, and up to 4. Don’t skip this last step: it works magic on the meat’s tenderness and juiciness.
Are you ready for the beef shoulder clod challenge? Here’s a recipe to get you started.