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Authentic southern BBQ spots in TO?

If one had the option of ordering a meal "side-less", and getting a cheaper price, I'd agree with you, PB. Happily.

Regrettably, it's not an option.

Better idea might just be getting some takeout from HS. Never mind the crazy platters- their pork is $17/lb, which is steep, but not horrendous.

about 12 hours ago
biggreenmatt in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Authentic southern BBQ spots in TO?

Hogtown does such a beautiful job with their meat, but they just recently raised up their prices to, IMO, unsustainably high levels. Eighteen bucks for a pulled pork or brisket sandwich with, say, 6 oz of meat is unjustifiable. Thirty bucks for a rack of ribs.

I absolutely love their work (I was the first one on their new patio when it opened this summer), but I can't justify paying for it. It's just too expensive for what you get, which is an absolute shame.

I wish them the best.

about 13 hours ago
biggreenmatt in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Heart healthy eating

Glad to hear you're feeling better.

You're on the right track, I think, by looking for ethnic cuisines that will naturally accommodate your needs. Japanese is a big one. And I'm not just talking about raw fish, as much as I adore it. There's a fine tradition in Japanese cookery, maybe not at the shopping mall teriyaki-tempura-sushi joints that litter the town, but certainly at the izakayas, of doing beautiful things with fish and vegetables and tofu.

Indian may be more problematic, given the prodigious use of ghee, but you may want to keep things in perspective- if you're essentially giving up major sources of saturated fat (red meat, etc.), what's a little bit of butter in your diet? Sure, it's one step back, but you're already taking four steps forwards.

Greek, Japanese, Indian, Chinese (esp. Buddhist traditions), Moroccan, Middle-Eastern, Italian (oh my god, Italian!), more- all have strong and vibrant vegetarian/pescatarian traditions. Mate, you're not limited in your diet- just need to re-focus and explore things you haven't done before. :)

Wet Brining science question

I suspect the question is a bit esoteric for the usual home cook types to be able to knowledgeably speak to. For greater input, you could maybe try the BBQ/smoking forum, where brining and curing are common methods, but I'd recommend going here:

If the answer's not on the page, scroll down to the questions part and ask it there. One of the staff on the site is a food scientist, Dr. Greg Blonder, who might be in the best position to answer your question.

Good luck!

Nov 20, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

Downtown lunch suggestions?

Oh my good god. How in the name of Mike did I forget this one?!

The best-kept lunchtime secret in Toronto must be the Restaurant at Osgoode Hall- the LSUC/Law Society building at Queen/University.

Granted, you have to go through security to get there, and it's only open from 12-2, but you eat in a beautiful, Hogwarts-esque dining hall, it's all linens and silverware and barristers coming from court still wearing their robes. The food is classic French & Italian bistro cooking, updated and lightened a little bit. Best of all, they have a three-course prix fixe menu for just a hair over twenty bucks. Their wine list is small, but smart.

And while it's in the middle of downtown, nobody's ever heard of it, much less been there.

Head to Osgoode Hall. You'll look like a champion.

making montreal smoked meat at home

I wonder what would happen if instead of using #1 in the curing formula, one were to use #2, and then proceed to air-dry it for, what, 4-6 months, until it's lost 30% of its weight. Kind of a Jewish take on the traditional salumi method. And then, at the end, cold-smoked to give it some oomph. I wonder.

Thinking outside the box, by analogy, proscuitto is a fatty, tendon-y, high-collagen content cut, and it turns out magnificently, if not necessarily predictably, over time. The toughness of the cut *shouldn't* matter. Should it?


Downtown lunch suggestions?

Have you been to the Gabardine? When I'm downtown, I make a point of going there as much as I can.

Love that place. Astoundingly good cooking at a very reasonable lunchtime price.

making smoked delicatessen meat at home

You're a mind-reader. Just started a thread on dry-curing in the home cooking forum.

There are issues with my "cave", but I have plans to try out a coppa as early as tomorrow, even working with an imperfect drying environment.

Dude, I've known you on here for years, and you're a repository of information in exactly the same area as I; might as well give you my contact deets. If you'd be so kind as to let me know when you've got this down (so I can delete the address from my post), you can reach me at

Dry curing meat issues (Italian)

Thanks for the replies, all.

Well, that's the trick, I think. I'm a huge fan of modernist cooking, which means I'm exceptionally comfortable with very precise and fiddly techniques. I own a micro-scale and a sous vide machine, and when making anything that requires that kind of precision, it's vital that you get it right. But this ain't that. This is huge chunks of pig and cow, curing the hell out of them, and then hanging them up to dry.

Using my coffee-deprived brain, if I was forced to guess, I'd guess that colder temperatures might have the effect of slowing the growth of the bacteria that eats the lactic acid and/or dextrose in a whole muscle product or dry-cured sausage, which means it needs more time to develop flavour, while the lower humidity would cause the product, whatever it is, to dry faster. The combo of low temp, low humidity, I would guess, might result in a less mature, less full-flavoured product- as opposed to getting the combo right.

Still, in the best case scenario, I can't imagine that a homemade product that comes out at 80% of ideal wouldn't still be oodles better than can be bought at a supermarket, if not necessarily a specialty store. Plus there's something really good about doing your own, in any event.

In the worst case scenario, of course, it completely fails and you need to throw it out.

In any event, like Yogi Berra said: fortune favours the brave. Balls to the less-than-ideal conditions; I'm going to do a coppa as a test. Cure the sucker, hang it, take pictures of it, time it, take it down at 30% moisture loss, and then post the results. Should be ready middle of next week.

Here goes nothing. Watch this space over the next month or so. I'll put up results.

Kaffir Lime Leaves in Fish Cakes: Will they Soften

Yup. Super-chiffonade or a mini-mince would do the trick.

Nov 14, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

Dry curing meat issues (Italian)

Hi, All!

So after a long spell with traditional Southern barbecue, curing and smoking my own fish (awesome stuff!), making my own charcuterie, and generally playing Garde Manger in my own kitchen, I'm taking my first tentative steps into dry curing meat, in the Italian tradition. Working from Ruhlman's Salumi.

Per Ruhlman, the ideal temp/humidity ranges for the curing spot is between 55-65F (I'm Canadian, so for me it'd be 12-18C), and 60-70% humidity. These are the recommended ranges for we North Americans who want to dry-cure at home, having had little or no exposure to dry-curing before, in 2014.

Go back in time 100 years to the Middle of Nowhere, Italy. Back then and there, people dry-cured to use every scrap of meat in a time before refrigeration. If you didn't have exactly the right temp/humidity conditions, tough titty, you dry-cured anyways because you couldn't waste the food. Solutions, I can only imagine, were found to get around less-than-ideal temp/humidity conditions.

My garage is semi-underground, which makes it cool in the summer and warmer in the winter. Ideally, I'd like to cure in it. However, a read this morning put the temp at 10C (50F) and 45% humidity. Undoubtedly this will fluctuate to some extent, depending on the particulars of the Toronto winter.

On to my questions. So say you're not dead-on with humidity and temp in your dry-curing place- either too humid, too hot, not hot enough, not humid enough, whatever. First: what are the practical effects of being off in one of the particular categories in one (or multiple) area? Second: what, if anything can be done to correct the issues?

Bluntly: is there any point in spending time and money on meat to cure if I don't have the right conditions to dry?

Nov 13, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

ISO: italian butcher for whole-muscle cuts

Masellis. Brilliant.

ISO: italian butcher for whole-muscle cuts

Hi, all!

I'm looking to make some salume (guanciale, pancetta, lonza, etc.) for the holiday season, and I'd like to source a quality Italian butcher who might be able to supply high-quality whole-muscle pork, cut in the Italian tradition (as opposed to the North American tradition, which is similar, but not quite the same).

I live off the Danforth, but I'll happily travel across the GTA to get my hands on some good product. No need for mangalitsa (as far as I can tell, only one farmer breeds mangalitsa, out near Cornwall); just good, quality meat.

ISO: liquid nitrogen & dewar

I just had a good chat with a nice gentleman who works at Praxair about getting my hands on some liquid nitrogen.

Quick version for posterity in case someone else has the same inquiry: virtually impossible to transport, which is why restaurant vendors they own the dewars and let the nitrogen truck come to them. The dewars don't seal like a normal jar does, because if it did, it would explode from the pressure.

Bottom line on liquid nitrogen at home: don't bother. It's about a zillion times easier (and just as effective) to take dry ice, blend it into a powder, and then use it the same way. No transport issues, and Dorchester sells it.

ISO: liquid nitrogen & dewar

Yep. I'm looking for that.

U of T medical store carries both dewars and the cold stuff, but I'm curious to see if there are any other options for price comparisons.

If location is relevant, I work uptown and live just off the Danforth.


Danforth Pizza House for sale

And in fairness, Angelo's son helped out on busy nights.

Hopefully, it's a little bit of busier, a little bit of more effort needed to recreate 50 years of pizza-making experience!

lox & gravlax - dry v. wet cure


Might as well, then, buy an entire fish, wet-brine one half, and dry-cure the other. See how they turn out.

God I love lox.

Oct 31, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

Any recipes for using up leftover roasted turkey slices?

Yah. I was going to say piles and piles of hot turkey sammiches, with lots of gravy made from turkey stock extracted from the carcass, but a hot brown will happily do, instead!

God I love hot turkey sandwiches. The king of trashy diner meals.

Oct 31, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

lox & gravlax - dry v. wet cure

Hi, all!

So I've been making lox for a long time now, and being of eastern European Jewish background, I make it the way that more closely matches the way I ate it as a child, and that involves a dry cure. Pack in salt, sugar, and flavourings, press to get rid of the liquids within, let cure for a day or two, and then bust out the cold smoker. The product is consistently excellent; smoky and salty and, when properly sliced thin, places among the best that I've tasted.

Out of curiosity- has anyone tried to wet cure, and then smoke salmon? You'd have to take safety steps (i.e.: cold smoke the fish in colder temps, otherwise even though the wet cure will change the pH, it may not be enough to completely discourage microbial baddies), but what would the result be like? Would it be more akin to a pickled and smoked fish product than lox or gravlax? Or would it just be more tender and less flaky than typical lox?

Any experiences? Opinions welcome.

Oct 29, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

Tips from the commercial kitchen for the home kitchen

Start with One-stop online shopping for your introduction to modernist cooking.

Once you've played around enough with chefsteps, you'll know whether or not it's worth it to you to go out and buy Modernist Cuisine at Home. Thousand times more practical (and lighter) than the six-volume Modernist Cuisine, but still expensive, not a casual read, and at the price point, you want to make sure that you're ready to invest. I love it, though, and it was my intro to modernist cooking. Invaluable resource- if you're going to use it!

Tips from the commercial kitchen for the home kitchen

I'm going to take the OP's topic title literally, and point out that the topic doesn't say "restaurant kitchen" but "commercial kitchen".

My $0.02 on the topic is that everyone, and I mean everyone, should flip through or at least be passingly familiar with modernist techniques and methods. I mean, the entire point of modernist cuisine is to take what works in a commercial or even factory kitchen, and then adapt it to home use.

Never mind the expensive, intimidating steps of buying a sous vide, a smoker gun, and more transglutaminase than you know what to do with (and you can do MAGNIFICENT things with transglutaminase!)- focus on the simple, cheap things you can lay your hands on to make life easier.

Thicken a sauce with xantham gum instead of diluting your gorgeous sauce with flour from a roux. Prepare a braised dish or stock in an hour, rather than hours by using a pressure cooker. Learn what effect adding baking powder has on caramelization when you've got a beautiful piece of meat you want to fry and finish in the oven. Make simple "molecular" fruit or vegetable "caviars" by using agar agar or gelatin.

See what you can do with the simple stuff, and then get into the chemicals and devices that make modernist cooking fun and fascinating!

The point of modernist cooking is to co-opt techniques and ingredients meant for industrial and commercial kitchens, in order to make beautiful, refined, healthy food, rather than what you might get out of a box or a can or a packet. It's an excellent tool in the cook's or chef's toolbox, and we home-cooks should know a little something about it, too!

Oct 24, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

How to prepare Prime brisket

I thought the same thing for a long time. Being a purist counted for a lot of it, but more importantly, I was concerned over getting (or in point of fact, not getting) a proper bark on the brisket.

Now, however, for the reasons I set out below, I'm a fan of the crutch/cambro duo when I need to have food on the table at a certain time.

making smoked delicatessen meat at home

Here's another question. When smoking cured deli meat (beef and/or pork), what internal temps are we looking at? Non-cured texas brisket, for example, goes usually to the magic temp of 203F/~95C. What magic numbers are usual for the Usual Suspects of Cured Proteuns?

making smoked delicatessen meat at home

Given that traditional and modern takes on Eastern-European/Jewish food (sorry, I grew up with it- I can't for the life of me call it "cuisine") is trending, I think the timing's excellent to start a thread on how to make this stuff at home.

Montreal smoke meat and pastrami have been discussed at length, I think, in other threads. Let's talk about making other stuff at home.

I'm going to start the thread off with something I saw for the first time the other day- rolled beef. A kissing-cousin to pastrami and MSM, it looks like beef plate/short rib, rolled up like pancetta, cured, possibly smoked, and then served cold as a sammy. Never had it myself. Supposed to be mild in flavour, hard to find, and expensive compared to plain old brisket- which makes sense since short rib is a more expensive cut than brisket.

The article that sparked my interest on rolled beef can be found here:

Anyone know anything about its preparation? Certainly looks cured (can't imagine #1 not being used, given the colour in the picture), likely after it was rolled up. Can't imagine the rub doesn't have coriander seed and black pepper on it (I imagine it tastes more good hot-dog spice, than smoke meat spice- more "spiced" versus "piquant", if you dig the difference), and given the the fattiness of the cut, it'd likely need to be cut very thin to be good. Mildly smoked, if at all.

Keen to make this at home. Any thoughts/experiences/first hand recipes? Other ideas on deli at home also warmly appreciated!

How should I prepare a brisket?

Nope. I don't see the point.

If I'm going to drive out west, I might as well go an extra 15 minutes for the Real Thing.

Been a while. Think I need to make some.

Oct 07, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

How to prepare Prime brisket

I'll throw in my $0.02 on the utility of the crutch and the use of a faux cambro.

Brisket is fickle. Ideally, it's done when it's done- which is fine if it's just you and a buddy or two sitting around the backyard with some beers and snacks, but not fine if you're having a crowd over at a certain time, expecting to eat at a certain time. The crutch/cambro duo gives you the ability to play with time and allows for a wider window of opportunity to get things done.

The best approximation for brisket is an hour at 225F per pound, but, given that different briskets are shaped differently, that time is fluid- especially with the stall. By using the crutch, you can power through the stall, opening it up for the last hour or so to be kind to the bark- but more importantly, you speed up the cooking process. Using the crutch, I try to aim to be finished at 203F for between 1-3 hours before service. Once done, I wrap it in foil, then wrap it in towels, then throw the meat in an insulated cooler, aka: the faux cambro. While it rests, it cools very slightly but gets used to itself and will happily wait while you do other things (meet your guests, prepare other stuff, have more beers, etc.).

The crutch speeds things up while the cambro enlarges the window for hot service. Used together, you can plan your barbecue properly.

How should I prepare a brisket?

Suggestion: head to the BBQ, Smoking, and Grilling forum. There are plenty, and I mean plenty, of threads on the whys and wherefores of smoked brisket.

Not sure if there are any pastrami threads (there should be), but there's a monster thread about how to make Montreal smoke meat, pastrami's sexy, francophone cousin.

Good luck!

Oct 03, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

Is there a place where can I rent a sausage stuffer?

The Kitchen Aid stuffer is terrible. Don't bother.

Can't help with a rental, but if you decide to buy, you can get a very good stuffer at Nella Cutlery- either one should have it, though you want to call ahead if you hit the Queen E store. Also, speaking from experience, spend the extra money on the vertical stuffer, not the horizontal one. Worth every penny to have gravity on your side.

food safety & murdering pathogens

I think I should clarify.

I'm not asking whether or not it's safe to eat a certain product as a result of a certain situation that may or may not exist. This is strictly a question about food science theory. And never mind the smoking and curing- it could be anything.

Put more simply: can something "bad" be made safe, if not palatable, by hitting the magic 160F internal mark?

Sep 16, 2014
biggreenmatt in General Topics

food safety & murdering pathogens

I'm renowned in my circles for asking dumb questions. Here's a dumb question.

I'd like you to imagine a pound of the nicest, most succulent, most delicious sliced Montreal smoked meat, exported from Ile Perrot, Montreal, to Toronto directly from the legend itself, Smoke Meat Pete. An absolute delicacy.

Imagine now that one's darling spouse doesn't tell me that it's here and it gets left out for, oh, say a week. It's vacuum-sealed and cured, of course, but still, there's no question that this treasure of delicacies has been left out inconspicuously, in open exposure to sunlight. The reek inside the sealed bag can only be imagined.

Conventional wisdom would be to throw that shit out. "When in doubt, throw it out!" is the rule on which I grew up when it came to food safety. Enter food science.

Assume I opened that bag and put it in a steamer on the stove- exactly the way that it should be done when it's nice and fresh. Say I steam that gorgeous, if funky meat, so as to ensure that the internal temp of the individual slice is 160F- an easy proposition. IGNORING THE FACT THAT THE TASTE WOULD LIKELY BE AFFECTED BY THE ROT, my question is this: would it be safe to eat? What about a literally rotting piece of meat? Cut off the bad bits (or not), bring it up to 160F internal and ignore the disgusting taste- safe to eat or not?

Inquiring minds, etcetera.