BBQ Clod. The word conjures a mental image of a hard, dried-up chunk of dirt, but a beef clod in the hands of a veteran Centex pitmaster can be a work of culinary art. In many ways it is more of a challenge; it is a leaner cut with less fat, so it cooks faster than a brisket, but since it is a massive cut, care has to be taken to make sure that it cooks evenly throughout, without burning the outside. Screw up and it can be as tough as jerky.
The clod is simply the shoulder of a cow, usually weighing in the neighborhood of 13 to 20 pounds, depending on the size of the animal. You are probably more familiar with its supermarket name: beef chuck. If it were the same cut from a pig, it would be called a Boston Butt. From the chuck comes chuck roasts, stew meat, slices perfect for chicken fried steaks, Swiss steak, or London broil, and some of the best hamburger meat. It’s an economical cut intended for long, slow braising or roasting, since it’s composed of several muscle groups with lots of connective tissue. Most meat guides also consider the brisket a braising cut (think corned beef or Italian bollito misto), so the clod finds itself in good company.
If you go to your butcher’s and want to get a clod, ask for IMPS/NAMP # 114, a whole Beef Chuck, Shoulder Clod. You’ll find the best prices all summer long, with the price peaking in the fall and winter. Cooked at 225º for about 12 to 14 hours, a 16 to 18 pounder (from a 600 to 700 pound carcass) will come out fork tender, with very rich beefy flavor, and a nice, caramelized bark on the outside. It is perfect for slicing or shredding for barbecue sandwiches. If there is any downside to the clod, it is the lower amount of smoke flavor in the interior of the meat, since it is much thicker than a brisket.