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If there is one thing that a cow knows how to do well it’s to chew and this makes the cheek one of the hardest working muscles you will find. For this reason (and hoping you aren’t looking to eat a chewy, inedible and fatty piece of meat), we need to treat these beauties to a long ‘low and slow’ cook . . . but trust me . . . follow this guide and you’ll be enjoying a wonderfully rich, intense, soft and beefy flavour that you wish you’d have tried many moons ago.
. . . let’s do this!
The Ox Cheeks
I purchased a pack of 2 Ox Cheeks (1.1-1.4kg) from Village Butchers which set me back just £13.99 and as can be clearly seen on the packaging are ‘Scotch Prime Beef’.
Once removed from the packaging you’ll want to spend a few minutes removing all the exterior fat and silverskin from the cheeks. Don’t worry if you feel you are going in fairly heavy on the trim, we’ll be boating these in liquid and covering with foil to ensure they don’t dry out . . . but let’s be honest, there is enough collagen and fat in these to ensure they stay moist anyway.
Today, as I was only cooking up 2 cheeks, I decided to fire up the Joe Jnr that I got from BBQs 2u.
Before I went outside to ignite the BBQ / smoker I coated the cheeks in Worcestershire sauce and a light dusting of Norfolk Smoke Pit – Brew & Briskets rub (a coffee blend with hints of oak smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne pepper).
Once the KJ was set up and stable at 250°f I chucked in a chunk of cherry wood and started smoking the cheeks indirect.
Smoke the cheeks for around 2-3 hours OR when you’re happy with the bark / colour OR when they measure around 170°f internal . . . the choice . . . is yours!
The Slow Braise
We’ll be ‘boating’ the cheeks at this stage . . . if you’ve never done this before it basically means placing the meat in a tray, adding liquid and then wrapping in foil.
Once you’ve added the cheeks to your foil tray top up with liquid until around a third of the meat is covered. I tend to use good ‘ol beef stock, but feel free to experiment with other options such as ginger beer.
Next (just before you cover in foil) is to sprinkle some brown sugar lightly on the cheeks . . . trust me . . . it works!
Anyway, once covered return to the BBQ / smoker for another 2-3 hours, or until the cheeks probe like butter and easily pull apart.
Beef cheeks will be ready when they are anything from 205°f to as high as 215°f.
Note: I rely on my trusted ‘Inkbird IRF-4S‘ to individually monitor the cheeks internal temperatures throughout the braise to prevent me continually opening the KJ to check the temperatures.
The Final Step
Once you are happy with the probe test rest for 30 minutes and then shred in the leftover liquid and enjoy as you see fit!
Many go for tacos, but I love on a simple bed of creamy mash . . . I’m a simple man!
P.S Whilst the texture and intense beef flavour isn’t for everyone, as you may be able to see from the pictures below my 3 kids each enjoyed a little plate of this for dinner too . . . can’t be bad!