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I really like to add some cubed Tasso to my Jambalaya, Red Beans, Gumbo, and in butter beans or Lima beans when I cook them in a roux. I stock up whenever I go back home, but I never seem to have enough. Time to make my own.

I came across a number of recipes and processes when I was researching how to make it, so I decided to try a couple of variations, hence the title of this thread. The one that sounded best to me based on the seasonings used was Alex Patout's recipe that Tom mentioned in a previous thread. Another one that sounded interesting was the recipe in Charcuterie, which is quite different. Patout's recipe does not contain a cure (sodium nitrite or nitrate), just salt and beaucoup cayenne and other seasonings. The Charcuterie version uses Ruhlman's and Polcyn's "Basic Cure", much less cayenne, and different seasonings. The Charcuterie version doesn't really sound much like any kind of Tasso I've tried before. Trying both at the same time will help me figure out which appeals to me the most.

Just to make it more interesting, I also decided to try both seasoning mixes on pieces of the cured pork, and I varied the curing time on different pieces.

When it came time to mix the seasonings, however, I made a mistake with the Charcuterie version, and then I compounded it by being forced to make a substitution for one of the ingredients. In the Charcuterie version of Tasso, you are supposed to put their basic cure on the meat for four hours, then rinse it off and put the seasoning on. Well first of all, I didn't use the basic cure recipe. I used Morton's Tender Quick. I think it's similar enough though that it should make little difference. Then I discovered that I didn't have any dried Marjoram. Oregano is similar to Marjoram, but more bitter. I didn't want too much bitterness, so I substituted a 50/50 blend of dried Thyme and ground Summer Savory. Finally, I made the profound mistake of mixing all the seasonings into the Tender Quick cure. I had to make another batch of the substituted Charcuterie blend of herbs and spices without the TQ in it so I'd have something to rub on after washing off the cure.

So in reality I'll be comparing Alex Patout's recipe with a mongrel approximation of the Charcuterie version. Should be fun.

At this point, the meat has been rubbed, wrapped, and is now resting in the refrigerator. I won't smoke it until Saturday.

This will be my first time to make Tasso. I sure hope it comes out good. I'll put some pics in my next post.
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This first image just shows the two different seasoning mixes. Alex Patout's blend is on the right. The Charcuterie-inspired and bungled TQ cure is on the left.

Patout mix rubbed on the pieces on the left.

Mongrel cure on the left. The Patout pork is wrapped up.

Both Tasso types wrapped up and ready for the refrigerator.

There is a profound difference in color. The redder one looks more like what I'm used to.

There won't be any more pics until Saturday.
Good start skip.

FYI, if you didn't know, you could edit your original post instead of a reply.

I'm sure it will be a well received post. I will be changing the title by adding PICS so that people will know there are photos.

Look forward to the results. Tasso is a common topic.

Today is Sunday. I smoked the Tasso yesterday. Time now for final descriptions, pics, and conclusions.

I had cut the pork and added the cure and seasonings late Tuesday evening. The pork butt I used was from Costco, about 8 pounds. I had frozen it, then thawed it for four days in my refrigerator before I cut it up to make tasso on Tuesday. A great deal of bloody liquid came out of the meat while it was thawing for those four days. Tasso should not be overly moist, so that was just fine. I'll do it this way when I make Tasso again in the future.

I used Alex Patout's very spicy seasoning mix and no cure on most of the meat. There were four pieces that I cured with the seasoned Tender Quick mix. The recipe in Charcuterie says to rinse the cure off after four hours, then season the meat. I rinsed the cure off of two of the pieces after five hours, and off the other two after nine hours. I put plenty of my mongrel adaptation of the Charcuterie seasoning mix on one 5 hour and one 9 hour TQ-cured piece, and Patout's mix on the other two. I wrapped everything up in plastic, labeled each package, and stuck it back in the fridge to soak up the seasonings while awaiting smoking.

Saturday I was ready to smoke the tasso. I had thought to do it early in the morning when it was still somewhat cool outside, but my plans were derailed, so I waited until late afternoon when the side of the house where my cooker sits would be in shade. By this time, the meat had been in the seasonings for nearly four days.

I prepared my smoker by putting in fresh foil and adding wood to the wood box. You gotta love a cooker that is that simple to prepare! I used 4.75 ounces of chipped pecan, and 1.25 ounces of chipped hickory. The hickory was just the end of a bag I had, and that was the only reason why I used it. I could have just used pecan, which is the traditional smoking wood for Tasso. Based on what I've read, Tasso is usually smoked heavily, so I also set aside two more ounces of pecan to add later in the smoke.

I wanted to smoke as slowly as possible so the meat could take up the maximum amount of smoke. But you have to smoke at a high enough temperature to keep the wood smoldering. I am not sure what the lowest practical temperature setting is for the Amerique that will keep the wood going, but I decided to start out at 160 degrees. I also added my cold smoke baffle in an effort to insulate the Tasso from the heat and prolong the smoking further. So I set the temp at 160, put the meat and the baffle in, and turned it on.

After an hour the meat was at 140 degrees, a faster rise than I wanted. Also, the wood had stopped smoking. I opened the door for a minute to dump heat and moisture, then set the temp on 200. That got the wood going again. The meat looked pretty wet when I opened the door, so from that point on, I opened the door for 15 seconds every 20 minutes to dump heat and moisture. At the two hour mark, the meat temperature was at 151. I opened the cooker and added the other two ounces of pecan. I wanted to slow it down so I set the cooker temp at 190.

I continued the brief heat and moisture dumps every 20 minutes, until the meat finally hit 160 degrees (average of my three probes) after a total of 3 hours and 40 minutes of smoking. I brought the meat inside and set it on racks in front of a fan to cool.

Before I describe my tasting and personal preferences, here are the final pictures.

This shows the Tasso racked up and ready to smoke. This is after nearly four days in contact with the seasonings.

The Tasso loaded up in the smoker. I also added six raw eggs on the left, and six hard-boiled and shelled eggs on the right. I'll have more pics and comments about those in another thread. Down toward the bottom of this photo you can see the cold smoking baffle. A moments thought should have made this obvious to me, but it didn't occur to me at the time. If you use a cold smoking baffle and you don't wrap it in foil, it is going to get incredibly dirty! I had a heck of a time cleaning it after the smoke, and in fact the side that was closest to the heat is still half blackened.

Here is the finished Tasso, cooling on the racks in front of a fan.

A closeup. It's beautiful, isn't it? This is a piece of the Patout seasoned meat.

An now for the insides. The two on the left are the cured ones with the mongrel seasoning, the 9 hour cure on top, the 5 hour on bottom. The two in the middle are the same, but with the Patout seasoning. The small one on the right is the Patout version that was not cured.

Finally I got to taste the Tasso, something I'd been looking forward to for days. I cut one piece of each type on the diagonal to get a good look at the color and texture, and then sliced the cut piece thinly to sample. I cleared my palate between samplings with beer and pickled okra. (Seriously! It was hot pickled okra that I put up last year.)

Upper left: This Tasso was cured in TQ for nine hours, then rubbed with my mongrel adaptation of the Charcuterie spice blend. The deep rich pink color of the meat was very satisfying. The smoke flavor was pronounced. The Tasso was quite salty, as expected. There was a very slight, almost undetectable hint of sweetness from the TQ cure. The other flavors were just plain odd, especially the summer savory and the allspice. The summary savory was one of the things I substituted for the marjoram that I didn't have. I doubt it was an improvement over the marjoram. The allspice flavor was very prominent. A little might be good. As much as this recipe called for was over the top. This Tasso might work well with English peas (because of the summer savory) or with fruitcake (the allspice). Overall, I didn't care for it.

Lower left: This was identical to the previous one, except that it was cured for only 5 hours. About the only significant difference was the somewhat lighter color of the meat (in the photo it appears whiter than it really is) and a bit less saltiness.

Upper middle: This was my favorite of all of them. It was cured for 9 hours in TQ, then seasoned with Patout's seasoning recipe. It was spicy, quite hot, and had a satisfying pungency. Again, the smokiness was pronounced. It was salty, and the meat was intensely pink with a texture and a level of moisture somewhat similar to that of a Cure-81 ham. Of the lot, this was the clear winner. This would be great in any dish where a hot and spicy ham would add a lot of character.

Lower middle: This was identical to the previous one, except that it was cured for only 5 hours. All the same good comments apply. I prefer the longer cure marginally because the meat seemed firmer and drier.

Far right: This one was the straight Alex Patout recipe with no variation. It does not contain a cure. Consequently, the meat does not have a ham-like quality. That's a pity, because that characteristic is what makes Tasso such a great addition to jambalaya, in particular. In all other regards, this is an excellent example of Tasso. It is very smokey. The saltiness and the spiciness and the heat level are right where I like them. The combination of flavors is perfect. I just wish I had cured the meat.


My "mongrel adaptation" of the Charcuterie Tasso process and seasoning no doubt detracted from the flavor one might normally expect. After tasting the outcome, it is clear that my use of summer savory and thyme could not be very close to the flavor that would result from using the marjoram the book calls for. And it wasn't very tasty either. The summer savory, in particular, was overwhelming. That substitution was a bad idea on my part. But even so, there are two significant faults in the Charcuterie mix that makes it undesirable and unauthentic from my perspective. First, it uses way too much allspice, giving it a weird flavor that might be more compatible with fruitcake than with gumbo, beans, or jambalaya. Secondly, there is nowhere near enough cayenne pepper in it. Also, I believe it should have some paprika. It just isn't spicy enough, and the other flavors call up odd cake-like associations. It really isn't fair for me to criticize the recipe in Charcuterie since I didn't exactly follow it, but I'm convinced that if I had, it would not have produced anything that I'd have recognized as Tasso. YMMV. I don't plan to try it again even with the prescribed seasonings.

The Patout seasoning mix is outstanding. It imparts satisfying spice flavors, heat levels, and saltiness, without coming off like a holiday ham. The flavors are all compatible with South Louisiana cooking, especially the gumbo, bean, and jambalaya type dishes that it is usually used in. The cayenne charge is considerable. Some might want to cut it back some, but I'd encourage you to use it as given. Instead, cut back on other seasonings (especially salt) that you'd be inclined to add to the dish you are cooking.

One thing about Charcuterie that I think they got very right, and that Alex Patout seems to have missed the boat on in my opinion, is the cure. I think Tasso is best cured. Curing the meat gives it the ham-like texture, moisture, and flavor that is de rigueur for Tasso. Again, I'm speaking only from my own experience and taste, having grown up in Baton Rouge, and with family spread out up and down the river road. The straight Patout recipe does not include a cure. Consequently, the pork, while highly seasoned and very tasty, doesn't have that ham-like quality that I like and have come to expect. It's not going to add the characteristics I'm looking for to my gumbo or beans, and especially to jambalaya. On the other hand, I think it would be great if ground up and added to dirty rice along with the chicken gizzards and livers.

When I make this in the future, I plan to heavily cure the meat in TQ, then coat in the Patout mix, then smoke. That'll make the kind of Tasso I enjoy most.
Last edited by Former Member
Here is Alex Patout's recipe, as given by Tom in another thread about Tasso. I followed this recipe exactly for the bulk of the Tasso I made.

Tasso anyone

You can also find it on the web here:
Gumbopages - Tasso

And here it is one more time, just to have everything in one place:

Chef Alex Patout - Tasso

* 8-10 pounds boneless pork butt
* 5 tablespoons salt
* 5 tablespoons cayenne pepper
* 3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
* 3 tablespoons white pepper
* 2 tablespoons paprika
* 2 tablespoons cinnamon
* 2 tablespoons garlic powder or granulated garlic

Trim the pork of all excess fat and cut it into strips about 1 inch thick and at least 4 inches long. Mix together the seasonings and place in a shallow pan. Roll each strip of pork in the seasoning mixture and place on a tray. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least overnight (preferable a couple of days).

Prepare your smoker. Place the pork strips on a grill or rod and smoke until done, 5-7 hours. Don't let the smoker get too hot. Remove the meat and let it cool completely, then wrap well in plastic and foil. The tasso will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, and it also freezes very well.

For comparison, here is the Tasso seasoning mix from Charcuterie. I think it is a little odd, and not nearly as good as Patout's. This quantity is for 5 pounds of pork shoulder. The authors recommend mixing by weight rather than by spoon measures. The meat must be cured for 4 hours, then rinsed, before applying this spice mix.

3 tablespoons (30 grams) white pepper
1.5 tablespoons (15 grams) cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons (6 grams) dried marjoram
3 tablespoons (24 grams) ground allspice

If you were inclined to put Tasso in your fruitcake Big Grin this might go well.
Thanks guys.

It's not really a lot of work, cal. Taking all those pics, cropping them, shrinking them, uploading them to a photo site, and then doing the writeup, however, was a lot of work. Smiler

It is a bit more involved than just plain smoking when you are trying different things simultaneously. I often do that when I'm trying to figure out a preference for one technique or recipe over another. I'll never do that again with Tasso, because I've got it basically figured out. Any changes from here on will be to tweak and improve, and I'll just be working with one recipe and procedure.

The basic process is simple and fast. Mix your rub. Cut your meat. Apply cure. Cover and put it in the fridge until the meat is cured. Rinse. Pat dry. Apply the seasonings, put back in the fridge for 3 or 4 days, then smoke it. It's actually straightforward, and well worth the effort, particularly if you can't find good tasso in your vicinity. You make up 10 pounds and freeze it, it's going to last you quite a long time.
Thank you TN Q. Yes, that recipe from Nola Cuisine is similar. The brown sugar sounds good. That is a great site with many wonderful recipes.

I see Danno doesn't list pink salt as an ingredient in this version of his recipe, but nevertheless managed to attain a nice pink color. He has another version of this same recipe where he does list pink salt as an ingredient. Here it is: Nola Cuisine Tasso blog version. His wife didn't like so much cayenne, so he reduced the cayenne, the garlic, and increased the cinnamon. And in this version he lists the pink salt as an ingredient.

I noted that neither Alex Patout nor John Folse list a sodium nitrite cure (pink salt) in their recipes.

I suspect there is more for me to learn about making Tasso. I wonder if it is possible to get the pink color without using sodium nitrite. Could the smoking method, temperature, length of time make a difference?

Edit: Donald Link in his new book Real Cajun has a Tasso recipe too. He brines the meat, then seasons and smokes. He uses a little cure in his brine, along with juniper, allspice, and star anise, fresh thyme and fresh sage. In his spice mix he includes chili powder, oregano, and dried pepper flakes in addition to the other common spices (cayenne, white pepper, paprika).

I'd say there are as many ways of making Tasso as there are people making it. I'm certain though that you won't get that pink color without using a cure.
Last edited by Former Member

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