Cooking the Perfect Brisket

Brisket is a tough meat to begin with, and requires special care in preparation to make it a tender and flavorful dish. Brisket is loaded with a waxy looking connective tissue called collagen, which makes the meat tough and chewy. Only when the collagen has been transformed into gelatin will the meat be tender. It begins to convert to gelatin at 140 degrees internal but the process occurs most rapidly at temperatures over 180 degrees internally. A meat thermometer is recommended for serious barbecuing. An internal temperature of 210 degrees must be fully acheived to fully cook the brisket.Cooking the meat with moist heat in foil(braising) is preferred because it will conduct the heat better than just cooking on the pit. After cooking the brisket to this high internal temperature, a resting period is required to allow the hot juices that have escaped during the cooking process to be reabsorbed into the brisket. I explain this process later in the recipe.

1. PICKING THE BRISKET
When picking a brisket I like to look at a couple of things-

a. Make sure briskets are thawed to inspect.

b. Pick up a brisket and fold it in half. It should be able to touch a end to end after trying a couple of times.

c. Choose a brisket that weighs 10 to 11 lbs or less. Easier to work with and easier to select a good one.

2. PREPPING THE BRISKET
a. Fork the brisket- use a large serving or table fork and peirce the brisket all over.

b. Dry rub. The Texas Gourmet Sweet Chipotle Season All is a great rub. Here is a simple dry rub you can make at home.

You can adjust the proportions of spices in this all purpose rub or add or subtract a spice as you wish. For instance, if you don’t like spicy foods, reduce the or eliminate the cayenne. Also if you are using hot chili powder, you may want to eliminate the cayenne. This rub works well with ribs and brisket and Boston Butt if you want to make pulled pork.

4 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander seed
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon pepper
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon granulated salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
1 or 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. ( The rub can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several weeks).

Apply the rub liberally to all sides of the meat.

Make sure and cover well. Cover with plastic wrap for the refrigerator or tie up in a plastic bag and place in a cooler with ice.Refrigerate from 4 hours to overnight( to allow all flavors to permeate the meat). 1 hour before cooking , remove the brisket from the refrigerator or cooler, uncover and allow to sit and become room temperature.

3. COOKING THE BRISKET
Place brisket with the fat side facing the fire as close to the fire as possible and sear for 5 to 7 minutes. Then flip brisket and place at opposite end of pit away from fire box.

Smoking- I want to comment on this section for a moment. There are many different types of wood that can be used for smoking. I have a few tips that can make the flavor of the brisket better and a lot easier on your digestive system.

* Only use well seasoned or dried wood.

* Many people are allergic or can’t handle mesquite wood for smoking, I prefer a blend of 1/3 Post Oak or red oak, 1/3 pecan(optional), and 1/3 Hickory.

* Whenever possible, have a fire source independent of your pit where you can burn the bark off of the wood you are going to smoke the meat with. This will make for a much smoother flavor , if not possible, be sure and rinse the wood off with a hose to remove dust and dirt and inspect the wood and make sure the pieces you will be using are free of mold, moss , etc. Remember, you are ultimately going to be consuming the foods you are smoking , so the cleaner the wood, the better the end product.

a. Smoke for 3 1/2 to 4 hours at approx. 250 to 275 degrees with fat side up, without touching or opening the pit( This is plenty of time to impart a good smoked flavor into the meat)

b. Then wrap the brisket in 2 to 3 layers of heavy duty foil. (We dont want to rip the foil and leak the trapped juices so handle it carefully and lift it if you need to move it on the pit, as opposed to trying to slide it around) Spread a thinly sliced onion under the brisket and 1/2 of a can of beer or 6 to 8 oz. of beef broth to foil before sealing up. Make sure to seal foil well( NO HOLES)

c. Place into an oven or on a pit at 250 to 275 degrees in the foil and cook for 5 to 6 hours(depending on size) until the proper internal temp. is reached( a meat thermometer inserted should read 200 to 210 degrees internally.

d. Remove from pit or oven , place the foil wrapped brisket on a counter or in a cooler cover with a towel and allow the brisket to rest for a minimum of 1 1/2 to 2 hours. This will allow the juices that escaped during cooking to be reabsorbed and redistributed into the brisket. Slightly cooling the brisket will also allow for slicing the meat easier without it shredding(It’s gonna be really tender!)

e. After resting the brisket, carefully pour drain the reserved juicesfrom the foil into a bowl and place in a freezer for 20 to 30 minutes to allow the fat to separate from the aujus or the reserved juices from the brisket. Separate the fat from the juices and discard, then pour up to 1 cup of the remaining juices into a sauce pot with your favorite barbecue sauce, stir, heat through to combine for a great flavored sauce.

4. SLICING AND SERVING
a. Separate the top and bottom of brisket , and trim off any undesired excess fat.

b. Slice across grain into long thin slices ( approx. 1/4 inch thick) Be sure and cover the sliced brisket w/ foil to keep it moist until ready to serve!

Serve with Bryan’s Red Potato Salad and your favorite side dishes.

Bon Appétit!