Saturday, September 15, 2012

Smoking a Brisket

Finished Brisket from Today's Cook
Brisket is probably the most requested recipe that I have been asked to post. I am going to be making a smoked brisket chili this weekend as practice for the 2012 Wildwood Bash at the end of the month. I will be cooking the brisket using the same method as I would for a competition, the only difference is that I will be cooking just the flat as opposed to the entire brisket and I will be using a commercial rub. Let's get started.

I picked up a 5lb USDA Choice Brisket Flat at Costco. The quality is a notch above what you can typically find at Sam's Club and the cost is about 1/2 of what you will pay at your local grocery store. There are a couple of things to consider to make sure you are getting the best possible cut of meat.

What You Will Need
First, I look for a brisket with a uniform thickness so that it will cook evenly. If the brisket has a significant taper, the thinner portion will get to temperature well ahead of the thicker portion and you potentially will ruin a great cut of meat. Secondly, look for a brisket that has a minimal amount of fat. I trim all the fat from the top and only leave about 1/8 inch of fat on the bottom (I will discuss why in a bit). And Finally, the brisket should be flexible, not firm when you give it a shake. The more flexible, the more tender it will be when it's fully cooked.

The real trick to cooking a brisket is to keep in the moisture during the cook. Some people will tell you that you need to leave all the fat on the bottom side of the brisket and that you need to mop it or spray the brisket to keep it from drying out. I will let you in on a little secret. There is a much better way - injection!

For this cook I will be using an injection and a rub commonly used on the competition circuit, both of which are available from online retailers. The injection is the key to keeping the moisture in the meat throughout the cook. I use a Brisket Injection developed by David Bouska of Butcher BBQ. David's product unlike others has moisture holding capabilities to keep the brisket moist even after slicing or reheating. The only drippings I get during the cook are from the rendered fat on the bottom on the brisket. The injection locks the remaining juices inside and keeps the brisket moist and tender. For the seasoning, I am using a competition rub called "Wow Up Your Cow" from The Slabs BBQ Team. I have heard nothing but good things about this rub from fellow competitor's so were giving it a try. I bought the rub online at the Kansas City BBQ Store.

Bottom Trimmed
Top Trimmed
Untrimmed Brisket
Let's get started prepping the brisket. You want to trim all of the visible fat and silver skin off of the top of the brisket. Because we are injecting, it's OK to trim a majority of fat from the bottom side of the brisket. Try to leave at least 1/8 inch of fat on the bottom side. Trimming the fat allows the rub to penetrate the meat and helps form a flavorful bark on the outside surface.

Adjustable Injector
The next step is to inject the brisket. I used to use a standard Cajun injector that you can find in most grocery stores. A couple weeks ago I picked up an adjustable dose automatic livestock injector from a veterinary supply store (pictured at left). This injector is awesome. It has a 12.5cc barrel and a stainless steel luer lock nut that allows you to screw in a standard needle from a Cajun injector. When you squeeze the trigger, the injection liquid is drawn through the tube until the barrel is full. Now each time you release the trigger after injecting, the liquid is automatically drawn through the tube refilling the barrel for the next shot. It only takes me about 3 minutes now to inject a whole brisket. And clean up is a breeze. You just drop the tube in hot water and cycle it through until the barrel and tube are clean. Now, to inject the brisket, try to imagine the brisket is a checkerboard. You want to inject each imaginary square keeping the needle in the center of the meat. You will likely have some liquid ooze out during the process. Rub the liquid on the surface of the brisket. This will help the rub stick. Now it's time to apply the rub.

Brisket On!
In competition, I usually layer my seasonings. The first seasoning I use is equal parts of salt, black pepper and paprika. I let the seasoned meat sit in the cooler for an hour or so to draw in those flavors. Then, just before I put the brisket on the smoker, I hit it again with a rub. If you follow this method, you will develop a nice bark and deep smoke ring. Since this brisket is going into a chili, I am not as concerned with getting all those complex flavors and a deep smoke ring. I want the brisket to take in the flavors in the chili spices. So for this cook, I am just going with the "Wow Up Your Cow" rub. All you need to do is to shake the rub on applying a nice even coat on both sides of the brisket. Now it's time to get smokin'.

Set up your Weber for 2-zone indirect cooking. The target smoker temp for the cook is 225°F.  I am using both the cherry and the oak/pecan combination mojobricks for this cook. Cherry is my favorite wood for brisket. I am using the oak/pecan combo to impart some flavors that I think will go well with my chili seasonings. Once the smoker is up to temp, on with the brisket!

We are going to wrap the brisket in aluminum foil when it gets to an internal temp of 160°F.  For a 5lb brisket cooking at 225°F, we should get there in around 4 hours. After 4 hours, check the internal temp with an instant read thermometer. If it's still below temp, check back every hour. It's OK if we go over 160°F.  Brisket strangely enough hits a wall at around 160 - 170°F. It could take a couple of hours to push through that wall. The reason you wrap the brisket is one, to help it push through the wall and two, to help tenderize the meat. The foil locks in the heat and keeps the juices from any fat that still hasn't rendered locked inside as well. You want to double-wrap it very tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil.

Off at 195°F
After you have wrapped the brisket, the new target internal temp is 195°F. Note that a brisket is actually fully cooked when it hits an internal temp of 200°F. What I have found is that the brisket continues to cook after it is removed from the smoker and the temp will rise at least another 5 degrees (see picture at right). I took the brisket off at 195°F and within 5 minutes the temp hit 199°F. For a 5lb brisket, it should take 2-3 hours to hit the new target temp. After 2 hours check the temperature. You want to check every half hour because we don't want to overcook the brisket. If it ends up going over 195°F, don't worry. Take it off the cooker and open the foil to expose the meat. That will slow down the cooking process and keep it from going to far over 200°F.
1/2 cubes for Chili

After you hit temp, remove the brisket and rest it for about 30 minutes before slicing. Resting will allow the brisket to firm up and soak in some of the moisture that has rendered out. You want to slice the brisket against the grain at a width of a pencil or about 3/8 inch. Since I am making chili, I sliced at a width of 1/2 inch in order to make 1/2 inch cubes (picture at right).

So there you have it - a proven method for cooking a tender juicy brisket that will have your friends and family wanting more. Please give it a try and let me know how it turns out!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bacon Wrapped Fatty

Whenever I tell someone I can't wait to smoke a fatty I usually get a strange look. No it's not a cigar or something illegal, it's BBQ! So what is a fatty? The Online BBQ Dictionary defines a "Fatty" as: "A tasty treat that starts with sausage, includes a stuffing, and once rolled upped is wrapped with bacon.  This whole package is then smoked until the bacon is crisp." For me, it's Bacon Wrapped Smoked Meat Heaven!

A fatty is really easy to make. All you need is a 1 lb. package of bacon (about 14-15 slices), a 1 lb. roll of sausage, BBQ rub and a stuffing. What you stuff your fatty with is really up to you. The possibilities are endless. You can use breakfast ingredients like eggs, hash, and cheese, or you can use pizza ingredients like mozzarella, pepperoni, black olives and mushrooms or even mexican ingredients like chorizo, hot peppers and crumbling cheese. Today, I am going to show you how to make a spicy bacon cheeseburger fatty. Let's get started!

The first thing we are going to do is make a bacon weave (pictured at left). If you do a google search on "bacon weaving", you will find all kinds of resources from videos to step-by-step pictures on how to weave bacon. I started by laying 7 pieces of bacon in a horizontal row and weaved 8 pieces vertically to end up with 7 x 8 bacon weave.

Now it's time to roll the sausage (pictured at the right). For this step, you place the sausage in a one gallon zip lock bag and roll it out with a rolling pin. You want to leave the bag unzipped to allow air to escape while you are rolling. Start by dropping the roll of sausage in the bottom of the bag an then start pressing it flat by hand. When you get it good and flat, you can use a rolling pin to finish. You want to make sure the sausage is uniform thickness and that it is slightly smaller than your bacon weave. Now comes the fun part - stuffing!

I had some leftover smoked cheeseburgers which are my inspiration for today's fatty. We are going to make a spicy stuffing with chopped/crumbled cheeseburgers, bacon pieces, jalapeno peppers, pepper jack cheese and smoky chipotle pepper rub (or chipotle chili powder will work fine). 

Place the pork slab on a sheet of parchment paper. The first step is to lightly dust the entire slab with chipotle pepper rub. Now, starting at the bottom, we want to layer the remaining ingredients on about 2/3 of the slab (see left). You want to make sure to leave some room at the top because when we start rolling, the ingredients will get pushed to the uncovered portion of the slab. The first layer is the pepper jack cheese. Then evenly layer the chopped/crumbled leftover cheeseburgers. Next comes the bacon pieces and finally the jalapeno peppers. Now were ready to roll!

Starting at the bottom, carefully start rolling the slab towards the top by lifting the parchment paper and using it to help you roll. Peel back the parchment paper as you are rolling and pressing the slab into a log. As you get near the top of the slab, there should be just enough uncovered pork left to overlap with the roll and seal in the stuffing. You should end up with a log with all of the ingredients inside. Use you hands to shape the log and pinch in the ends.

The final step is to wrap the log in the bacon weave (pictured at right). Start by placing the log on the weave about one inch from the bottom. Then, using the parchment paper to help, roll from the bottom towards the top pulling back the parchment paper as you roll. With the 7 x 8 weave, there should be enough bacon left to overlap the roll. Make sure the seem is on the bottom of the roll. I finished with a very light dusting of chipotle pepper rub. Now it's time to smoke your fatty!

Set up your Weber for indirect cooking. The target smoker temp for the cook is 225°F.  I am using hickory mojobricks for this cook. I prefer hickory flavor with bacon and with hamburger and it also imparts a nice mahogany color to the finished fatty. The target internal temp for the fatty is 165°F. Once the fatty gets to temp, take it off the smoker, tent it with foil and rest it for 15 minutes.

Now it's time to serve! You have several serving options with a fatty. You can slice it and serve it plain or with your favorite BBQ sauce. You serve it open face over Texas toast or bread with or without sauce. You can serve it as a regular sandwich or in our case, we are going to slice it and serve it on a bun like a hamburger because after all - that's what we stuffed it with!

Now you know what a fatty is - Bacon Wrapped Smoked Meat Heaven! So the next time you hear me say, I can't wait to smoke a fatty, you will know exactly what I mean! I hope you will give this a try. It is simple and it is only limited by your imagination. I can't wait to hear about your creations!