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!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.