BRISKET STEP BY STEP
Shop, Trim, Marinate, Inject, Rub, Cook (including Smoking, Wrapping and the Stall), Rest, Carve, and Serve.
Purchase a "packer cut" whole brisket, Choice or CAB if possible. At the very least try to get better than Select grade. If you've got a selection available to you try to buy between 9 and 11 lbs, with white fat, as marbled and pliable as possible. (After cooking, anticipate 40% waste of untrimmed weight.)
Trim: (10 minutes)
If you've got a butcher you trust, have him trim the fat cap to 1/8" to 1/4", but tell him not to trim down to red meat. If you're reasonably proficient with a large knife go ahead and trim yourself. Try and leave the thinnest possible, but fully intact fat cap. If that sounds like it might be too difficult, forget trimming the fat. Turn the brisket over, so the lean side is up. Check for large flecks of fat, or pieces of thin, gray-white membrane. Use a small knife to remove them completely.Marinate: (30 minutes - 24 hours)
In a pan just large enough to hold the brisket, make a marinade of 3 tbs each of red wine, Worcestershire sauce and extra virgin olive oil. Slosh the brisket around in the marinade, making sure all surfaces are moistened. Allow the brisket to marinate at least 1/2 an hour at room temperature, or as long as overnight in the refrigerator if you choose not to inject. During that time the marinade will mix with the beef juices and partially coagulate into a syrup. This is not only normal it's desirable. Turn the brisket over occasionally during the marinade period. Reserve the marinade while injecting the brisket.
(Optional) Inject: (30 minutes)Ingredients
1 cup beef stock or broth
1 cup wine
2 tbs Worcestershire
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed, but not chopped
4 tbs salted butter, very cold, cut into 4 pieces.
Reduce the stock by half. Add the wine, Worcestershire and garlic. Reduce by half again. Strain through a tea strainer or cheesecloth to remove any solids that might clog your injector’s needle, return to heat, bring back to a simmer and remove from heat.
Add the butter 1 tbs at a time, whisking each piece in just as the previous piece has melted from the residual heat. Mixture may thicken as the butter forms an emulsion.
Fill an injecting syringe with the mixture and inject the brisket. Make many small injections, rather than a few small ones, as large injections will puddle rather than disperse. No matter how careful you are when you inject, the injecting fluid will squirt out from the meat in totally unexpected places. Hilarious but messy. Less clean up, if you clear a large area on your counter and work in a large sheet pan.Rub: (15 minutes)Ingredients
1/2 cup Diamond kosher salt
1/4 cup sweet paprika
3 tbs coarsely fresh ground black pepper
2 tbs smoked paprika, or mild chili powder, or 1 tbs ground chipotle chili
1 tbs granulated garlic
1 tbs granulated onion
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried thymeTechnique
Mix all thoroughly. Refresh the surface of the brisket with the reserved marinade. Cover the brisket generously with rub. If the fat cap is untrimmed, don't bother using rub on that side. Note: This recipe makes enough for one whole brisket plus any number of burgers and steaks -- always portion your rub by the amount of salt of in it.
Smoke: (12 to 20 hours)
Prepare your smoker to run between 225 and 275. I prefer 275, but your relationship with your smoker is what it is, and it will do what it will do. Don't make yourself nuts by trying to make it do something that's too much trouble for you.
If you're using a small offset use water, a water-wine mix, or beer in the water pan. If you're using a WSM, use sand or some other dry material. If you have one, use a digital probe type thermometer, placed as close to where the meat will go to monitor cooking process.
When the smoker is prepped, place brisket in the cooking chamber, fat side down. If you have one, insert the probe from a digital thermometer to keep track of internal temperatures. Smoke over red oak if possible, but nearly any of the usual smoke woods will turn out well. Do not open cook chamber door for three hours. Not for any reason. ABSOLUTELY NO PEEKING. NO. NONE.
After three hours, flip the brisket over fat side up. If your cooker runs uneven temps from side to side, rotate the meat as well. Replenish the water pan. Continue replenishing water pan every three hours. If necessary rotate the brisket at those times.
Figure total cook time according to average chamber temperature and weight of brisket. 225 deg - ~2hrs/lb. 275 deg - 1-1/4 hrs/lb or a bit less. If you're timing the brisket for dinner, allow at least three hours extra for the rest. Brisket is unpredictable under the best of circumstances. The lower the temperature at which it's cooked, the more unpredictable it is. You definitely do not want an underdone brisket. On the other hand, if it finishes early it can hold for hours and hours (and hours), for its rest phase. An extended rest is a nice thing.
Stop adding smoke wood chunks or chips at one half of estimated time or when meat reaches internal temperature of 145, whichever comes first. If you're buring sticks or logs for heat, don't worry about it. You're cool.
If you've decided to "mop" or "baste" the brisket -- reconsider. Until you know what you're doing with your smoker generally and brisket in particular, opening the cook chamber door does far more to dry the meat out than mopping does to keep it moist. THE FIRST RULE OF BARBECUE IS KEEP THE FRIKKIN' DOOR SHUT.
The second rule is, KEEP IT SHUT. I MEAN IT.
. You can guess at the third.
Some people wrap when the meat hits 150. If not sure whether or not you should, you probably should. If so, wrap in aluminum foil. It's the modern equivalent to "mopping," and will net you a moister brisket -- especially if you're not aces at fire management yet. Before sealing your meat into its little foil packet add a little moisture (injection mix, beer, barbecue sauce, broth, whatever) to the pack plus a rough-chopped onion. (I don't wrap, but that's me). Return the brisket to your 'cue. When the brisket hits an internal temperature of 185, remove the wrap and return the brisket to the smoker, continue cooking until brisket reaches an internal temperature of 195.The Dreaded Stall (Variable Duration)
It's likely that during the cooking process, somewhere above 150, continuing until up to 185 or even 190, the rate of internal temperature increase will slow or stop. This is called "the stall." It's common with whole butts or picnics and almost universal with brisket. It's normal. Don't worry about it, be patient. Temperatures will rise. Remember how anxious you were when the brisket seemed to be cooking so much ahead of schedule?Wrap: (5 minutes)
When brisket reaches 195 (or 190 if it's still stalling) remove it from the cooker, wrap it in cling wrap (works better than aluminum foil) and set it in an insulated cooler just large enough to hold it. Pack the cooler with wadded newspaper to fill the remaining air space. Cover the cooler and make sure the cover is closed.Rest: (2 - 6 hours)
Rest for at least 2 hours, and up to 6. The extended rest is part of the cooking process. Don't shortcut it if you can help it.Carve: (20 minutes)
Separate the point from the flat. If you have a substantial fat cap, trim it. If the flat splits into two pieces with a layer of fat between them, separate the pieces and completely remove the fat. Cut one of the flats in half, cutting against the grain. Carve an interior piece, about 1/4" thick and taste it. If it wants to fall apart or is very, very tender you'll be carving thick slices. If it's tough, you'll be carving thinner slices. 3/8” is usually just right. Carve the flat into slices between 1/8" and 1/2" thick, depending on tenderness. Always cut across the grain. If you're good with a knife, try a 20 degree bias to get some width.
Carve the point into slices across the grain as well. Plan on carving the slices roughly twice as thick as the slices you took from the flat. (The point may be so tender it falls into chunks. If so, mix the chunks with hot barbecue sauce and serve on buns as "sloppy joes." REAL SLOPPY JOES by the way. The point is substantially fatter than the flat.) Some people prefer the point, some the flat, some a mix.Serve: (chomp, mmmm, tchick, mmmm, nn)
Serve with your preferred tomato based barbecue sauce. Texas, Memphis, Cajun and Kansas City styles are good. Sauce Bordelaise is beaucoup hot. Carolina style sauces are not good partners. Accompaniments can range from standard barbecue to rather high end. Generally, beef prefers savory companions rather than the sweeter ones which go so well with pork.
If you drink
A full and fruity red like a Zin, Syrah or Shiraz is nice. Beer is never misunderstood.
Don’t count on it.