Drew’s Clues: Brisket

by firsthandfoods on July 9, 2014

Brisket is one of those interesting cuts of meat that, over the years, has developed an association with very particular dishes, places, cultures and cooking methods.  Quintessential Jewish deli item?  Pastrami or corned beef on rye of course.  Both are made of brisket that’s brined for a week or more and smoked, in the case of pastrami, or boiled in the case of corned beef.  Texas BBQ?  Definitely smoked brisket.  Brisket brings to mind a specific style of highly seasoned, really flavorful slow cooked beef.  Slow cooking is really an essential part of the deal too.  Brisket is cut from the chest of beef and holds up a lot of weight during the animal’s life.  Therefore it’s very tough and contains a significant amount of connective tissue.  In order to render it edible, brisket needs to be cooked long enough at a low temperature to break down those tough muscle fibers and all that connective tissue.  Even after all that, brisket needs to be cut against the grain in order to shorten the length of the thick muscle fibers making it easier to eat.  The result, when done right and with patience, is really satisfying, flavorful beef.

Low and slow!  The goal is to cook brisket at around 200-225° for 8-10 hours.  This could be done iBrisketn its entirety in either a smoker or an oven or, as I would recommend, a combination of the two.  If you’re the type that likes to tend to a smoker all day carefully maintaining the low temperature required then more power to you.  The result will definitely be a smokier brisket.  If you don’t feel like messing around with the grill or smoker then use the oven for the duration.  You’ll still end up with really tasty meat just without the smoke.  Starting it off with a brief stay in the smoker and then moving it to a very low oven for the duration is an excellent compromise.  You still get a good bit of the smoke but not the same time commitment. This is still sort of an all day project but I tried to figure out a way to make it hands off for a good portion of the time.

Here’s what I did and it worked out really well:  The night before you plan to cook the brisket rub it with 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon paprika and 2 tablespoons brown sugar.  For what it’s worth, I like to toast whole cumin seeds, coriander seeds and peppercorns in a dry pan until they’re really fragrant before crushing them in a mortar and pestle.  I wonder sometimes if this sort of extra effort can be tasted in the final product but it sure does make my kitchen smell good!  Store the rubbed brisket covered in the fridge overnight.

The next morning light a charcoal grill.  Assuming you’re going to eat this brisket for dinner the grill needs to be hot by 10AM at the latest.  While the grill is heating up soak a handful of wood chips (mesquite, hickory, etc.) in water.  Pile up the charcoal to one side of the grill and let it get ashy before throwing half of the chips right onto the coals.  Let the grill settle down to a moderate temperature.  Best thing to do is to get a decent oven thermometer and place it right on the grill next to where the meat’s going to go.  Grills often have a built in thermometer but I think it’s worth the investment to have an oven thermometer down on the grilling surface.  Ideally the grill would be around 250° before you lay on the meat, but when I was testing this out my Weber never got much below 300° and it worked out just fine.  Place the brisket on the grill opposite the charcoal/wood chips and put the lid on with the vent holes over the meat.  Smoke for about 45 minutes, flip the brisket, add some more chips to the charcoal, replace the lid and let it go for another 45 or so.   Keep an eye on the temperature so that it doesn’t get too hot.

Meanwhile preheat your oven to 225°.  After the second 45 minutes on the smoker remove the brisket, wrap it tightly in foil, place it in a roasting pan and place it in the oven.  Cook at 225° for 6 hours.  That oven thermometer comes in handy here too.  Personally I had to set me oven at 200° to get it to cook at 225°.  You can’t always trust the thermostat on the oven to be accurate.

After that 6 hbrisket cut 1ours is up remove the brisket from the oven and let it rest for a half hour or so.  Unwrap the foil and inside you should find some really tasty and tender meat.  Transfer to a cutting board and slice against the grain.  Serve with any juices that might be lingering inside the foil or in the roasting pan.  Brisket can be pretty fatty and the rub makes it salty and sweet too so it ends up being pretty rich.  Cole slaw or something acidic makes for a good side to balance things out.

By the way, I’m sure that this could be done in part or whole on a gas grill.  Check manufacturer’s instruction for assistance with smoking on a gas grill.

Smoked Brisket Printable Recipe Card

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