Bubba's Brisket Ramblings

I can talk and ramble for weeks about brisket and how it can be cooked.  My issues are trying to put it in some sort of logical order. Oh well, that is why I call it ramblings. 

Brisket cooks, for most people, are a journey. It is by all means the hardest cook to master with consistency and this is where one of the first Bubba-izums were born:  You must master temp, smoke, and time to achieve moisture, taste, and texture! 

 I have been smoking brisket since is was a teenager and now that I am in my mid 50's, I am still on the path.  I don't foil and boil my beasts. If you foil, you get moisture but loose flavor and texture.  If you cook it too long you will get taste and some texture but have no moisture. If you cook it at too high of a temp, chop it up and make chili out of it.  (Makes great Chili)  I do it old school and keep it simple.  I have found that the more complex I get, the worst the results are achieved.  Keep it simple.  I have tried brining, marinating, and praying to ALL the BBQ gods. I have read most of the books and manuals, visited web sites that show off brisket cooks and recipes. Talked to many a pit master, chefs,  and have eaten many many brisket at BBQ joints.  I cook brisket for myself and my friends and family.  These are some of the ways I do it.  Read everything you can on brisket cooks and take what works for you. Don't give in to the "Texas Crutch"  I always try new things when cooking brisket. Some things I don't change.  Grid temp is always at 215 or lower and I always slather with yellow mustard.



Bubba’s Basic Brisket Information

 

 

 

A whole brisket consists of two parts, the flat and the point, also called the deckle.

Whole briskets will have one side that is covered in a heavy fat pad.  Some Eggheads trim this down a bit. I sometimes leave it as is. It depends on the “Beast”.  I believe it helps protect the meat.  You can buy brisket without the point and just get the flat. In this photo the flat is on top and the deckle is the meat in the lower left.



Beef is divided into grades. These grades are Select, Choice, and Prime. 
There is no such thing as Prime brisket, Kobe yes. I only use CAB.  Certified Angus Beef brand was created in 1978 by the American Angus Association. Not too long ago, brisket wasn’t even marketed because it was considered such a bad piece of beef. Because brisket is a very tough meat that has to be cooked for a long time, avoid using Select grades of brisket. A Choice brisket will have more fat marbling and this will result in a juicier finished product. Also avoid buying any brisket, whole or flat, that has had most of the fat trimmed away. It may make sense to not be paying for brisket fat, but the fat is needed to help keep the meat moist during a long smoke. The Certified Angus Beef brand  was created in response to the grading changes. Many stores and restaurants are selling “Angus Beef” under many names, but only meats with the CAB label are the highest standards. The CAB brand is graded as Prime and the top third of Choice. Brisket flats are best for slicing because the grain of the meat is oriented in a single direction. The point of the brisket is more suited to cubing or shredding. The point will have the most fat marbling and because of this it is more tender, juicy, and flavorful. The muscles in the point are much like that of a pork butt in that they are not oriented in the same direction. Which briskets to buy out of the meat case can be a crap shoot at best. One tip is to use the limber test. Balance the brisket on your fist and see how much it droops down. The thinking is that if the brisket is limber uncooked, it may be more tender when cooked. Also don’t buy the smallest or largest brisket - pick one in the middle weight range. Look for a brisket that has a good amount of fat marbling. Fat is flavor and creates a more moist meat when cooked. Whether you choose a whole brisket or a flat, the wisest choice would be to buy Certified Angus Beef brand

 

If you purchase a brisket flat, no trimming is really necessary. A whole brisket though

will require some of the fat to be trimmed. With the brisket laying fat side up, press down to find the hard areas of fat. These hardened fat areas will need to be trimmed off because they will not render during cooking. I only trim the hard fat away and leave at least a quarter of an inch of fat on top. The fat is needed to keep the meat moist during the long smoking. Another area of fat that needs to be trimmed is along the sides between the flat and point. You’ll notice that the point end is thicker than the flat end of the brisket. Also there is a line of hard fat on the point end separating it from the flat. Again this fat won’t render and needs to be removed to make the point the same thickness as the flat. You may have to cut in a good bit to remove enough of the fat for the point to lay down. Some people don’t remove any of this fat, but I think it helps the point and flat to cook in the same amount of time.

The flat has a very visible grain pattern before it is cooked. But once the brisket has been

smoked, the bark on the outside of the meat makes it impossible to determine this direction. This grain direction is important to know to get the most tender slices. Brisket that is sliced across the grain and cooked until fork tender will easily tear apart. Therefore, before cooking, cut off a small corner of the brisket and make the cut perpendicular to the grain of the meat. This squared corner will show you the grain direction after cooking. Don’t throw away the cut off piece, cook it the same as the brisket and you’ll have a tasty treat well before the brisket is done. This is only done on the flat of the brisket because the point doesn’t have the same orientation of the muscles. The point also has more fat marbling and cooks up very tender. The point is best suited to be cubed or shredded. The point is where “burnt ends” are made from.  Below is a slide show of the progression of a brisket cook. 



 

How to Cook

Method A

 

A brisket can be marinated for several days before smoking in the BGE.  Marinating doesn’t penetrate very deeply in a thick piece of meat, so I sometime inject the marinade to even out the flavor. I try to make the brisket taste like beef, preferably, a “prime rib” flavor. Sounds funny, making beef taste like beef, but I feel that most people add flavors to brisket that don’t compliment the beef flavor.

The marinade that I inject is an “au jus” sauce consisting mainly of beef stock, and other spices. To help the brisket stay moist, I use bacon drippings in the marinated. It adds a great flavor also.

 

Au Jus Sauce

1 Package of  Au Jus Sauce seasoning

4 cups of beef broth               

4 tablespoons of bacon grease

 

Make the Au Jus Sauce according to their directions on the stove, except add the

beef broth instead of water. Mix in all of the ingredients except the bacon and simmer for 30 minutes.  You can cut up a few pieces of bacon and put that in your sauce pan.  On low heat, render as much fat as you can and add to your sauce pan. Lay the brisket fat side up and inject through the fat cap every square inch. You want to insert the needle as far as you can without punching through the other side of the meat. Once the injections are completed, wrap the brisket in plastic wrap and store it on ice in a cooler. I usually let the brisket to marinate for about 6 to 10 hours before the cook.

Remove the brisket from the cooler about one hour before smoking. Unwrap the

plastic from the brisket and place it on a table. Paint your Beast with yellow mustard then apply a liberal coat of your favorite rub on all surfaces and edges of the brisket. Even the small piece I cut off the flat, which was for checking the grain direction after cooking, gets coated with rub. After the rub, lay a piece of foil over the brisket to keep it covered while it warms up.

Get your Egg up to temp very slowly.  I use a Guru and it takes me about an hour before I do anything like add wood for the smoke.  I do this before I prepping the beast. I cook brisket at 215°F at the grid indirect.  I cover the grid with HD foil where the ends of the beast tend to hang over the plate setter.  On vary large briskets, I take a foil wrapped brick to raiser the center.  Place the beast FAT SIDE DOWN! I use an even amount of oak and hickory to smoke the brisket.  I will also change some of the types of wood and play around.  Brisket requires a long smoke and it tends to act like a sponge soaking up smoke. NEVER smoke a brisket more than 4 hours. It will come out bitter. Because of this, I don’t recommend using mesquite to smoke brisket. Some of the best brisket is cooked out West on mesquite, but it is too easy to over smoke the brisket if you don’t have a lot of experience cooking with mesquite. Another thing to do is to place a disposable metal pan on the plate setter under the grate. The pan needs to be large enough to hold the brisket. This pan catches any of the juices that flow from the meat. The juice in the pan will become our mop sauce to keep the brisket moist. The best tool for doing this would be a large turkey baster. We baste the brisket every hour with the au jus sauce until it is done.

Brisket cooks in about 1-1.5 hours per pound, but there really isn’t an exact temperature

for finished brisket. I try to test the brisket after the temperature reaches 180°F. I test for tenderness with a really small meat thermometer probe. I check the meat again at 190° and then start checking every half hour. The place to check for tenderness and temperature is in the flat. The point of the brisket will always reach tenderness and temperature before the flat. Some people even separate the point from the flat when it is done. When brisket is done, the probe will slide in very easily. Brisket has to be cooked until it becomes “fork tender”.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94jpGk3gGFo  Cooking brisket to a predetermined temperature every time won’t always yield a tender piece of meat. Every brisket just has to be cooked until it just relaxes and becomes tender.   Once the brisket is tender, I double wrap in foil and place in a cooler to hold the temperature. Several folded towels placed over the foil help to hold in the heat. I can safely keep the brisket hot in the cooler for about four hours. About 30 minutes before I need to slice the brisket, I remove the foiled brisket from the cooler and slightly crack open the foil so that the meat can cool. Beef needs to rest before slicing so that the juices can be reabsorbed back into the meat. Cutting the beast without letting it rest will allow the juices to run out and the meat will become dryer much quicker. After the beef has rested, remove the brisket from the foil and place it on a cutting board with the fat side facing up. Don’t discard the juices, you will use that later. Most of the fat on this side will have rendered away, but any remaining fat should be sliced or scraped off. Now flip the brisket over and begin slicing. As you slice the brisket, you want to make sure you are cutting perpendicular, or across the grain of the flat. The notch you cut on the corner while trimming the brisket will help you determine how to slice. Slicing across the grain results in tender slices, while slicing

with the grain creates slices that are very hard to pull apart. Test the slice of brisket by determining how much force is needed to tear a slice in two. It should tear apart easily, but not fall apart when picked up. The thickness of the brisket slices can affect the tenderness. Normally brisket should be sliced ¼ inch thick, but if the brisket is a little tough, cut the slices a  little thinner. If the brisket slices are falling apart when picked up, then cutting the slices thicker will help them hold together. If the brisket flat isn’t very tall, cutting the slices at a slight bevel can create the illusion that the brisket flat was very thick. Think about a steak, a big, thick steak always looks better than a small thin one. It may taste the same, but it looks more appealing. After the brisket is sliced,  dredge each slice through the juices (it’s a good idea to strain the au jus first). This does several things. First, brisket slices will dry out very quickly. So adding moisture helps keep the meat looking and tasting moist. Do everything you can to keep the meat moist. Also the juices in the foil will give the brisket a boost in flavor. Cooking brisket for many hours can cook out some of the flavor. The au jus sauce helps to give it back. Some Eggheads use a BBQ sauce on brisket, but I believe an au jus sauce compliments without overpowering like some sauces can.  Below is a different method for using your BBQ sauce. Both methods create great brisket. Master them both.

 

Method B

Mopping 

Method B differs by not using a Au Jus to inject, but rather a flavored bark.  Paint your brisket on all surfaces with yellar mustard then apply your rub. Wrap in plastic and put in the fridge over night.  If you want a “Texas Meteorite”, ie black on the outside, add a little brown sugar to your rub.  Same setup and temp.   This method also uses a bbq mop.  Cut you favorite BBQ sauce down by adding a 50/50 mixture of cranapple juice to BBQ sauce. Place the mixture in a sauce pan and bring to a slow boil. Remove from heat and mop.  When your point gets to 175 it is time to start mopping every hour until you pull the brisket.  Wrap in foil and put into a cooler or close the vents down on the egg and shut it down if you need it to “rest” a little longer, but keep mopping every hour.   

Method C
Spritzing


A forum member suggested that I do the fat side down on my next brisket. Me likes a lot! Special thanks goes to Thirdeye.
(
http://playingwithfireandsmoke.blogspot.com/)  In all the years I have done brisket, I have never tried or even considered trying this technique.  I started out the usual way. Score the fat, slather the yellow mustard, sprinkle the rub, wrap with plastic and let sit in the fridge for 24hrs. This is a CAB 12.6 lbs packer from Restaurant Depot. It was so big I had to raise the middle up with a rib rack.
P1280010.jpgP1280001.jpg
Set the temp on the Egg at 210 degrees and place the "beast" on Saturday evening at 2100hrs. At 210 degrees it will take approx  1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hrs per lbs. It takes longer to get the internal temp to 185, but it does make for a juicy brisket.

The Next morning at around 0800 (above right).  First peek and removed the rib rack. Nice bark forming. Internal @ 165. Started spritzing @ 0900 with apple juice and every 1/2 hrs after that. Added the finishing sauce to the routine at 1030hrs. 1/3 bbq sauce 2/3 apple juice. @
1200hrs, shut the egg down and pulled the beast an hour later.
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REMEMBER:
NEVER cook to time or temp ALWAYS
cook to tender.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94jpGk3gGFo

No foil or cooler were used. This brisket came out very moist and tender. The finishing sauce gave the bark a very nice gloss.

Notes on rubs: I don't care for a lot of black pepper, so I look for rubs with little or none at all.  The best dry rub in my book is granulated garlic and onion salt.  KISS




 

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