Smoking your own brisket takes bbq to a whole new level, and autumn is in someways a better time to do this than summer. Maybe it’s something about that gorgeous smell of smoke in the fall. Smoking is not hard if you are patient, and if you have some kind of grill or smoking box that closes up tightly and maintains a low steady temperature. The result is a mouthful of delicious layers of earthy flavor (in the best sense), along with teasing tang and bite. Simply unforgettable.
I am working on a brisket for a friend’s Rosh Hashanah party, and I am determined to smoke it low-and-slow Texas-style in my Big Green Egg. There are so many strong opinions on smoking a brisket, it’s a little daunting. However, none of the guests coming to this dinner knows a thing about doing a brisket this way–so how can I go wrong? It is best just to try things, to look for a little input from those who know, and to keep trying until we’ve hit that sweet spot.
With low-and-slow, the MOST important thing is not to let the temperature get overly hot, as that toughens the meat, and then there is no undoing it. Let that brisket cook slowly with the ambient temperature never going above about 250°F or so–a little lower is best. That way, the fat breaks downs slowly and the meat never toughens up. This may take 12 to 18 hours if done right. The meat will stay tender and juicy. Some say the meat itself should cook to 175 to 185°F. Some take it higher. I am going to take it to 165°F then wrap it up in butcher paper and keep it going until it reaches 203°F degrees.
Preparing the brisket: The experts somehow know how to get a full untrimmed brisket (as opposed to the flat cut that is more widely available.) They like to trim the silverskin and some of the fat just so. Also, there is some wonderful marbling found in this cut that you won’t find in the flat cut. I’m going with a huge 12 pound flat cut only because that is easier to find. (Try Costco.) The folks at the Pennsylvania Dutch Market in Kingston tell me I can order an uncut one from them. For my next smoke, I’ll order one from Highland Gourmet Market. So far, I’ve tried a couple of rubs, one with celery seed–almost like a pastrami, and the other with a hot tangy spice. I also see some very highly regarded sources that do nothing but salt and pepper. But for me, I can’t resist spice and smoke… It’s not very subtle, but that’s where I live. So, it’s the Texas Spice Rub for us this time! Lots of rub on the meat, then let it sit while preparing the fire.
Setting up the Big Green Egg for a 12-18 hour smoke takes some doing. Layer the hardwood charcoal with hunks of hardwood. (I’m using oak because I have so much of it from an ancient felled tree in my yard–and that’s what so many of the big boys use.) The trick is to get a good fire going (that will last) without letting the temperature get above 250°F. To start it, I use my blow torch from Home Depot…not a very romantic way to start a fire but it does the job, and it’s the same torch I use for my crème brûlée. (That isn’t very romantic either.) Let the fire go for about an hour so the bad tasting smoke is gone, but the temperature close to the grill is about 225°F.
My favorite thermometer company (Thermoworks) is just coming out with something called the Smoker. It measures the internal temperature of the meat and the air next to the grill at the same time. (This is very helpful when you want to cook meat ‘low-and-slow’.) Additionally, it has a remote reader so you can go take a nap (or go to sleep for the night), and be awakened when the meat reaches temperature. Brilliant!
The last important thing is to put a pan of hot water in there with the meat so there is a little moisture going on.
There you go! Smoker is ready, the meat has been rubbed, pan of water in the box, put the brisket in the smoker and let it do its thing! Some recipes for Texas Style brisket call for a ‘sop’ (that is a sauce to baste the meat during smoking). I’ll try that another time. So, I’ll see you in 12-18 hours.
…About 16 hours later… the temperature of the brisket is at 165°F. I take it out and wrap it in parchment. (I’ll try using the pink butcher paper that the pros use at some point.) Then it’s back into the smoker (or an oven) until it reaches 203°F.
Remove the brisket and let it sit for 30-60 minutes… Then it’s time to party! Eat up.