Tuesday, June 28

LIVE-BLOGGING A TEXAS-STYLE BBQ BRISKET

I'm always so serious in my posts. Well, almost always (it's a serious world). So I've decided that today is the day to be light-hearted and to showcase my barbecue talents to native Texans (and those of you who wish you were), since while I live in the Houston area and did an 80s' stint in Dallas-Ft. Worth as well, I do not hail originally from these parts. Texans are friendly sorts and will give you the shirts off their backs, but they do not cotton to pseudo Texans. So, I want to make this abundantly clear at the onset: I'm a "Yankee" by birth and I'm devoting this day and this night -- likely a 20 to 24 hour turn -- to doing a Texas-style brisket in my offset-smoker (and knocking back a few beers and a shot or two of Tequilla along the way), recognizing, to be sure, that this is an aquired talent of mine and not something intertwined in my DNA chain.

Hope you'll enjoy the journey with me!

I rose early this morning and began work on what is termed a "packer trimmed" brisket -- i.e., a whole brisket, as opposed to those little guys that women like to do in their crock pots. The one I bought is just shy of 18 pounds and it was a challenge to close the refrigerator door when I first brought it home.

I began by paring excess fat off the brisket with a sharp knife, particularly the heavy layer of fat you find on one side towards the heel or thicker end of this large piece of tough meat. I left about a 1/2" layer around the heel and did little removal of fat at the slimmer, "toe end" of the brisket, which tends to dry out if you're not careful.

I then coated the entire brisket, front and back, with mustard. The mustard will not impart any mustard flavor to the meat, but will help it maintain moisture, cook evenly, and, best of all, the dry rub adheres to and remains on the meat better. By the way, you want your brisket out of the refrigerator for at least one hour before placing it in your smoker. You don't want too much cold in the meat, as this delays the front end of the cooking process. And, too, you want your fire already working for at least a half hour in the firebox before beginning the cooking!

For my dry rub I used equal parts of:

black pepper
white pepper
kosher salt
cumin
paprika
cayenne
garlic salt
brown sugar

To this I added a half equal part of:

onion salt

Mix it all up in a bowl and then use a flour sifter to remove any hard lumps. Then sprinkle the rub heavily onto the mustard coating front and back. Some will challenge my use of so much cayenne, but I like some bite in my bark! (The "bark" is the outer spicy crust that will form on the meat over time as it slow cooks).

So here's what you end up with ...



Note the greenback my wife placed at the top of the photo to give you an idea of the sheer size of this brisket. The "toe" of the brisket is on the left side of the photo (note how much wider it is) and the "heel" of the brisket is on the right side (narrower, but at least twice as thick and with more fat inside of the meat, as well as on the outside, and even after trimming). The trick is not to overcook and dry out the "toe" end.

Here's the brisket placed in the cooking chamber of my smoker at 9:15am CDT this morning:



That's an aluminum pan half-filled with water at the right end of the cooking chamber. That's to add some moisture to the chamber. At halfway through the cooking process, I'll move that pan to the left side, nearer the offset fire box.

I start the meat with the fat side down for a couple of hours to ensure good heat and smoke penetration on the "meat side" of the brisket. (PS: Never have the thin "toe end" of the brisket nearest the firebox!). Then I'll flip it so that the fat side is up. Before I do this flipping of the meat, I'll give the "meat side" a good dose of "mop."

My "mop" recipe for adding moisture to the meat through the cooking process (applied at 1 to 1 1/2 hour intervals):

12 ounces of beer
1/2 cup of cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon of dry rub

Keep this refrigerated when not using!

So, at 10:45 am CDT, here's where I'm at: time for the first "mopping." I'll turn the brisket over to the "fat side up" at about 11:15am -- two hours into the cooking. By the way, cooking temperature is being maintained as close to 225 degrees F. as possible. DO NOT exceed a temperature of 250 degrees. I'm using Kingsford charcoal briquets and chunks of hickory.

Good "Q" is all about "low and slow."