~ Totally Undeserving of the James Beard Award

~ Completely Undeserving of the James Beard Award ~

Saturday, July 13, 2013

4th of July Brisket

Ah, the Fourth...Independence Day in America...where we collectively stood tall and raised our middle finger to those selfish Brits some 237 years ago.

Pomp and parades, fireworks and music, Old Glory and patriotism, your uncle Jeb fallen down drunk in the horse trough...and backyard barbecues.

Mrs. Blogger Man and I are lucky enough to get either 1/4 or 1/2 beef from her Father each year. When the butcher asked on how I like my meat, I slapped him right across the face...only to realize he meant the beef and how to portion it. I specifically asked for a brisket...at this butcher, if you don't ask, it's hamburger. Tragedy.

The beef is organic, grass fed Black Angus. We get plenty of hamburger in 1 pound bags, or "chubs" as they are called. Steaks, two to a package please...this year I asked for rib steaks instead of a rib eye roast (prime rib) etc, etc. I highly recommend to both of my blog viewers to seek out a way to buy beef this way, much more economical, custom cuts and you know here it comes from (hint, it doesn't come from a grocery store).

Because we received 1/4 beef this last year, the brisket is of course 1/2 the size, 1/2 of the brisket. There are 2 briskets, one on each side. Think of them as chest muscles. One point to note is that this cut is very lean, it gets a lot of work...and some would say, "Great! low in fat!"...what this really means is you need to cook the $#!% out of it to get it tender.

Another point I should mention is that if you cook it too long...it turns to mush. Usually cuts like these are cooked like pot roast...cooked long and slow in some sort of broth.

Because this was my first attempt at a brisket...I was a bit nervous. This would be a long process, some six plus hours...but I was comfortable enough with my abilities at the smoker to give it a go...I thought my pork butt turned out good, ribs are a go, chicken, no prob...even a 28 pound turkey for God's sake!

Even though the Traeger is relatively simple to use, a "set it and forget it" type of smoker, I was still twitching about like some 15 year old teen age boy...wondering if I would make to second base with Betty Krunckle after the Halloween dance. Borrow Mom's car (no gear shift knob), check!...money for fries and a shake at Fosters Freeze, check!...my cassette tape with Stairway to Heaven queued up, check!

Well, if I screw this up there's always hot dogs in the freezer.

Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting I am any sort of a know-it-all...make that know-anything on barbecuing a brisket. This is just my first attempt and because this is my blog, I get to write about whatever gibberish I feel like writing.

I do however suggest smoking other cuts of proteins to learn your smoker, temps, methods, etc...then do a brisket...and read about it. One good site is amazing ribs (a link is at the left), although this guy might be a bit mad...he really gets into it.


I did want to get the right pellets for this go around. Nearly all pellets are a blend even though they state them as cherry or apple wood. From my research it seems on the west coast, pellets are a base of alder and your flavor wood, such as 70% alder, 30% apple. East coast is oak based...even though they are the same brand. The alder based is perfect for chicken, fish...but I wanted oak or at least oak as a base. You can get 100% flavor wood, it's available...just make sure. I found a good blend I could buy locally, Green Mountain Premium Gold Blend, which is a blend of oak, hickory and maple. Oak for long lasting heat, hickory for good smoke flavor and maple for a bit of sweetness.


So, here it is. I don't know where they get those giant 15 to 20 pound briskets (called a "packer) I see in BBQ competitions, but this one was only about 3-1/2 pounds.

Flipped over, this side is where the "fat cap" is, although removed on my piece. It would normally cover this side of the brisket completely.

Some corners say leave the fat cap on and let the fat melt and self baste the brisket...but a lot of competitors cut all this fat off. Mine came without the fat cap and I would tend to believe this is the correct way to go. This will allow your rub and smoke to get into the meat, otherwise it goes on the fat which will be hacked off before serving...bye, bye flavor!

Above you can see I have taken a black felt tipped marker and drawn right on the brisket itself...a perfectly drawn dotted line to show my vast audience where the two parts of a brisket are (later, I'll spray on "Meatoleum" to hide and mask my drawn line).

The portion on the right, on top is called the "point muscle" and left and below is the "flat muscle". The point is where corned beef and pastrami are from (and you thought it came from a deli).


I used a Traeger rub called Blacken Saskatchewan...why?...because I already owned it and thought what the hell. At this point I wondered (like you probably are)...what the hell does a Saskatchewanian (Saskatchewanite?) let alone your basic, run of the mill Canadian know about barbecuing? 

The answer?...absolutely nothing. "Blackened" I get... Saskatchewan?...???

The rub consisted of salt, black pepper, garlic...I mixed that with a bit more garlic powder, some onion powder, a bit of cayenne and very small amount of white sugar for balance.

The rub went on the night before.

BBQ pundits say about 90 minutes per pound...estimate 3-1/2 pounds = 5-1/2 hours. I threw it on at 12:30 which will allow enough time to add more cooking time if needed and resting time when done.

Smoke, smoke, smoke that brisket up.

After 2 hours at 225º F, I placed a pan of water and apple juice next to it to ensure (more like hoping) it won't dry out.

There are some Texas (where brisket is that "nation's" national pet) BBQ restaurants where they simply throw a naked brisket on the smoker and let her go...and they've been doing it perfectly for decades...nothing I intend to attempt. Like most recipes and tips I have read, plus BBQ TV shows, the brisket is placed in a pan and wrapped in foil 2/3 or 3/4 of the way through.

I dumped the water/apple juice from the pan into my brisket pan and added a chunk of the demi glace I made.

All wrapped up...a couple more hours to go.

Beef is considered "well done" at 160º F...brisket needs to get higher to make sure the connective tissues, fat, etc break down and basically give up the battle...just a hair over 200º...time to pull it.

I kept it wrapped and placed in a cold oven in the kitchen. Competitors place it a fake (faux) Cambro (a cabinet restauranteurs use to hold food hot or cold) by using an ice chest. You have to let this rest...like an hour before slicing. Again, read up on it.

So here it is...nice bark (no it's not burnt), rested and ready...the time has come to see what we have....

...scalpel please...

...Hmmm...first off I see it remained juicy...my worst nightmare avoided...

...slicing it thin would help ease away any toughness that might be there as opposed to a big slab...

...and a decent smoke ring to boot...

...served up with homemade potato salad and corn on the cob.

So how was it?...quite nice, good flavor, tender...how does it compare to others, competitors, restaurants?...I haven't a clue...and don't really care...but I enjoyed making and eating it!