Adventures In Brisket
They’re everywhere, and range from the best to the worst. I’m talking about all of the stories concerning brisket on the grill, one of the most talked about, most dissected, and most polarizing of all the meats. Everyone has “their” way of grilling it. Low and slow, high heat and quick, a combination of the two, and the all important decision to wrap (in foil), or not to wrap.
Brisket is important to the self-confidence of a griller as well, because it can be a fickle piece of meat, where literally a few minutes can turn an excellent Brisket into something resembling jerky. Also, it is frequently the “make it or break it” item in the myriad of competitions out there. So yeah, I of course wanted to take it on. I wanted to convince myself that I too could make a worthy brisket. And so, it began…
As is usually the case, when I’m after a specific cut, particularly when I want a great cut, I head on over to our local meat-eater’s paradise, Kenrick’s Meats & Catering. Asking for a brisket somewhere around the five pound mark, the butcher came out with a great looking brisket, right at five pounds.
I started the process the night before I was going to grill this beauty. I first injected it in numerous places with a solution containing beef broth. Then, I covered it very generously with a freshly made rub. I’m not talking about just a sprinkle here and there. I’m saying lay the rub on thick, then get in there and massage it in so it stays on the meat. Now there’s a million different rubs out there, but it’s easy to make your own based on what you like and are in the mood for on that particular day. This was actually the first time I tried this blend (recommended by a friend), and it contained paprika, garlic powder, spicy oregano, thyme, onion, kosher salt and cayenne pepper. I use fresh when I can, so some of these were taken from our own garden.
Both sides and the ends were coated heavily, then the brisket was put into a glass dish, covered with wrap, and left in the fridge to set in overnight.
The next morning, I prepped the grill for indirect cooking, and added a pan of water under the meat, next to the coals. For this brisket, I was going to need at least six hours, maybe longer depending on my grill temp. But that’s OK, because I’m in no hurry with this. I’m going the Low and Slow route.
The brisket was first seared over direct heat, about 6 minutes per side. You want to put a good sear on the meat, getting that crusty, “barky” appearance started. Yeah, I just made that word up, “barky”. After the sear, the meat is laid on the cooler side of the grill, the wood is added, in this case a mixture of cherry and pecan, and the lid is closed. And by closed, I mean….
“No Peeking”. “Yes that means you”, which for a grilling type of person can be the absolute hardest part of grilling low and slow. We always want to know what’s going on, how things look at a particular moment, and actually, we just want to check things out. But that’s not an option today, especially with a brisket. Let the grill do what it was made to do…puff smoke once in while and send out a teasing aroma to those downwind. The grill settled in at around 215 – 220 degrees, and that’s a good thing. I figured on adding a bit of charcoal/wood every hour or so. I let the temp be my guide.
After about three hours, I finally decided to check on my project, and take a temp reading. It registered around 150 degrees, which is what I was both looking, and hoping for. I decided to remove the brisket, double wrap it in heavy-duty foil, while adding a little more of my injection sauce/ marinade over the meat.
Coals were refreshed, wood restored, and then back on the grill for the second act of this production. Intermission is over.
What to do now?
Well it’s back to that waiting game. For probably another 3 hours or so. Unless, as this particular day offered, a quick-moving storm rolls through, only to pound you and your grill with raindrops the size of jello shots. No, there are no pictures, because well, I ran. I ran to protect myself, I ran around trying to protect the grill, I ran around like a BBQing nut in the backyard. By the time I came up with a master plan, the quick-moving storm was over, with the sun peeking through once again. I immediately checked on the grill, and decided to open the vents a bit to get the fire stoked a bit. It was a good decision because the skies opened up yet again in monsoon like winds and rain, with the Weber puffing away in spite. I backed up a few feet to get out of the heaviest rain, and tucked myself under our garage overhang. This was a good decision. Well, at least until the overhead gutter clogged and decided to overflow, exactly where I was standing. I just looked around, drenched but still determined. I was really trying to see if anyone was looking out of their windows, amused by the antics. And then, well, then I inhaled such a whiff of smoking meat that I forgot all about the rain, that was, by the way, once again turned off as though by a faucet. My grill was still smoking, and as I checked the temperature, sure to be lowered by the rain and wind, I noticed that the reading was still just a shade over 200, and that made me happy. Yes, it may add some more time to my schedule, but hey, nothing’s wrong with cooking it a little slower, nothing at all. Maybe it was the BBQ gods telling me to “slow that thing down a little”.
So this brisket that started out as somewhere around a six hour project actually ended up to be a seven to seven and a half hour day. the final reading was just at 205 degrees. This is when you should take it off the fire and keep it wrapped to rest. Many professionals, including Meathead Goldwyn, suggest wrapping the brisket in towels or a blanket at this point, and putting it into something like an insulated cooler to let it rest and help the meat breakdown.
Then, the results. It was like opening a present, not sure of what you were going to see.
Success! The meat looked great, and begged for a taste. For carving, a knife slid easily into that middle fat layer, which separates the point from the cap of the brisket. The two sections are pulled apart and then carved up separately, because the meat grain of the two pieces are distinct and run in different directions.
Nothing to do next except enjoy the fruits of my labor, because even with the storms and the intruding clogged gutters,
Life Is Better Wood Fired.