Brisket can be a challenge. It’s tough, it dries out easily, it’s not uniform in thickness. Patience is key.
I have made what I consider to be mediocre-at-best brisket. One of the reasons I hold Pappy’s in such high esteem is because it’s pretty much the best brisket I have ever eaten.
There’s really three keys to a good brisket, in my opinion: Season, Smoke, Steam.
I am using a 3.5 lb cut of a brisket, not the whole thing. I’m not Steven Raichlen and I’m not serving 30 people. My family of 5 destroyed a less-than-excellent 4 lb brisket last month, so this is a good size for our needs.
Moo, I am delicious
In the Super Bowl seasoning version of brisket, I used a mustard-based paste. I have heard this is a German technique, but I have no idea. More commonly this is used on spiral cut ham.
Paste: 12 oz. bottle spicy brown mustard (I prefer Gulden’s), 2 cups brown sugar (I used the molasses-treated cane sugar, though the real unrefined brown sugar is better), 1/2 cup paprika, 1/4 cup Lawry’s seasoned salt, and a generous squeeze of honey. Whisk it with a fork until fairly consistent. You will just have to live with the brown sugar lumps – you can’t get them all.
It looks like this in the bowl:
Tastes better than it looks
And it looks like this smeared on the brisket:
Like frosting a cake... a meat cake
I stuck it in the fridge overnight, wrapped snuggly in foil. Before going to bed, I also put a few bags of hickory wood chunks (not chips) into a 5 gallon bucket to soak overnight. They will want to float, so put a dinner plate and a brick on top to keep them submerged.
I've got wood
We had to go to 11:00 am mass, so I set up my coals for indirect cooking by 10:00am.
Coals / wood on one side...
The brisket went on the grill at 10:30 am. Once on the grill, I positioned the Weber 22″ grill’s lid vents over the meat, so that the smoke and heat is drawn out the vent past the meat.
... meat on the other side
Speaking of Steven Raichlen, he encourages lubricating the grill with a half onion dipped in olive oil. Stick the onion with a BBQ two-pronged fork and rub along the grill surface. I have done this frequently and it does a good job of keeping the meat from sticking to the grill and makes the grill itself last a little longer.
Olive Oil Lube... everybody wins
After praising Jebus for a little over an hour, I checked on the brisket. After two hours of smoking, the coals and wood were nearly gone, but still hot. The brisket at its thickest point had an internal temperature of 160 degrees. I rotated the brisket 180 degrees and flipped it over.
Two hours of smoke!
I re-loaded the grill with charcoal and wood. The key here, and the key for long smoking, is not to add too much charcoal. I have been guilty of this many times. Going slowly and patiently with the charcoal will prevent the meat from drying out, cooking too quickly, and getting a nice smoke ring in the meat. If you have a heavy hand on the charcoal, you will have overdone meat. In the case of brisket, it will be way too tough.
One of the great things about brisket is the burnt ends. When I was just starting college in Kansas City, a group of us went to a place called Jack Stack in Martin City, Missouri. I ordered one of the house specialties: the burnt ends. It was, to that point, the best BBQ I had ever had. They served it dry (no sauce), with cole slaw and pickles, on a hoagie bun.
A brisket cut, for the most part, is a thick cut of meat. Along two edges, though, the meat thins in thickness. During a hard smoke on the BBQ, this part of the meat gets an intense smoke flavor and can become tough nuggets of godliness. You can do a lot with burnt ends. I am considering trimming them, shredding them, and putting it in to my baked beans (another post). I may just eat them right off of the grill. Either way, these will not tenderize with the rest of the brisket.
After a total of three hours smoking, the brisket paste is crisped.
Three hours of smoking
It’s ready to steam. I doubled up some tough foil and made a boat around the brisket. I poured in a little apple juice (maybe 1/2 cup) to steam, and crimped it tightly around the meat to tenderize. It sits on the grill indirectly for another three hours.
BBQ Brisket Boat
I gave the brisket foil steam pouch a 180 degree turn after an hour steaming.
Post-Smoke Steaming brisket. Joyous.
Now would be a good time to drink a beer. May I suggest a Schlafly.
You can't technically BBQ without some beers
Finally, at 4:30pm, 6 hours after it went on the grill, I took off the brisket. Let it set for 10-15 minutes. Letting it sit is actually a critical step in BBQ; meat muscle relaxation, or something like that. I carved it against the grain.
You can kind of see the smoke ring here...
With all due respect to Pappy’s, this is about the best brisket I have ever had. I am shocked by how good this is. Holy hell.
Thank you, cow
Give it a shot. It took a long time, 24 hours of prep, 6 hours to cook total, but it was more than worth it. Good luck.