Who doesn’t love brisket? Well, me for one. Every piece I ever tasted was a little tough and basically nothing special. But lately, I have had a hankering to pull the smoker out of the garage and throw a big piece of meat in there for a nice long smoke. And as always, I love a good challenge, so I decided to see if I could make a piece of brisket that I would actually like.
After doing my research it seemed like all the true barbeque experts use a “packer cut” of brisket which includes the both the flat and the deckle, or point. Definitely go for a large rather than smaller cut, with about an 8 pound minimum and don’t settle for anything less than a Choice cut of meat. If you can purchase an untrimmed brisket, so much the better, but in my neck of the woods, that is pretty hard to find. Lucky for me, I do have a great butcher nearby and was able to pick up a nice trimmed Choice grade 11 pound brisket.
There are many schools of thought on rubs, injecting, mops, moisture, etc. Since I have never smoked a brisket before, I decided to keep it simple. I went with a simple rub, 4 ounces of my favorite smoking wood, pecan and let the smoker do all of the heavy lifting.
I seasoned my meat thoroughly on both sides and let it sit at room temperature for about 3 hours before putting it into a cold smoker and setting the temperature at 195°. I like to start with a cold smoker because in my opinion, the meat picks up more of the smoke flavoring. The brisket went in at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday night fat side up. I let it cook all night, and at 6:00 a.m., I flipped the meat, fat side down, gave it a good spritz with apple juice, turned the temperature up to 230° and let it cook until it came to an internal temperature of 195°. This took until 12:30 p.m., so the total cooking time was about 18 ½ hours. My plan was to “pull” or chop the meat, so I knew that it needed to cook a little longer. If you prefer slices, remove the brisket when it reaches an internal temperature of 185°.
Once you remove the meat from the smoker, loosely tent it with foil and let rest for about 45 minutes. The meat will easily pull apart or you can simply slice it across the grain and then chop. I didn’t treat it any further, as I prefer to add sauces separately.
Our treat for smelling the meat cook for a day and a half was brisket sandwiches. I simply bought some good quality buns (even better homemade) slathered each side with some chipotle mayonnaise I mixed up, added a layer of sliced Napa cabbage to the bottom, piled the brisket on top of the cabbage and then finished it off with a nice dollop of barbeque sauce. (I don’t make my own barbeque sauce – after many attempts I find that I simply prefer Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbeque Sauce, of course, this may change in the future!)
There was something about this combination that simply blew me away, and quite frankly I wasn’t expecting it! I was actually nervous to taste the finished product because I didn’t think it would be able to hold a candle to pulled pork out of the smoker, but I was wrong. It doesn’t taste anything like pulled pork, (I suppose because it isn’t pork!), but I loved the lack of fat, the distinct beef flavor and how the meat held the smokiness. The sandwich really brought it all together in a perfect harmony of smoky, sweet, hot, crunchy and soft. Maybe I will add a slice of dill pickle next time.