We spend a lot of time in front of our clients and in front of our computers, so it’s only fitting that we relax at least once a week, in front of our BBQ! We have been judges at events, held events, and mixed American style BBQ with craft beers for sell-out Sunday afternoon sessions in both Brisbane and in Tokyo and at least once at each event, we are asked about how to smoke a brisket.
As much as there is a process behind this, there is no magic bullet, no magic recipe. There are so many variations, in BBQ, smoker, fuel, meat…there cannot be one single answer to the question. But…how do we do it? Similarly to architecture, we have a process for everything, and the below, I hope explains some of that!
- The Meat: How do you select the right cut? The higher grade, higher marbled brisket will often yield a less dry cook, this is due to the fat rendering through. This does not guarantee a good cook, it only helps. Typically, we look for a ‘packer-cut’ brisket, usually around the 3kg mark – for a small group – that will have a quarter inch fat cap present. We usually trim this down so it is an even coat across the top of the brisket.
- Temperature!! The key to a good brisket, if there is one, is to control your temperature. Smoking on an offset smoker is significantly harder than on a ceramic egg, pellet cooker or electric smoker, purely due to the ability to control the temperature. Keeping good control of your fire, of the temperature, means keeping steady. Avoiding spikes or drops over the length of the cook is incredibly important.
- What kind of cook? Low and slow, or hot and fast? I am a Low and Slow smoker…I prefer the brisket on longer, though, a “how long do you cook for” is like asking how long is a piece of string. The cook time can vary depending on outside temperatures, water/rain, sun, and can vary depending on the meat. The thickness, the cut, the weight, the fat cap, can all be determining factors in how long it will take to cook. Competition rules (mostly) state that the perfectly cooked brisket should be trimmed around 6mm thick, or the thickness of a pencil, and should wrap over your finger without falling apart. Though, I am a sucker for brisket that is slightly overcooked. Really, it comes down to personal preference.
- To wrap or not to wrap? Depends, wrapping the brisket will give it a slightly different taste and sometimes a different texture…as it steams the cook a little more than it would without the wrap. This is often done halfway or so through the cook and as above, either brown paper or foil can be used. I tend to wrap our cooks, I think it is a habit, and I’m not 100% comfortable cooking through the stall (A whole other post) without this.
- RESTING! I’m a sucker for not resting the cook…I know, I know…terrible form. Resting the meat will assist in the tenderness, I am not entirely sure why or how, but it does. When we do, we take it off the smoker when we feel it is ready, we wrap it in brown paper and we let it sit for an hour or so. I prefer using brown paper, I’m not sure if it’s the architect in me, but it feels nicer than foil. Though, either is perfectly fine.
Finally, how do I do it? I cook on either an offset smoker over Australian Hardwood or on a bullet smoker. Bullet only because I have one on the upper deck and I am known to be lazy…I cook on a slightly hotter temperature at around 120 to 150 degrees Celsius. My favourite rub is 2/3 cracked pepper and 1/3 salt which I do like to get on the meat a good 24 hours before I cook if possible. I find it gives an awesome bark and does not detract from the flavour of the brisket. What do I eat it with…Burgers. To me, nothing beats a hefty brisket burger with homemade BBQ Sauce and good old slaw!