Friday, July 20, 2007
A Great Midwestern Weekend BBQ Idea...
It was predicted to be a lazy, unseasonably cool summer day last Sunday. Since I had no plans to leave the bunker except heading over to Keel’s Korner farm stand for some fresh sweet corn, I instinctively felt that BBQ’ing something low and slow seemed like the right thing to do. Spare ribs, pork shoulder, picnic ham and a whole turkey were all considered. I decided on a beef brisket.
BBQ beef brisket is the signature Texas BBQ standard. It is a cut that requires attention to detail because if not you may as well eat a Florsheim wing-tip. Cooking real BBQ means you need to be nearby so you can check on it regularly to add coals, wood chunks, and make temperature checks. It takes a bit of practice as I learned experimenting through years of not-so-good ‘Q. Brisket is not as forgiving as pork and I have had my share of brisket failures. Save yourself some experiment money and follow this recipe for great brisket.
This technique is similar to my recent BBQ pork rib post a week or so ago but brisket poses an entirely different problem. A point-cut beef brisket weighs about five pounds of solid beef and takes up to seven hours to finish vs. three hours for a five-pound slab of spare ribs, which contains a lot of bone and gristle. The kettle grill set-up is very similar, a Weber® kettle, some hardwood lump charcoal (preferably) on one side, a double drip pan (this time with water in one) on the other with large chunks of hickory for flavor.
Beef brisket comes from the chest area of the steer above the flank. It is the same cut of meat used for corned beef. It is a tough cut that needs a lot of love to get it tender. There are two specific cuts of brisket, the flat cut and the point cut. Point cut is preferable as it contains more fat, more marbled tissue and that means more tender, juicy flavor. This is the cut of choice for BBQ.
The brisket point-cut has a fat side and a lean side. Slice into the fat side with a sharp knife and make 1-2” diamond pattern cuts through the fat without cutting into the meat. For this I use an incredibly sharp knife because the fat has a tough membrane on top of it. A Shun® Japanese knife is sharp as a razor and it is my choice for this task.
The brisket should be brined prior ot Q'ing in order to keep it moist and flavorful. It will not add to or take away from the flavor at all. The purpose of the brining process is for the meat to draw in moisture so it will not dry out during the cooking process. It is similar to injecting a marinade without poking holes in the dense meat. Any low and slow BBQing (especially beef and poultry) requires a brine prep for the best results. So mix up the following:
4qts cool water
2/3 C table salt
½ C sugar.
Mix all until well dissolved.
In a large roasting pan place the brisket in the brine solution and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
After brining rinse well and rub in some salt, pepper and plain suger in equal amounts.
An hour before placing the flank on the grill get the Weber® Kettle prepped. Remember, to allow for 6-7 hours of cooking time. Avoid petroleum based starting fluids. Using a chimney starter, fill it 3/2 with coals and light using newspaper. On the coal side I use a small coal basket but you can do without it. Place a few unlit coals in the basket or on the side of the kettle leg that has no wheel then pile the hot coals on top. This is key. IMPORTANT: pile the coals tightly against the side of the kettle if you are not using a coal basket.
On the meat side (above the two wheel legs, remember?) we will place an aluminum foil drip pan and a rigid aluminum pan for holding water (about an inch) once the fire is prepped. The water absorbs heat and brings a moist smoky low temperature to the party. The fire will be over the leg without a wheel and this side will face into the wind. The lid vent will be placed over the meat with the vent open full (between the two wheel legs) and downwind. This will draw a column of low-heat smoke over and around the meat caressing it with as much low-heat smoky love as possible.