Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Smoking My First Brisket

No, this is not some sort of euphemism. I've used my Weber grill to smoke pork ribs plenty of times, but never a beef brisket. 9 out of 10 times at the BBQ joint I order ribs, so at home I cook ribs. But the other day while cruising the meat case at the food coop, I came across a beautifully lean slab of brisket from Slope Farms - naturally raised, grass fed, farmed by a doctor who used to live in Park Slope.

Most Important Lesson Learned - lean brisket is for braising (cooking in liquid). When using a dry cooking technique like smoking, use the fatty cut, as the fat slowly bastes the meat keeping it nice and tender.

Our brisket tasted great, smoky and delish. But in a survival situation I could have used it to craft a pair of sandals, you know, if the desert sands were too hot for bare feet. Hyperbole of course, but in truth I was not able to convince the connective tissue in this, the lean end of the brisket, to melt away. And I smoked this baby for almost 4 hours. Yes, it probably needed double that, but 8 hours - it's hot out there folks! And I didn't have that much hard wood charcoal. Even if I did, I cannot imagine my wife's reaction had I told her I'd be spending 8 hours of a Saturday smoking meat. Well actually, I can imagine, and that's why I stopped at almost 4 hours.

This was my technique:

-24 hours before smoking I rubbed the brisket with coarse salt and ground black pepper.
-played 2 different Sinatra and Basie records, including the classic "It Might as Well be Swing" for the brisket as it came to room temperature before smoking.
-removed the top rack and cooked the brisket in a pan next to the coals.
- soak plenty of mesquite in water for an hour, added it every 20 minutes or so to the coals.
-I wasn't sure how to position the window of holes on the grill's top. I went with holes above the brisket. I know...who really cares. Excuse me, I'm detail oriented.

Anyway, this was rather delicious, if somewhat tough. But some home made cole slaw, a little Carolina style hot sauce (chili flakes soaked in white vinegar), some decent but plain white bread, sliced dill pickles...yup, there's a reason that no photos of this fine sandwich exist.

So what wine to serve with this beast of a smoked brisket? I was gravitating towards a sparkling wine, like the Montbourgeau Crémant du Jura that I love so well. But in the end I decided that this meal would be a great excuse to check in on a wine that I've been meaning to revisit - the 2002 St Innocent Pinot Noir Seven Springs, $32 on release.

2002 was supposed to be the vintage of the millennium in the Willamette Valley, but I haven't been loving the wines. This wine was positively closed the last time I tasted it almost exactly a year ago. This time it showed better, although still a bit disjointed. The nose is mature, with truffles and mushrooms. After 30 minutes alcohol intrudes on the nose, then later on ripe dark fruit emerges, always with a mushroom undertone. The palate is broad and mouthcoating, but still somewhat primary with dark cherries. Seems like the palate has not matured as much as the nose. On day 2 the palate shows better integration of the fruit and soil/mushrooms and the tannins are supple and round. A nice herbal finish leaves pleasant aromas in the mouth. This seems promising, which is good, since I still have a half case (?!) of this hiding in the cellar.

Cheers to the fatty end for next time.


ARBeck said...

I smoked two briskets last weekend. Four hours does seem awfully low, but I've never smoked one in a kettle grill before. I use my Weber Smokey Mountain. How hot is the grill when they are being smoke? I keep mine at about 225. I smoked them to an internal temp of 195 and it took 8-9 hours.

I served mine with a cotes du rhone villages

gbenowitz said...

You need a whole brisket (its sometimes called the deckle cut). Have your butcher order it for you, and he can trim it a bit as well. 225 is the right temp. I have smoked them for 48 hours. Its a huge cut of meat and its great for a party. Take heart: Brisket is the hardest thing to smoke well. I agree with the cotes du rhone, actually anything syrah.

ARBeck said...

If you don't have a butcher who can get one, or you need one on short notice, Costco has whol cryovaced ones... that's what I usually use. They are pre trimmed which isn't the best, but they work pretty good.

Do Bianchi said...

This sure ain't my bubbi's brisket.

I always visit Brooklynguy for the excellent wine tasting notes and reference but the food writing is also awesome... detail is good. Keep it coming...

Anonymous said...

Hey Brooklynguy,
Being a 4th generation Texan (now living in Brooklyn), I've got to tell ya that your brisket made just a little bit homesick. I'm a low and slow smoker, so taking anywhere from 8-24hrs to smoke some good meat is never issue.

Now I do think you should have gone the Montbourgeau route for wine. A little cool crisp bubbles and refreshing acidity to cut through some smoky fat is heaven. And I am not just saying that because work for the importer.

keep the great writing coming...
Tony McClung

Anonymous said...

Hey Brooklynguy,
Down here in Florida, we do it low and slow also ... it may be hot out there, but that is what chilled wine is for ... LOL!


Brooklynguy said...

such great brisket smoking advice, i love the wonkiness happening here! thanks Andrew and gsabino for that.

and you, you're too kind jeremy.

hi tony and welcome to the site. and i know, i should have gone with the bubbles, a better pairing. next time. i take it you don't have outdoor space in which to do this yourself?

Anonymous said...

I am very lucky to have a little backyard which to call my own...
but in full disclosure, I have yet to have the smoker shipped up from Texas. Later in the summer I will be having a little gathering called Meatfest (only meat, no side dishes allowed) and I think that you have inspired me to get the smoker here in time.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Wow, look good...
If you come to Portland, OR. You should try "Pho" a Vietnamese beef noodle soup. My favorite is Pho Hung Restaurant. Here is their website: