No doubt, brisket is king of all things BBQ.
It CAN be the most ingeminating proteins to select, prepare and cook; to ever come across a grill, or smoker.
In past articles, we have laid out the selection and trimming of a brisket, but let's recap and then get to the real secrets of great brisket.
- Look for a well balanced brisket, that has even thickness on the flat (lean side)
- Look for good marbling in the grain (strands of fat inside the cut, not just on the surface)
- Try the "bend test" (see if you can easily bend the brisket in half, for tenderness check)
- Saturation- remove all the fat off of the lean (flat) side, remove all but a 1/4" of fat on the fat (point) side, cut away hard fat that is on the sides where the two muscles join.
- Shape- Make sure your brisket is even in thickness; thin, straggling pieces will burn and dry out. The flat will almost always cook fast than the point, due to the thickness differences. Hard corners dry out, and cause crumbling when slicing, so round them off.
- Silver Skin- this is membrane on the flat that prevents smoke and rub from penetrating the meat deeply. Remove this with a fillet knife, careful not to cut into the meat.
Now that you have a brisket selected and trimmed up, its time to light your fire (whether its a charcoal, offset stick burner, or grill- you need to start it up 30 mins prior to placing meat on the cooker). While letting your cooker "pre-heat", its time to season.
Seasoning can be really unique to your personal tastes, as this is a large cut of meat- I think many people under season it. It's large, it can take a LOT of seasoning. Many herbs and spices mellow in the cooking process as well, so making up for that in volume is definitely recommended. My "go to" seasoning mix is-
- 2 parts black pepper
- 1 part kosher salt
- 1/2 part garlic powder
- 1/2 part onion powder
- 1/4 part paprika
- 1/4 part celery salt.
I always season the side I am putting down on the frill first, and let sit for 10 minutes to "sweat in" (let the salt start moving into the protein and drawing out moisture to bind the other components to the brisket), before turning it over to do the same on the other side.
By this time, the cooker is up to temp, the brisket is trimmed and seasoned, now it time to cook.
Personally, I cook briskets at 275 degrees f, and don't even look at it for 3 hours. From there, I check and see if it needs to be spritzed, (water and ACV), and let it keep going until the bark has set.
I check the bark by two checks- look and feel. If it looks good, I poke it with my finger, and if it stays- the bark is set. From there, I can wrap it and place it back into the cooker until the IT of the brisket reaches 200-205 degrees f. Now, here's the trick and the point (pun intended) to this entire article-
The Prolonged Rest-
This is the most import part of putting out a consistently juice, tender, flavorful brisket. But why?
To understand why, lets take a better look at the "what".
A brisket on the cow, is made up of two muscles at the front, underarm and breast region. These muscles help the cattle stand, walk and hold up their front ends. Unlike humans, cattle do not have a collar bone, and these muscle have to make up for this structure and support. Because of this, this muscle group contains a ton of fibrous connective tissue known as collagen. Collagen, in it's nature is a fibrous connective tissue that makes the brisket notoriously tough and chewy, and slow, long cooks are the only things to break it down. But why the long rest?
Collagen, as it is, doesn't have high affinity to moisture (muscles are made up of 73% water, and in this case- water that has absorbed a lot of salt and flavor from the cook). However, when collagen is broken down, and the environment promotes for a moist rich and stable temperature, it ensures that collagen is broken down fully into gelatin. Yes, just like in JELLO. Gelatin, has the affinity ten times greater than that of its previous state of collagen. Ten times more attracted to moisture, water, or that broth the brisket has been producing through out the cook.
Knowing that, we understand why all the top brisket BBQ joints hold their briskets over night.
So how do you do it?
You've selected, prepared, seasoned and cooked your brisket. The bark is set, its wrapped up and has an internal temperature of 200-205f. Now is it's time to shine.
Pull it from the cooker, and let it rest on the counter until the IT lowers below 180f. Heat your electric smoker, oven, or even sous-vide machine to 155-165f. This is the sweet spot to promote break down of collagens into gelatins. You can hold your wrapped brisket, with a pan of water (to promote moisture) for 12-16 hours this way, and ensure an absolutely delicious, moist brisket.
It doesn't hurt that you can utilize this time for some rest also...I know I do...
From here, it's already at slicing and serving temperature, so you can enjoy with friends and family as they partake in your next brisket that DOES NOT SUCK!
As always, there's more information on these steps and tips on our YouTube page @ brisketmedic.