Kamado Joe "MoJoe" Newscast October 2012   

Kamado Joe Company
2865 N Berkeley Lake Rd
Duluth, GA 30096
(877) 215-6299


Mastering Beef Brisket

Keep it simple for tenderness and flavor.

If you've ever stopped by a roadside barbecue stand and ordered brisket, you know how tender, smoky and juicy it can be. Brisket takes a number of steps and a considerable amount of time to cook, but the rewards are well worth it. If you are new to making brisket or you have had less than satisfying results in the past, this issue of MoJoe walks you through the steps to making great brisket.

First, let's begin with the basics. A whole brisket comes from the chest area of the cow, and it has two very different types of meat connected by an inner fat layer; the flat and the point. The flat section has very little fat content and a lot of connective tissue, because it's a working muscle that supports 60% of the cow's weight. The point section has quite a bit fat content; similar to a Boston butt.

The outer layer of fat that is up to 1/2" thick, both fat layers act as insulators rather than as tenderizers for the meat. As the fat renders it will not penetrate the meat fibers. Finally, there is a very hard oval area of fat on the outer layer that will not render during cooking. Trimming the fat cap and outer fat layer is discussed later in this issue.

Step 1: Choosing the Right Brisket

A whole brisket is called a "Packer" and like all beef cuts, it comes in a variety of USDA grades. The grades are based on the age of the animal and the amount of fat content. From lowest to highest the grades are: select, choice, CAB (Certified Angus Beef) and Wagyu. A good balance of grade and cost is the choice grade. Higher grades more than double the price per pound, and you can expect to pay $100 or more for your brisket. Grocery stores regularly carry the standard grade and they may only offer the flat section. Standard grade is best for braising and boiling.

Purchasing a brisket from your local butcher is your best option. Ask for a whole choice grade brisket around 10-12lbs in weight. Larger cuts come from older animals and they may not fit in your grill without trimming off some of the meat. The 12lb brisket I purchased for this issue had to have roughly 2lbs of the flat trimmed off to fit in my ClassicJoe 18" grill.

Brisket comes in a sealed Cryovac package, and it's best not to remove it from the packaging until you are ready to prepare the brisket for cooking. You want it to have as much moisture content as possible. Check that the brisket is pink in color and that the areas of fat are white in color. Gray meat means that the brisket is old, and yellow fat indicates that the brisket has been frozen and thawed, which lowers the flavor.

Hold the brisket in the middle with one hand. It should easily droop at a 30°-45° angle. If it is stiff and the grade is not labeled it may be a standard grade brisket, which will yield less than satisfying results. Do not consider using a corned beef. It is corned, salted and only intended for boiling.

- Select a choice grade whole packer brisket (flat and point).
- Choose one approximately 10-12lb in size.
- Brisket should be pink with white fat and it should be flexible.

Tools Needed:
1. Heat Deflector
2. Remote Thermometer (Maverick ET-732)
3. Clear Plastic Wrap
4. Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
5. 3" Drip Pan
6. 4-5 pieces of oak or hickory wood chunks
7. Large Cutting Board
8. Large Sharp Cutting Knife
9. Meat Injector
10. Large Plastic Tub
11. (2) Bath Towels
12. Large Cooler

Step 2: Preparation
1. Whole Beef Brisket (10-12lbs)
2. Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil
3. Dry Rub for Beef
4. 32 oz. Unsalted or Low Sodium Beef Broth
5. (1) Bottle Barbecue Sauce
Remove the brisket from the packaging, rinse thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Place the brisket "fat side up" on a large cutting board and trim the fat layer to 1/4" thick. Turn the brisket over and remove the fat cap to 1/4" in thickness.
Rub & Wrap
Turn the brisket "fat side down" and hand rub with olive oil. Some people prefer to use yellow mustard instead of oil, but oil will breakdown the rub ingredients to flavor the meat. Yellow mustard is water based, so it will only flavor the outer layer. Use a premade dry rub intended for beef or make any one of the hundreds of brisket rub recipes available online. Sprinkle the rub heavily on the brisket and hand rub it into the meat. Do not apply rub to the fat side. It will not be able to penetrate the fat and flavor the meat. Wrap the brisket in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 5-10 hours.
You want to avoid adding charcoal while you are cooking the brisket, and you can expect a cooking time of about 15 hours. Buy a new bag of natural lump charcoal and hand select the largest pieces to build the mound of charcoal. Fill the fire box as full as possible with smaller pieces of charcoal on top of the larger pieces. I used Kamado Joe Natural Lump Charcoal, because of its density and large pieces. After cooking the brisket, one third of the charcoal was unburned in my grill.

Meat Grain
It is important to identify the direction of meat grain of the flat and the point. They will be in different directions. When slicing, you want to cut across the grain for each section. Cutting across the grain allows the sliced meat pull apart easily. If it is cut with the grain the slices will be stringy. The photo to the right shows a cross grain cut on the raw brisket.
Liquid Injector
There are many injectors available, but only the most durable ones will give you the best results for injecting brisket. Select one that is all stainless steel, holds 1 ounce or more of liquid and comes with at least one needle specifically for injecting liquids. Expect to pay $25-$30. Kitchen grade injectors have plastic parts, clog easily and they will have a shorter life.
The "Texas Crutch"
There are several methods for smoking brisket. Some use mopping with sauce or spritzing with apple juice every half hour to keep the brisket moist. The current trend in competition brisket cooking is to use the Texas Crutch. It uses foil to wrap the brisket after a few hours of smoking to reduce the cooking time, while keeping the brisket moist. The downside is that it softens the bark (outer crust), but there is a solution in the cooking guide below.
Step 3: Cooking Guide
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: Approximately 15 hours

Servings: 1lb yields about 1/2lb per person

1. Remove the brisket from the refrigerator, unwrap and place on a large serving plate or baking tray. Inject 1 ounce of beef broth into the flat section with the grain at 1" intervals.
2. Light the grill in one area. Place the wood chunks around the lit area, so they will provide smoke to the brisket for the first 3-4 hours.

3. After 5-7 minutes, insert the heat deflector with the drip pan. Fill the drip pan with water. Monitor the drip pan during the entire cooking time and refill as necessary. Do not let it dry out.
4. Use aluminum foil to cover two edges of the cooking grate. This prevents the ends of the brisket from overcooking. Place the cooking grate on the grill.

5. Place the brisket on the grill and insert the meat probe of the remote thermometer into the fat layer between the flat and point sections. Insert the probe for the grill temperature. You will only be cooking based on the remote thermometer temperatures. Do not use the dome thermometer as a guide.
6. Close the dome. Close the draft door down to a 2" opening, and have the small holes on the daisy wheel of the top vent fully open. Allow the grill temperature to rise slowly. The target temperature is 225°F and it should take about an hour to reach it.

7. Allow the internal temperature of the brisket to reach 145°-150°F.

8. Use a 6 foot piece of aluminum foil and fold it in half to double the thickness. Pull the connection of the food probe from the remote thermometer base. Place the brisket on the foil and create a "boat" for the brisket by raising the foil around it. Add 4 ounces of beef broth and seal the foil tightly. Depending on the size of your brisket, you may need to create a foil top. The objective is to prevent any moisture from escaping.

9. Place the foiled brisket back on the grill and reattach the food probe connection to the remote thermometer.

10. Maintain the 225°F grill temperature until the internal temperature of the brisket is 200°-205°F. It will take 8-10 hours to reach the internal temperature range.
11. Remove the brisket from the grill, place it in a large plastic tub and allow it to cool in the foil until the internal temperature reaches 175°F. This prevents the brisket from continuing to cook.

12. Place the brisket in a large cooler with a bath towel below and above it. Close the lid and allow the brisket to rest for 1-3 hours. This allows the brisket to redistribute the internal moisture.

13. Remove the brisket from the cooler. Remove the brisket from the foil and place it on a metal baking tray or cutting board. Pour the liquid in the foil into a bowl. The au jus will be used to pour over the sliced brisket or served in dipping bowls with each plate. Use a large spoon to remove the fat that rises to the top of the au jus before serving.

14. As mentioned, the disadvantage of the Texas Crutch is that it softens the bark. The bark can be dried out by placing the brisket in the oven and using the broiler setting to dry it out for 15-20 minutes. Monitor closely to prevent burning.

15. Remove the brisket from the oven. Turn the brisket fat side up and use a large knife to scrape off the remaining outer fat layer.

16. Turn the brisket fat side down and choose your slicing method. Option 1: Remove the point section of the brisket by sliding a knife through the fat layer between it and the flat section. Slice the flat section against the grain in 1/4" slices. If it falls apart while cutting, cut slightly thicker slices. Option 2: Slice the flat section against the grain in 1/4" slices. If it falls apart while cutting, cut slightly thicker slices. Cut until you reach the point. Slice, cube or pull the point section. Continue slicing the remainder of the flat.

Brisket will dry out quickly, so serve immediately on Texas toast or thick toasted sour dough slices with au jus and warmed barbecue sauce. Suggested sides: steak fries, coleslaw and baked beans.

Storage and Leftovers
Place any leftover slices in a sealable container and pour au jus over them, so they will stay moist. The best way to reheat brisket slices is in the microwave. Place the slices in a microwavable bowl, pour some au jus over them and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Heat 30 seconds at a time until the slices are warm to the touch.
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