With 7 weeks left until the Burleigh BBQ Competition I decided to have a run at the sanctum sanctorum, the holiest of holies: brisket.
The brisket is the breast section of the cow. However, unlike chicken breasts which are the premium cut of that beast, brisket is possibly the lowest cut of beef that you can buy. This is because the brisket takes the place of the collarbones on a cow, supporting up to 60% of the cow’s weight. This means that the muscle does a lot of work and therefore has a lot of connective tissue. The end effect of this is an extremely tough piece of meat which takes a very long, detailed and delicate cooking process to make into a delicious meal. That said, when you get it right, it can transport you into another dimension.
Unfortunately it doesn’t always go your way, particularly when you’re starting out. I had a go at my first brisket about a year ago. The only one I could find was a rolled brisket which was at a very cheap price and so the quality was dubious from the start. I knew nothing about trimming up a brisket and thinking I was doing the right thing, unrolled it and split in half right across the middle to make it fit in my ProQ Smoker. The end result was something that was delicious, but so fatty that it made both my wife and I sick for a day and a half…
But this time I was determined to not let that happen. I had a mate coming over with his family and had to impress.
I started out buying a premium piece of brisket. Given the surge in popularity of Low’N’Slow style cooking, brisket isn’t cheap anymore, which makes it even more difficult to accept if you get it wrong. That said, this particular brisket had the right curves in all the right places: it was a grass-fed, vacuum packed 5.2 kilo piece of sexiness.
At 11 o’clock at night I put the brisket in the smoker, set up my wireless thermometres to let me know if either the meat hit the desired temperature or the fire dropped too low. I put in some apple wood for smoke and went to bed. Thanks to my wireless thermometre I could sleep easy.
At the 8 hour mark it was time to spray the meat with my special spritz to help keep the meat moist and foil it before putting it back in the smoker. It should have actually gone in earlier but we bought a new bed a few weeks ago and it was oh, so hard to get out of it…
At the 12 hour mark I unwrapped it again to let the bark form up nicely. Then, at the 15 hour mark, the brisket had finally hit temperature and so it was back in the foil, then wrapped in a towel and loving placed inside an empty esky where it would rest for a further 3 hours before serving.
It was when I started slicing it (against the grain of course!) that the true magic of what I’d done revealed itself. Around the outside of each slice was a smoke ring that looked like red lace bordering a corset, teasing its way around the delicious brisket, fusing the bark with the juicy meat.
The red ribbon of sexiness…
The meat was at almost the right consistency: it was so flexible that it bent over backwards without complaint.
Plated up with a fresh white bread roll, chipotle BBQ sauce and my wife’s famous coleslaw, well, let’s just say it was a religious experience…
The four adults, three kids and the dog did very well out of the whole affair. The cat even got in a few bites. I have a few more cuts of beef to try out before I settle on my entry for the competition, but this is definitely in the running!
What’s the most difficult piece of meat you’ve ever tackled? Let me know in the comments below.