I love beef briskets especially when barbecued the right way. It tastes juicy, meaty with a playful smoky flavor you’d surely want to come back for. I’m sure I am not the only one craving constantly for that piece of meat. In fact, the whole of Texas would probably share the same sentiments since it is the national food of Texas. In our home, a slob of perfectly cooked beef brisket is an excuse to party. Everyone comes together to enjoy that beautifully charred beef– all diets, forgotten.
However, how to make beef brisket perfectly is another story. While eating one is a delight so easy and carefree, cooking one is almost rocket science for many. Actually, barbecuing beef brisket is almost like science—with an exact measurement, heat and time as well as techniques so precise some shy away from making this delicious dish.
But don’t you worry. Even though it’s true that beef briskets are not the easiest to cook, I have tips for you on how to make beef brisket perfectly every time.
Before we get started on the “how,” let us first talk about the “what” of cooking beef brisket. In order to be able to barbecue the said meat, you first would need to learn about what kind of meat it is so you can handle it appropriately. In addition to that, let me explain to you what constitutes a perfect beef brisket.
Cooking meat in a pit is not a new thing. In fact, it has been done by our early ancestors before they knew what to call it. They did that cooking style because it was most convenient at that time. However, as cooking styles progress, more complex methods came into play. Beef brisket, while it is the Texan king in barbecue, did not originate there. Sources share that the earliest traces of beef brisket being served was in 1910 as part of Jewish cuisine. The way brisket is cooked in Jewish tradition, however is not through a pit or barbecued but braised for pot roast. A few years later in 1916, though, the first smoked beef brisket was advertised by the Weil Brothers, Grocers owned by Alex and Moise Weil whose father was of Jewish descent.
At present, you can see smoked beef brisket anywhere especially in Texas. The Lone Star state even considers it a staple meal. Brisket is a cut of meat coming from the breast area or lower chest. It is usually very muscular so there is difficulty tenderizing the part. The cut of meat also has what is called a fat cap that keeps the meat juicy.
How to make beef brisket can be done through a variety of ways but the Texan way is by smoking the meat. This involves marinating the meat then slowly, through indirect heat, cooking the brisket through charcoal or more preferably hardwood such as pecan, hickory or oak. Using these hardwood gives the meat another dimension of flavor which is one of the distinct characteristics of a good barbecued beef brisket.
Texans, and barbecue lovers can detect a good beef brisket from a mediocre one. And since the part of meat you’re cooking is quite tough, it can be easy to overcook it with the aim of tenderizing hence making it quite dry and flaky. Another tendency is to undercook it with the intention of keeping it juicy then in turn the meat is way too tough to eat. Additionally, some over or under season the meat because of fear that the meat would be too bland or become overwhelming in flavor.
A good beef brisket is one where the meat is thoroughly cooked and yet does not have a leathery texture. In addition to the flavor of the rub, the complex taste of the char should present itself in every bite. Furthermore, it is important to be able to detect the oil which helps keep the meat juicy. If the brisket is dry, it means the meat lacks fat cap or that the dish is overcooked. Finally, taste also comes into play in a perfect barbecued beef brisket. The taste of the rub and marinate must not be too overwhelming that you no longer taste the meat. Much of what constitutes to a great and memorable beef brisket that people will talk about days after having a taste of is the simplicity in it wherein the star is still the taste of beef.
Now, as for cooking beef brisket, there is quite a lot of controversy with opposing preferences such as the type of rub to use or whether to use rub at all. Another one is about the use of paper versus foil, meat grade and whether to trim the fat cap or not and its position.
At the end of the day, however, it is the fundamentals that make or break the meat. But to aid you in making your brisket a blockbuster hit, I have some tips that helped me get my barbecue to be the talk of the town.
I am going to share with you a recipe that you can follow. However, whatever recipe you have at home will do. This is just a guideline and not the secret to making beef brisket perfectly each time you cook it.
There are three separate things to prepare: the rub, the barbecue sauce and the brisket slob itself. For the barbecue sauce, this can vary greatly depending on your preference. But the most basic way to make the sauce is as follows:
- Heat the pan with oil
- Cook onion and garlic
- Add all the other ingredients which are ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, molasses, and some salt and pepper to taste.
Again, the barbecue sauce can vary greatly depending on how you want it. If you want it spicier, then you can add some chili powder or even hot sauce. For a sweeter taste, add more molasses and some sugar or even add honey for a richer taste. You can even add beer if you want.
Once the barbecue sauce is cooked, set it aside to cool down so you can serve it later. You’ll use half of this by brushing to the cooking meat in the smoker every hour or so.
Second thing you need to prepare is the rub. Same with the barbecue sauce, the rub is dependent on personal taste. The rub consists of dry ingredients such as paprika, ground cumin, garlic powder, ground black pepper, caster sugar, chili powder and mustard powder. Usually, the measurement of these spices are all the same unless you wish for one to overwhelm the taste. For instance, I like my rub extra spicy so I add a little more pepper and chili powder.
Once the rub is done, put it on one side ready for when you’ll massage it all over the beef brisket. It is always best to season with the rub at least one hour before cooking the beef brisket.
Other things you need to prepare are hickory wood smoke chips that you must submerge in cold water for at least 30 minutes then drain closely prior to use. You can use other kinds of wood but hickory for me leaves the best flavor. Also prepare charcoal and make sure it is a hundred percent natural lump to really achieve that authentic Texan barbecue flavor. Finally, a thermometer.
Now, the next step is where you really need to be a little more precise. You first need to start the fire in the smoker using the charcoal. Wait for it to be ash gray then add the drain wood chips. The right temperature before adding the big meat is 200°F- 225°F. Once you get to that temperature, place your beef brisket on a rack in the smoker.
Right about 10 hours or so, you can flip the brisket over with the fat cap side toward the smoker. You’ll know it’s ready to be flipped when it is tender enough that you can pierce it effortlessly with a fork. Your thermometer should also be at 185°F. Cook for another 30 minutes.
In order to keep the heat as it is, make sure to add charcoals every hour or an hour and a half as well as wood chips.
Finally, once completely cooked, remove brisket then let it cool down. After that, you get a good-looking and hopefully good tasting barbecue beef brisket.
Now, onto the secret strategies and tips to making your beef brisket taste as if a pro made it. After removing it from the smoker, wrap it in FDA approved butcher paper before serving. Wrapping with butcher paper helps the meat in so many ways that I am so glad I started using it. Firstly, when you use it a few minutes before the cooking is done, it helps avoid meat drying out by keeping in moisture as it rests. In addition, it keeps a certain heat inside the meat.
For me personally, what made a really big difference was when I switched from foil to butcher paper. For barbecue enthusiasts, you most probably heard about butcher paper or peach paper before. Aaron Franklin, owner of Franklin Barbecue and arguably one of the masters in making great barbecue raved about using peach paper. And, one would believe what the master says when it comes to barbecuing as Franklin Barbecue is known in Texas and out of having long lines all the time—a testament to how good his barbecue is.
What I like with using butcher paper as compared to foil is that, unlike foil that keeps moisture in too much and turns what would otherwise be a crunchy outside mushy, butcher paper lets steam out in a slow pace which keeps it cooking and at the same time does not keep water inside. This way, we get an even better cook all the while retaining the crunchy charred area.
Butcher paper got its name as butcher paper because in older years, butchers used to wrap the meat they’ve cut in the said paper. So, I am certain you’ve encountered these papers already.
However, you should note that not all butcher papers can be used for barbecue. Make sure that there is no wax and that it indicates use for meat is allowed. Additionally, check FDA’s approval. Another thing to avoid is bleached paper. As a rule of thumb it is best to avoid white paper rolls since they are more than likely to be bleached.
Amsha Butcher paper roll is the secret ingredient to a perfect beef brisket. It is not bleached nor waxed and is 100% FDA approved. This means that the product is safe to use for cooking meat. In addition though to the high standards it upholds, it also has a food grade 40# paper weight which is the perfect weight for grilling meat on.
So, basically, other than cooking the meat right, aid materials like the Amsha butcher paper can help perfect your barbecue beef brisket. While it all seems easy to make, you must remember that you might not be able to make a perfect beef brisket at one go. This needs some practice but you’ll be surprised at the difference these tips and recipe can make.
So, finally here are some other things to remember. One, make sure that the meat you are buying is good quality, as in a USDA Choice meat. Secondly, the temperature. Make sure that the temperature is just right and to do this, try investing in a good quality thermometer. Accompanied by the right temperature is timing. So make sure that you are on point in your timing.
Okay, so for my last words I’d say to keep it casual—unless you’re joining a competition. Don’t stress yourself in making the best beef brisket in town. Remember, family recipes are usually finalized and passed down after several trial and error. However, take all the aid you can get and just do your best while enjoying cooking. Food cooked with love are still the tastiest and most satisfying dishes.