Saturday, March 22, 2014

Trying something big (Post not Safe for Vegetarians)

Here in Texas, barbecue is a big deal.  And brisket is king.  A relatively cheap and tough cut, brisket's other uses are generally braises, simmers*, or being ground up as part of burger. But low and slow and smoky?  Oh my goodness.  Alchemy is a real thing, y'all.

Like many here, I keep an eye (nose?) out for great brisket. Last year I went to Austin (150 miles away), waited for an hour in line for barbecue at John Mueller Meat Company, ate, and headed back to Houston.  That brisket was transformative.  I'm told it's in the pit for thirty-six hours at 180 degrees.

Brisket w/ dry rub,
filling a half-sheet pan
While I'm a fairly good cook and am generally up for an experiment, this DIY had never really occurred to me.  I do not have (or want to justify buying) a smoker.  And a brisket is a pretty giant experiment...

But my mother--oh.  She wanted to make this happen.  She took on the google search and came up with this take on Franklin's BBQ (also Austin), including directions for a gas grill. Last night we found a good deal on whole briskets with a generous fat cap, and we were in business.

Tiny tidbit of
We got up before 7 AM on a Saturday to get the dry rub on this 13.85-lb beauty and set up our grilling rig (see the article above for a diagram.) Once it was on the grill it was a matter of watching the temperature and adding wood from time to time.

After 9.5 hours I took a small sample from the behemoth and we decided that it was time to pull the brisket off the grill.

It turns out that a brisket shrinks
significantly in the long hours on
the grill/smoker.
Then came the hardest part--tent and rest the meat.  My patience was extra super tested.  I kept myself occupied with projects across the house, and then with prepping the sides for supper.

But eventually I got to carve into the
deliciousness. I did not bring all of it to the table, for I was certain the family just might gorge on this bounty.

Side view of the moist
Was it the best brisket I've ever had?  No, not yet.  But I've paid for worse. The taste in our inaugural batch was great--essence of beef, with not too much pepper. No visible smoke ring, but the taste was in there. (We were working with applewood.  Oak is traditional.) On a future attempt I might apply the rub the night before, giving the flavors a chance to get further into the meat. And we really need to upgrade our thermometers so we can keep the temp as low as we would like, giving the meat even longer for magic goodness to happen. (And not a recipe note, but jeez, our grill is on its last legs.)

Long story short--say yes to experiments!  Know that the intertubes are full of recipes and ehows and videos for most anything.  And you'll get massive cred for your attempt.  (Spouse has been wandering around in a daze, "I can't believe y'all made that!")

*Come to think of it, I never did get around to corned beef for St. Patrick's Day...

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