Remember how I said I was going to work my way through drafts and archives? This is one of those, written in the beginning of December 2013 then filed away (but certainly not forgotten) in favour of far too many Christmas dessert recipes, it happens. In any case, instead of changing it to suit late summer I’m leaving it as is, because I can. Stay tuned for all the sides too.
Yesterday (well yesterday when I wrote this on 2 December) was the first day of summer in Sydney. For some strange reason Australia assigns the change in seasons to the first day of a month, rather than using a solstice or equinox as in the Northern Hemisphere…
Slightly arbitrary, perhaps, but let’s be honest — Mother Nature does whatever she likes, whenever she likes, regardless of what our calendars and retail sales cycles are currently promoting.
Besides, we all know that contrary to what the rest of the world is raging on about, I do pretty much whatever I like too. So let’s talk barbeque.
It was the kind of barbeque where you queue at 10 am to wait for meat — cut to order and served by weight — that has been slow cooking for nearly a day.
The kind were there is a live country rock band playing the time away, and help-yourself-Bloody-Marys in a cooler jug, and picnic tables sporting loaves of white bread and rolls of paper towel, and more y’all’s than a beauty pagent.
The brisket was dripping with juice and knobbly with a pepper crust. The ribs fell off the bone. The baked squash was heavier with cheese and cream than squash (lest anyone risk delaying heart disease with a vegetable). The sauce was a stew of onions and pan drippings, just because it could be.
Our visit to John Mueller Meat Co deserves a post on its own — and will get one some day — but this here is what happened a few weeks after we returned home when RJ looked at me with puppy-dog eyes and asked if I could make BBQ Brisket.
A stop at the local butcher shop with a request for a cut of brisket saw the man behind the counter pop into the cool room and slice a couple kilos of meat off a beast hanging from the ceiling.
A check of the fire warnings confirmed we could light up the Weber.
A make-it-up-as-I-go recipe emerged slowly as did the smoke — lots of smoke — and a whole bunch of sides because BBQ isn’t BBQ without sauce, and beans, and cornbread to sop it all up.
I’m pretty darn impressed at how it turned out, especially for a first attempt. Next time — you know there will be a next time — I’ll make sure to keep the temp better regulated and cook it for a bit longer. And while it’s just the meat featuring here today, you can bet the rest of the dishes will emerge over the few weeks too…
Because it’s summer and summer means barbeque. Y’all come back now ya’hear.
(For those keeping score, the second photo in this post was taken the evening the brisket came off the BBQ. It was still warm and melty and all but falling apart. The light, while less than desirable, dissuaded me none from snapping a quick pic with my phone. The other shots where taken the next day after the meat had been refrigerated overnight then brought back up to room temp, it happens.)
Slow Smoked Pepper-Crusted BBQ Brisket
Proper barbeque cannot be rushed, ever, and there is nothing quite like proper slow cooked, smokey, peppery brisket. Nothing.
- 1 piece brisket, approx 2 kg (4.5 lbs) with fat cap attached
- 1 Tbsp dijon mustard, 2 Tbsp each apple cider vinegar and beer
- 2 Tbsp BBQ Spice Rub
- heaped 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
- lots and lots of fresh cracked black pepper (more than that, yes really)
- real wood charcoal bricks
- hickory chips (or any other type of wood you prefer)
METHOD (and notes below for more detail)
Prep your BBQ grill
Place wood chips in water to soak. Pile coals on one side of your grill and get them going so they have time to smoulder before you add in the brisket, it may take up to an hour.
Place a disposable aluminum pan next to the coals under the rack where the meat will cook. If you have an oven thermometer pop it on the rack on the opposite side from the coals.
Prep your brisket
Rinse brisket with cool water and pat dry. Whisk mustard, vinegar and beer together, rub over all sides of meat and let sit 15 to 30 mins.
Gently pat dry with paper towel then rub well on all sides with BBQ Spice Rub, followed by a generous amount of cracked black pepper (seriously, use more).
Rub salt into top fat layer and place seasoned meat, fat side up, into a second disposable aluminum pan.
When coals are ready place meat (in pan) on the centre of the rack — over the extra pan but not over the coals — so it is cooking with indirect heat. Place a few handfuls of wood chips onto a piece of aluminum foil and set on rack directly over the coals, drop a few chips onto the coals to start the smoke.
Cover BBQ grill with the lid and open the vents on top and bottom. Monitor temp and adjust air regularly to regulate heat to 120°C (250°F). More air equals more heat, less air less heat, simple.
Keep meat in the pan for the first two hours or so, then move it directly onto rack over the extra pan to catch drippings (still not over coals). Keep juices in the pan you just removed the meat from for your BBQ Sauce, then keep pan for when brisket is done cooking.
Cook for a total of oh, 6 to 7 hours (1.5 hours per pound/half kilo of meat) keeping heat at 120°C (250°F) until it is nearly falling apart. Every now and then turn brisket — top to bottom, side to side — and drop a few more chips directly into the coals to create extra smoke.
Serve it up
The brisket is done when fat is all melt-y; size has shrunk by about a third; the whole thing has a lovely crust; and the meat, when pinched with tongs, all but falls apart.
Remove from grill, pop it back in the pan it started out in and rest for 30 mins.
Use a non-serrated carving knife to cut brisket into thick slices against the grain. Serve with BBQ Sauce, BBQ Beans, Coconut Roasted Pumpkin (coming soon), Cornbread or Cornbread Waffles and a fresh salad.
gluten free // soy-free // dairy-free
BBQ Tips From A Novice
Slow smoked brisket using a Weber kettle bbq and burning real wood charcoal.
- You can’t slow-cook anything directly over coals or fire, it just won’t work.
- I set the coals into the side bottom section of my Weber, get them smouldering and cook the meat on top of the rack away from the coals.
- The indirect heat essentially slow roasts the meat; using a BBQ grill instead of an oven lets you add smoke (more about that below…)
Get your bbq at the right temp:
- I put my oven thermometer on the bbq rack to keep an eye on the temp. You want it to be about 110° – 120°C (225° – 250°F).
- Control your heat with the air vents on the top of the lid and the bottom of the grill. More air equals more heat, less air less heat.
- With the vents all the way open I was running at about 180°C (350°F) which is way too hot. I took the lid off until the temp went down to 250°F, closed the vents slightly from where they were (less air equals less heat) and put the lid back on. Check again after 10 or 15 mins to see if the temp went back up or simply maintained itself. Repeat as necessary and check each time you turn the meat.
- I ended up with both vents half closed to keep the temp right.
With or without a pan:
- I started my brisket in a foil pan because I didn’t pay attention to the fact that most people cook directly on the rack.
- About 2 hours into cooking I moved the meat onto the rack, poured off the juices to save for later and placed the pan in the bottom of the grill to catch any drips for the remaining 4 – 5 hrs of cooking.
- Make your life easier by starting with an extra pan in the base of the BBQ so you don’t have to change anything when you place the meat on the rack. Best of both worlds plus lots of pan juices for sauce — so that’s what I put in the method above.
- Soak your wood chips while your coals heat up.
- I started out by dropping a few soaked chips onto the hot coals to get the smoke going, then drain a couple handfuls and put them on a piece of foil directly over the coals. Every now and then to create a bit of extra smoke I dropped more chips directly into the coals. The neighbours probably hate me, it happens.
As a side note, I’ve been a veg-aquarian for years and although I wasn’t consuming meat I have always cooked it. Recently I’ve been tasting meaty things, a bite here and there, because the texture somehow isn’t as offensive to me as it was 15 years ago or so when I stopped eating it. Just in case you were wondering. Oh and one of those aforementioned draft posts goes into much more details about all this … we’ll see if it ever sees the light of day.