We are not huge brisket fans. It’s not that we don’t like brisket.. it’s just not on our radar. Maybe it’s a back East thing. It’s just not a really prevalent meat out West.
None the less, recently we have had several brisket experiences on our travels that put it on our radar. For a tough meat… done right, it can be luscious, delicious, full of flavor and super savory. So we decided to make some of our own.
We weren’t sure on what preparation to use. There is the faithful Braise Method… low and slow in the oven for a long time until the meat is fall apart tender. Or the Smoked Method… a lot more tricky, but done right yields smokey flavorful goodness. So we bought a 14 lb whole brisket, cut it in half and did a Brisket Competition.
For the Braised Brisket, we seasoned the meat in a rib rub and seared all over. Then we removed the meat and sautéed onion, garlic and carrot in the brownings. Then we added the liquid… a can of tomatoes, chicken broth, beef bouillon cube, chipotle peppers, mustard seed, thyme, oregano, and sage… along with the seared meat and onion-garlic-carrot mixture. I brought to a simmer and put in a 300F oven, covered, for 6 hours.
For the smoked, we brined in a simple salt-sugar-water mixture for overnight… then drained, dried, and seasoned with rib rub and smoked at 225 – 275F for 6 hours.
The results were both good.
The braised was more tender and succulent. Though I think a contributing factor was that we used the fat end for the braise (and the lean end for the smoked). A well worthwhile by-product of the braised was the braising liquid that made an amazing BBQ sauce (just added ketchup-spicy mustard-molasses-brown sugar to the braising liquid).
The smoked version on the other hand, was much smokier and beefier. But it was not as tender and much tougher… partially no doubt because of the lean cut.
So what did we learn:
- Low and slow…. at least 6 hour cook time at low temperature (225 – 300F)
- Braising makes a braising liquid worth making just for the BBQ sauce product
- Fat end makes for a more succulent end product
- Smoked version lends a beautiful smokiness
Next time, I think we’ll try to smoke the fat end and see how tender we can make the brisket. If it’s still tough… we will try to cook it longer to yield a more tender brisket with the smokiness.
Fascinating experiment. But it’s not over yet.
We’ll be back…. to do more… learn more.. taste more.. and make a better brisket with what we learned.