Last night, 5/23/2014, I cooked a brisket that was my personal best and in the ballpark of the best I’ve ever tasted. Borrowing many nuances from Aaron Franklin, through access to his generous videos, this is what I did in full detail.
Brisket: USDA Prime, 15.22 pounds, fresh and flexible to bend. Never frozen. The color was pink, not dark. Source was Costco.
Preparation: Non-fat side up, first. Heavy layer of coarse Kosher salt, then coarse black pepper. Gently press the salt and pepper into the meat, so it won’t fall off. The brisket should look pepper-black; very little of the meat was visible. Cover the edges around the brisket, as well. Then, flip it fat-side up. I used a sharp knife to cut through the fat every 1.5″ (see pic) and pushed freshly-chopped garlic into the cuts, a total of 3 whole garlic pods. Less would have been fine… some people would skip the garlic. Then, salt and pepper it as before. It will be cooked fat side up, entirely, never flipped. After adding the garlic, salt, and pepper, let it sit on the counter at least an hour to come to room temperature. Avoid putting it back in the refrigerator (important, imo).
Fire: My traditional method… A bed of charcoal used to start an all-wood fire, stacked chimney-style. The charcoal burns away quickly, leaving the wood evenly lit. I had to add wood and re-stack the fire several times…. a mixture of dense post oak and live oak, no old junky or rotten wood. Only 10% was mesquite. Other successful brisket cooks use hickory in addition to oak.
Grill Temperature: See the location of the thermometer on my grill in other posts of this blog. I checked the temp every few minutes the whole evening. Range was 220-260 the whole time, but mostly 240-250.
Cooking time: 10 hours in the smoker, unwrapped, fat-side up. Then, 6.5 hours in the oven (originally posted as 5), wrapped in foil in a stainless steel pan, fat side up, at 220 degrees. Expect to catch some broth in the pan. It is excellent, but salty.
For convenience, after removing from the oven I set the pan on the counter and let it continue to cook. The smoke ring on this brisket was visible but not as thick as rings I’ve seen by the pros. I have not mastered that, nor am I convinced it adds much. We served it at room temperature without reheating…. common for brisket. The “skin” was black, as with all smoked briskets. The difference is the thick pepper coating was already black. Not one bit was burned or dried out and had to be tossed, a first for me. Most of it would fall apart in your hands and was very juicy. The thin end fell apart but was less juicy, as is common. The amount of salt was just right, and to a degree it permeated into the meat. In my earlier briskets that was not the case.
Aaron Franklin goes to great lengths to trim briskets before cooking. I didn’t trim anything, and after these results I won’t next time. Franklin wins contests… I don’t enter them.
This brisket would have served 23 light to moderate eaters. In our case, I cut it up and froze the remainder in 18 small freezer bags.
I welcome any questions and will update this post as necessary.
Imagine entirely preparing a brisket in about 15 minutes, cooking it in the oven, and having it ready for nibbling by the market close, and ready for serving at dinner. I’m no chef but I did that on 10/31, and here’s exactly how. Sorry, no pics.
We purchased a large, untrimmed brisket the day before and kept it chilled (not frozen) overnight. Early in the morning, I removed it from the bag and rinsed it with water, and placed it fat side down in a 15 1/2″ x 11 1/2″ x 2 5/8″ stainless steel pan for rubbing. A half-inch high grate was placed in the bottom of the pan.
A light to moderate amount of Kosher salt, and a fairly heavy amount of course ground black pepper, were evenly spread over the meat side plus around all edges, and rubbed in.
Then, I flipped the brisket to fat side UP to finish applying the salt and pepper, not disturbing the rub on the bottom.
I cut up 2 whole garlics, chopping them moderately but not finely, which took most of the preparation time, and spread the garlic evenly over the entire fat side (top). Some people would cut into the fat, 1/4″, and place the garlic in the cuts. I’m not sure how much that adds; I did very little of that.
Then, I covered the pan with aluminum foil, one layer across the entire top, and tucked the foil under the edges of the pan.
Preheat the oven (normal, electric) to 260F on bake, put it in, and try not to open the oven for at least 8 hours, while your house fills with irresistible smell. My experience is that the thin end will be ready for nibbling after 8 hours, but the rest of the brisket won’t be peaked until about 11 hours… 12 is better and more certain to yield special results. Leave the foil on, air fairly well sealed, until ready for slicing.
I suggest serving it with the fat and rub on (untrimmed), and slicing it cross-grained, though lots of the meat will fall apart. The juices in the pan are very pure to the brisket, thus are useful for other cooking. In keep with Texas style, I do not serve brisket with sauce or add any other ingredients to the rub.
There is a truism in the BBQ world: “If you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’.” Sampling is not remotely necessary with this method, and only serves to add substantially to the cooking time.
While cooking Jerk Chicken Thighs in the drizzle last night, I starting tweeting lessons learned about grilling since the mid-70s. Without getting into the nuances specific to wood some rules of general interest were captured.
My good friend, Greg Harmon (@harmongreg) of Dragonfly Capital, took it deeper and found the trading and learning lessons inside.
Without editing, here are 15 Rule of Grilling…
1st & 2nd rules of grilling are cook it less and turn it less. Don’t char anything.
3rd rule of grilling is keep the food equidistant from the fire.
4th rule of grilling is smoke adds value to a point, then subtracts value.
5th rule of grilling is multi-tasking jeopardizes grilling like it does trading, driving, or sex.
6th rule of grilling is that practice aids consistency but perfection is rare.
7th rule of grilling is get some consistency before u serve flame-kissed food to anyone but yourself.
8th rule of grilling is to use indirect heat nearly always except on steaks or burgers or with a grill-wok.
9th rule of grilling is if you want to master a technique, measure time, temperature, ingredients, and method, and take copius notes.
Journalling to learn grilling is not very different from journalling to learn trading.
10th rule of grilling is get the best grill you can afford for a while and take great care of it. Your “numbers” will depend on it.
11th rule of grilling is ppl say to clean the grill after u cook but I clean it before. Rule is don’t cook on a nasty grill..unhealthy.
12th rule about grilling is to analyze ur needs before selecting a grill. I cook 90% near/over the fire but my grill will smoke too…waste.
13th rule of grilling is rust happens. The grate will rust and oiling it is good but I eventually replace them.
14th rule of grilling is keep the grill out of the rain and sand and paint it 1-2x per year. Takes a day, but vital.
15th rule of grilling is if u use firewood, get a consistent, quality source. Your results and learning curve depend on it.
Enjoy. If you have questions, email me at daytrend at gmail dot com.
FWIW, here are the Jerk Chicken Thighs that were done after Rule 6.
Since I ate brisket at Franklin BBQ in Austin, TX, I barely want to cook it again. There’s is substantially better than my best.
>>>>>>8/23/2013 update: Frankin’s youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/BBQwithFranklin (h/t @tradewithpete)
Quite a few of their secrets are revealed in the links below. To brisket cooks, this is a gold mine. Enjoy!
Wifey and I constantly explore ways to make a whole chicken better. We have the fire, temperature, and cooking time down, but seasonings and preparation are in flux. This is one of the better recipes we’ve done, and because the fire didn’t turn out to be one of the better, I’ll explain the very best instead of what happened today. All the pictures are from today’s cooking, however. Times are in CST.
If you are unfamiliar, all of my cooking is on a closed, wood-fired grill, without gas. I start the fire with a little charcoal at the bottom (using charcoal starter), and build a chimney stack of wood above it once the charcoal is lit. The charcoal quickly becomes a minimal influence on the smell and then burns away entirely, leaving an all-wood fire. I use primarily live oak, mesquite, and other fruit woods as available. I would use post oak, and actually really love it, if it were more available. The location and quality of the thermometer are critically important; all temperatures I mention are from that thermometer, not from inside the fire box.
Preparing the Chicken
Let the chicken come up to room temperature. Remove any chicken parts the may have been packed inside the cavity and rinse and inspect the entire chicken well. Shake off all the loose water. Mix 2 teaspoons of each of the following:
- Onion powder
- Coarse black pepper
- Adam’s poultry seasoning (use your favorite brand)
- Herbs d Provence
- Salt-free seasoning (used Kirkland No-Salt this time; may use Mrs. Dash Original)
- Kosher salt (to taste)
You will also need 4 tablespoons of Yellow mustard (separate from the herbs).
Using your finger, lift the skin above the breast and smear a thin coat of Yellow mustard on each entire breast, to the degree you can without badly tearing the skin. Also smear the mustard inside the cavity and all over the outside on any parts of the skin you eat.
Then, using a spoon, distribute a medium amount of the herb mixture under the skin on each breast. Distribute the remainder, first, inside the cavity, and lastly everywhere else.
This time, she covered the entire chicken with mustard and herbs, as shown in the pic, but in the future the skin will not be coated with mustard or herbs.
Place the chicken in the smoker, directly under the thermometer, with the cavity toward the fire. It will not need to be rotated. Avoid opening the smoker once cooking has started.
Bring the temperature, measured by the thermometer in the pic above, to 350, but not over 375. Start timing when the temperature has reached 325, and try to keep it 340-365 the entire time…. this is hard. For best results, tender and very juicy, cook for 2 hours. If the fire is not hot enough to maintain that range, you risk bloody or stringy meat. If you cook it much longer than two hours, any skin you eat will be bitter and the meat will be dry. On the high side, any exposed meat will be black and very dry. 350 is ideal. If you think you need to add wood, gather the wood before you open the firebox so you can add it in a few seconds.
For a whole chicken, I use 70% live oak, 20% mesquite, and 10% fruitwood. This time, pecan. 100% live oak is perfectly fine. A mixture of post oak and live oak is probably ideal.
The legs should break off very easily when the chicken is ready. If you see red blood in the cavity, it is not close to ready.
Marinade for 2 pounds of skirt steak, tenderloin, sirloin, pork, or chicken.
3/4 cup soy sauce or Bragg’s Amino Acids
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
10-12 pieces hole ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 can pineapple chunks, or fresh
Combine ingredients, except pineapple; pour over meat and let stand at room temperature about 1 hour or in the refrigerator for several hours or over night. Cook over fire with indirect heat using the method in this post.
Cooking only a few briskets per year requires care and copious notes if one desires continuous improvement, as I do. The “Even Better Brisket 5/27/2011″ recipe was an attempt to carefully document best the method and parameters I’ve found at that time. I used the same method on this 9/2 brisket, except as suggested in the hindsight gained from the 5/27 one.
This post describes our critique of the 9/2 brisket (wifey helped), some pics, and slight tweaks I will make next time. This post requires the 5/27 post as its baseline. The entire method stands, but some parameters are updated.
I consider the 9/2 brisket as having achieved all goals, including repeatability. It was slightly drier than I would have wanted, only in the thinner areas. The thick areas are fine. It could have also used a little more smoke. The fire was perfect, but the brisket needed to stay in the smoker longer.
Parameters I will use next time (these supersede the 5/27 recipe): Instead of cooking in the oven 6:00 hours, I will shorten that by 1 hour and nominally add an hour to the time it’s on the fire.
1. The new oven time is 5:00 hours (still at 350). The briket will then be moved directly to the smoker, which will already be at temperature, and the foil will removed. So far, the method is not changed; only the time is changed.
2. On the next brisket, the target temperature in the smoker will be 305-315, a little cooler and tighter than the 300-325 range given in the 5/27 recipe. My goal will be to monitor it closely and keep it very close to 315. I consider 305 a little low. Of course, dropping the temperature will slightly lengthen the typical cook time to achieve the desired color and tenderness, for any size of brisket.
3. In the 5/27 recipe, I suggested checking the color and tenderness every 30 minutes starting 3:00 hours after putting the brisket in the smoker. Here is the updated method: Starting 4:00 hours after transferring the brisket from the oven to the smoker, monitor the color and tenderness every 30 minutes, and add wood to the fire if it fails to maintain the 305-315 temperature range. It is important to keep the temperature up to avoid losing control of the cooking process and serving time.
These are the only changes I will make when cooking the next brisket. If you read the 5/27 method, and use the updated parameters in this post, I think you will see that the process is described in clear enough detail to repeat it. If you have any questions, or have found any omissions, please let me know (@daytrend on twitter, or daytrend at gmail).
Pic 1: Out of the oven, still in the foil, ready for the foil to be removed and to be put in the smoker. Notice the thick coat of rub and black pepper (nothing else). The large, thick end was placed nearest the fire. Note: The thermometer I use is built into the smoker. All temperatures are based on the smoker’s thermometer, *not* from an inserted meat thermometer. The brisket was centered in the smoker area, just below the thermometer. The blog contains numerous pics of the grill and its thermometer.
Pic 2: Right off the grill about 4 hours later. Notice the color. The fork literally fell into the meat at the thick end; super tender and moist. Nothing at all is burned.
Each year I cook 1-3 briskets on a wood grill. This one is probably my best ever, and here is exactly what I did. Readers of my blog know I’ve published two earlier brisket recipes. Refer to earlier pics for clarification, but follow these directions precisely. As always, if you have questions, contact me at daytrend at gmail. In this recipe we use The Rub from an earlier post.
Overview (details below): Brisket is a tough cut of beef. Great brisket is juicy and falling-apart tender, throughout. This one was great. Most recipes I’ve seen call for a low cooking temperature. My best results have come, *not* with sub-280 recipes (even after cooking 12 hours or longer), but with higher temperatures. I am finding the same on chicken. After adding rub, put the brisket in a pouch of aluminum foil and put the pouch in a pan to catch the drippings. Put the pan in the oven (normally overnight) and set the oven timer to start 12 hours before you want to serve. Cook in the oven 6 hours at 350 and move to the grill, with the fire already built. Remove the foil, when transferring to the grill, and orient the large side toward the fire. Position the center of the brisket nearest the thermometer, and plan on watching the temperature and regulating it often. On my grill, the thermometer is located a few inches above the meat and midway and above the center of the smoker section. Target temperature on the grill, is 300-325, not less. Periodically, check the color of the brisket. You want an even, dark (nearly black) thin coat, but not burned anywhere. When the color is right, stick a grilling fork in the thickest part. If the fork almost “falls in” on its own, you know it’s super-tender. That is exactly what happened on this brisket. Remove the brisket from the grill immediately, and wrap it tightly in new aluminum foil, and let it sit until you’re ready to serve. This brisket was sitting on the kitchen counter over three hours.
Meat: A large brisket, bought at Costco, with the fat on (untrimmed). I chose the largest one available, and it was slightly thicker than normal at the large end. If it had been 20% larger I would have bought it.
Preparation: Cut a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil (18 inches wide) about 8 inches longer than twice the length of your brisket (yes, >5 feet). Lay the foil on the kitchen counter and put the brisket on top, meat side up (initially) 4 inches from one end. Use The Rub from my blog (or a rub of your choice). Add salt to your taste, but we did not add any salt. Hand-rub it into the meat on all sides, moderately thick. First, apply rub to the meat side up and all the way around. Next, flip the brisket and apply the rub to the fat side. Apply coarse-ground pepper to the fat side. Then, wrap the rest of the aluminum foil over the top and crimp tightly (if possible) all the way around. Try not to tear the foil because the fewer leaks the better. Position the crimped edges as high as possible as you put the whole thing inside a large, baking pan. The baking pan will catch any liquid that escapes, so this is important. Our pan is 15 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 2 3/4 and it works well except for the very largest briskets. To summarize, the brisket is fully enclosed in a pouch of aluminum foil, fat side up, and the edges of the foil are crimped to keep liquids inside. The rub and pepper are applied. The pouch is placed in a baking pan to protect against a mess caused by inevitable leaks. The pan has been in the oven all night, and the oven timer is set to start cooking 12 hours before you want to serve.
Fire: With all brisket fires I use a mixture of oak and mesquite. With this fire, I used a record amount of mesquite, 40% mesquite and 60% oak. I think that is important and I might increase mesquite to 50% in the future.
Cooking Time: My beliefs are changing with regard to cooking temperature versus time, simply because I am more comfortable with this brisket than any earlier one. This brisket was on the grill 2 hours and 55 minutes (total cooking time was 8:55) when I saw that the the color was right and gave it the fork test. I would have normally cooked it longer, and that’s why I suggest starting 12 hours early. My previous successes were with oven plus grill times of right at 12 hours. If you like more smoke drop the grill temp 10 degrees and leave it on a bit longer.
Summary: Oven: Exactly 6 hours at 350. Grill: 3 hours at 300-325 and begin checking color every 30 minutes. When the color is right, but not before, fork the thickest part. If super-tender, take it off the grill and wrap it tightly in new foil, immediately. No rush to serve. Do not cook longer than 12 hours total unless the temperature was well below these levels.
Pork ribs are everyone’s favorite in Texas, even if Texas BBQ is associated with beef-everything.
We bought two nice racks of ribs from Costco two days ago, and wifey applied the rub (recipe coming) and covered them in plastic wrap.
I built a large, charcoal, oak, and mesquite fire similar to the ones in previous posts for whole chickens, except larger. For these pork ribs I used a target temperature of 350-370, instead of the lower temperature I use for chickens. This was important.
To fit them in the smoker, I cut 1/3 off of each slab and placed the pieces in 3 rows. The thermometer is above the middle row at a good average place.
Even with the larger than normal fire stack I initially used, I had to add wood three times to keep the temperature up. I used plenty of air venting at both the fire and chimney side.
At 2.5 hours they were damn good, and we took the pieces shown off the grill. BUT at at 3:00 hours they were fantastic! 3 whole hours, highly recommended. Be honest, it your temperature didn’t spend quality time at 370, extend the time a bit. Meat should fall off but nothing at all should be burned.
We used this sauce. Add salt if you like.
Nothing else. (Don’t forget your dog!)