Last Recipe Monday I promised that this time around I’d dish out something meaty for you. Le voila!
I had never tried the ancient technique of smoking food before, but when my brother Marty found a kettle smoker set by the road for trash pick-up, he took it home, refurbished it and brought it to the family cottage. And there it sat on the deck for the better part of a year.
But with time on my hands a big group coming up for a summertime weekend, I decided we should risk the 6lb brisket my mom had bought, and either wow the crowd, or go down in a blaze of glory.
A couple of years ago I was a judge at the Canadian Open Barbecue Championships in Barrie, along the shores of Kempenfelt Bay, where I ate more food than anyone really should in one sitting. And it was there that my interest in smoking was first piqued. The preparation was simple and the barbecuing was lively and almost universally delicious. The key ingredient, I learned, was time. Lots of it.
Still, I was confident that this was something I could do. I just needed a plan. So I perused the Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen, the master on the subject, and set to work on my beefy mission.
As instructed, I threw together a dry rub, massaged it into the brisket, and then put it in the fridge to let it cure overnight. I bought some hickory chips, made sure we had charcoal on hand, and I went to bed. I’m not going to lie. I dreamed about meat that night. Deeply.
By 11 am the next morning I had my brother Andrew start up the fire while I soaked the chips in cool water. Before long, we were smoking the brisket on the smoker, using indirect heat from the attached charcoal compartment. We tossed on some soaked chips every once and a while and monitored the temperature within the smoker to be sure it didn’t get too hot.
As expected, I got bored after 45 minutes, so went inside to make some homemade barbecue sauce, then went swimming for the better part of the afternoon while Andrew took over smoking duties. About eight hours later, I slathered the fully cooked smoked brisket with my sauce and threw it on the barbecue to get some char on the outside with some good sticky bits (Raichlen doesn’t say to do this but he’s not the boss of me.)
By 8pm we all sat down to a dinner of the single best piece of food that I have ever made.
With fall coming on strong, winter can’t be far behind. I suggest you try this one before the mercury dips below zero. It really is an all-day project.
STEVEN RAICHLEN’S TEXAS-STYLE BARBECUED BRISKET
4-8 hours (or overnight) curing of meat. The next day, allow for 6-8 hours of smoking
6 cups hickory or mesquite chips or chunks, soaked for 1 hour in cold water to cover and drained
1 beef brisket (5-6 lbs), with a layer of fat at least ¼ inch thick, preferably ½ inch thick
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cumin
(*I didn’t follow his rub recipe. Instead, I combined lots of salt and brown sugar with a little black pepper and touch of cayenne.)
1. Rinse the brisket under cold water and blot dry.
2. Make dry rub and massage it into brisket on all sides. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
3. The next day, set up the charcoal grill or smoker for indirect heating. When ready to cook, toss 1 ½ cups of the wood chips on the coals. Place the brisket, fat side up, in an aluminum foil pan and place the pan in the centre of the grate, away from the heat. Bring lid down over grill.
4. Smoke cook the brisket until tender enough to shred with your fingers; six-eight hours will do it. Baste the brisket with the run off juices from time to time. All the while, keep replenishing the coals and chips. You should maintain a cooking temperature in the smoking chamber of about 250-270 degrees. Check in on it about every half hour.
5. If not mobbing it with barbecue sauce and then quick grilling it like I did, do what Raichlen says, and remove brisket from the pan and let it rest for 15 minutes. Slice against the grain, transfer the sliced meat to a platter, pour the pan juices on the top and serve at once.