Sunday, July 31, 2011

Smoking Is Addictive: Brisket

Gentle reader, between the 100-plus-degree temps afflicting Brooklyn this summer and the fact that I have a new new job, my commitment to cooking at home has kind of fallen by the BQE-side. In fact, I have barely set foot in my kitchen in weeks, other than to deposit cold beers in the fridge and then take them out. (Mad props to Alyce for picking up my posting slack and then some!)

However, thanks to our friend Lawyer Mike, I do have some food news to report. You see, it turns out that smoking meat is every bit as addictive as smoking cigarettes or crack, though perhaps slightly less carcinogenic.

You may recall that on Memorial Day weekend, I smoked a pork shoulder at a friend’s place. This experiment gave rise to a weekend-ly smoking ritual: Since then, that friend, Lawyer Mike, has regularly embarked on meat-smoking projects—including ribs, pastrami, pork butt, and brisket—on pretty much every subsequent Saturday this summer (with The Rob's sporadic assistance). While all of these endeavors have yielded results ranging from "pret-tay, pret-tay good" to "nomnomnomnom," Mike's second take on brisket was a serious case of practice makes perfect—OMG, it was fantastic.

Now, I'm not gonna lie: Apart from repeatedly whining "When is it gonna be readyyyyyy?!", my only involvement in this meatsterpiece was slicing it up (which busted open the preexisting chopping callous at the base of my right index finger, causing a blister—does that count as a sports injury? Because I've never had one otherwise...) and subsequently eating it. But I feel that you, gentle reader, should nonetheless reap the benefits of this triumph of smokeration.

Thus, I grilled Lawyer Mike (get it? Because a smoker has a grill, and also he is a lawyer—see what I did there???) on the steps he took to create this unbelievably tasty and tender hunk of meat. (Caveat eater: This will take time, and lots of it.) Here’s what he told me:

How long did it brine?
Well, let's see, I got home around 5. I saw that B61 [Ed’s note: the bar where I met Alyce, The Rob, and Lawyer Mike, although not in that order] was open, but I said let's take care of business first. So I'd say I had it soaking in brine by 6 p.m. Then I took it out around 6:30 a.m the next day.

What was in the brine and rub?
The brine? Well, the brisket was 8 1/2 pounds, so I used about a gallon of water. Heat it up, add 3/4 cup rock salt, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 onion sliced and diced, 2 bay leaves crinkled into little bits, a couple scoops of Stumptown coffee [Ed’s note: Stumptown! Ooh, fancy; I guess you think you’re better than me], a handful of peppercorns, about 3/4 cup cider vinegar. Splash on some Worcestershire, maybe 1/4 cup. Don’t forget the garlic...probably 10 cloves sliced and diced.

The rub? Again, a couple scoops of fresh ground coffee, spread around some smoked paprika, ground pepper, rock salt (about 3 Ts of that was hickory-smoked from my last smoke-out), brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and some New Mexican chili powder.

You put it on at like 7, right?
By the time I put on the smoker, it was about 7:30 in the morning. I took it out of the brine at 6:30 a.m., rinsed it, and then spread the rub on. So it sat for an hour at room temperature with the rub soaking in. Mind you, when I say room temperature, it was fucking 95 degrees in my air-condition-less kitchen, so maybe the slow cooking started right there on the cutting board. I let it sit there until I got the smoker to the temperature I wanted, which was 220–225°.

What time did you put it in the foil? Any other observations you wish to share? Preparation points I’m missing?
I put it fat side up. There it stayed for about 5 hours. Then I flipped it over. I splashed on some brown sugar and cider vinegar every hour or so. After about 3 hours I flipped it back to fat side up and wrapped it with foil. It cooked for another 3 hours. The temperature got stuck at 160 for a couple hours.

Around the 12-hour mark, also known as 7 p.m Saturday, I took it off the smoker. It was only 180 degrees. I was shooting for 190. So I took it out of the foil and threw it on a flaming Weber barbeque. I let it char for 2 minutes each side, hoping to get that internal temperature up a bit. Then I put it in a foil pan, wrapped it in foil, and let it sit for 2 hours.

I made a couple simple sauces out of stuff already in the fridge:

  • One was mayo, dijon mustard, brown mustard and horseradish.

  • Two was ketchup, dijon mustard, cider vinegar, and Frank's hot sauce.

    Then you expertly cut it up. Put some in a hamburger roll with some sauce. People liked it.

  • And there you have it, folks. This is a major time commitment, to be sure, but it will feed a small army (or yield a week's worth of sandwiches); said crowd will be impressed and delighted; and more to the point, it will be delicious. Plus, it's exciting to do Just don’t blame us if you get hooked on smoking. All the cool kids are doing it!

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