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David Theiss: Brisket for National Barbecue Month (recipe)

By David Theiss

May is National Barbecue Month, and along with burgers and steaks, another one of my favorite meats to smoke on the barbecue is brisket!

Now cooking a brisket is a labor of love, it’s not for the faint of heart or the impatient. Brisket takes all the love you can give it, including a good strategy and lots of patience. A delicious dry rub is a must, and a trusty barbecue/smoker with consistent heat will reward you with some of the best barbecue you’ll ever eat.

The secret to the best barbecue starts with the cut of the beef. Brisket is from the front ¼ of a steer’s pectoral muscle. With long and stringy muscle tissue and a lot of connective tissue and fat, there is great marbling not only on the outside but also the inside. While the beef slowly cooks, the fat is rendered throughout, giving it its delicious beef flavor that only brisket can deliver.

Brisket is known to be a staple in many cultures, for example Jewish and Texan, but the way it’s prepared can be very different. A “low and slow” style of cooking is often used similarly among cultures; but in the Jewish culture, it is usually cooked in a pan with a different liquids to get the flavor the beef the way they like, then covered and baked for about half of the time a Texan would cook it.

Delicious in its own right, it’s just not the delicious that is barbecue. Texas brisket recipes are often very simple using just salt and pepper for seasoning paired with a dry heat and a good portion of smoke. Texans also like to trim their briskets leaving little fat behind, and cook it at around 230 degrees for 12 hours.

For this recipe I am going to take this delicious piece of beef one step further and use Wagyu beef – a superior beef breed for its flavor and tenderness. I carry several Wagyu cuts this time of year and although it’s definitely more expensive, it has an incredible flavor. Check out some more facts on U.S. Wagyu beef at https://wagyu.org/breed-info/what-is-wagyu.

A little more information before the recipe: all briskets are not the same. You’ll want to look for at least USDA Choice or better. It’s the marbling that makes the best flavor, and you won’t get it from lower grade beef. Also, I like to trim very little fat off of the brisket before cooking because I believe it keeps the brisket moist while cooking. I’m going to cook a whole brisket for this recipe, but smaller pieces are OK too, you will just have to adjust the cooking time. (I will clue you in as to how long to cook it.

Barbecued Brisket:

  • 1 whole beef Brisket slightly trimmed
  • Your favorite meat rub (I carry several different kinds)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • Hickory smoking chips

Open your brisket, after being slightly trimmed and generously rub the entire brisket with your favorite meat rub. Place on smoker or barbecue making sure your cooking temperature is right at 225 degrees.

For my recipe I am going to use a pellet smoker, but I have also done it on a gas barbecue with some smoking chips to add smoke flavor. I don’t recommend charcoal as it is hard to regulate the heat and you will have to continually add fuel to the fire to keep it going that long. If you are using a gas barbecue, be sure not to let it start on fire! You can use burners on the alternate side of the fire to create indirect heating to prevent flare-ups.

 Cook for 4 hours – try not to open the lid and check on it… it just delays the process! After 4 hours, remove from the rack and wrap in foil completely; place back in smoker and cook for another 4 hours. After the second set of 4 hours, open the foil and pour the beef broth over the brisket. Recover with the foil and let it finish cooking for the final 4 hours. The Internal temp for brisket that you would be able to slice consistent slices is 195 degrees. For a fall-apart tender Brisket, temp should be 210 degrees. For smaller pieces of brisket use internal temp as a gauge to when it will be done, that is the best way to make sure you have it cooked enough.

Let’s play with your food!

I know, I know… Your parents always told you to stop playing with your food and just eat it, but I’m asking you to at least arrange it a little! Recently a friend of mine sent me a picture of their fully decorated jalapeno burger, and its amazing composition gave me an idea of what other creative food arrangements could be done. So, I am making it a competition! All you have to do is take some pictures of your creative food arrangements! Make it fun, it must be food, cooked or not, (preferably not chewed) and email it to me at, info@butlermeats.com and I’ll pick a winner! First prize is a $100 gift certificate to Butler Meats, 2nd place is a $50 gift certificate and 3rd is a $25 gift certificate. I am looking forward to seeing your creative entries! I’ll be in touch if you win. Thanks for sharing the fun! We will be taking submissions until May 31st.

Enjoy cooking outdoors.

David Theiss is owner of Butler Meats, serving Carson City for over 46 years. Butlermeats.com.