I was just reading a four page discussion about how to cook brisket on the BBQ Breathren forum, which is an awesome place to talk 'cue. They referenced our brisket, so I chimed in with a long list of things we've learned about cooking brisket. I thought that some of the folks on our site might be interested, so I'm reposting my response here. It was written hastily, so I'm sure it's filled with errors. Still, might be helpful to some.
My response from Briskets: Separating the "good" from the "transcendent" a thread on the BBQ Breathren forum.
Hi All -
I was just poking around and saw this thread, and saw my brisket... so I thought I'd chime in. Maybe this will be helpful... maybe not. But here's what we do:
First, there seems to be a lot of talk about the grade of brisket. What I can tell you is that the best quality brisket that I've been able to cook have been choice. Not prime. In my personal experience, prime packs a bit too much fat, and doesn't render as well. The briskets we use are also called 'natural' - which is sort of a strange term, because it means something different to every company that stamps the word on the side of their box. The two words that seem to be universal, however, is 'hormone free' and 'antibiotic free.' The hormone free is probably the most important one for me. It seems less growth hormones mean smaller cows, and smaller briskets, which I prefer. For natural sourcing, I've used beef from Creekstone, Meyer, and Niman. Meyer and Niman only produce 'natural' beef, Creekstone has a natural and a commodity line.
To trim we cut all but about 1/4 an inch of fat off the flat, remove the divot of tough fat near the connection of the flat and the point, on the topside of the brisket. We trim off excess fat at the very tip of the point and running along the side. If any bits of muscle seem grey or dry, cut them off. On the side, you might notice a large channel of fat running between the flat and the point. It's generally pretty tough stuff. I find that it's smaller on the naturals, and can be massive on commodity beef. You can cut some of this out, but understand that if you do, it will increase the surface area of the brisket, could potentially alter the cook time, and might make it ugly, which is the worst. If you're using a small brisket, this channel shouldn't be super large. If it is, you can cut a bit away, but I wouldn't fuss with it too much. It's better to just cut it out during service. On the underside, you might have a giant wedge of nasty connective tissue and fat. Just lob that whole thing out. It's useless. Also, we like briskets under 12lbs, and like to see a nice thick flat, with a good layer of fat. Also, a minimal slope between the flat and point is best. It'll cook more evenly.
For rub, we just use salt and pepper. Specifically we get whole Tellicherry peppercorns and run them through an old BUNN coffee grinder, then pass that through a sieve - the dusty pepper debris is used for other cooking at the restaurant, while the nice large bits go into our rub. We do this daily. We also use Morton's kosher salt. You can use Diamond too, but understand that the salinity is higher, and the crystals are smaller, so you'll have to adjust your rub. I'd suggest starting at 50/50 by weight, and adjust to your taste from there. Also, always do rubs by weight. Volume is worthless if you want to be consistent.
Season the meat as you see fit. For our beef ribs, we use like, a half a teaspoon of rub on a whole rib. Basically nothing. For briskets, we pack it on. Not all places do. Some go sparingly, others dredge. Total preference. Next, we let the brisket sit in the for a day or two (depending on the size), to let some of the salinity penetrate and to form a pellicle. Then it's time to smoke.
I think this is the hardest thing to talk about. Every day at the restaurant folks will ask what temperature we cook at. I have no problem disclosing, but I feel that I'm doing a disservice because our temperatures are what our smoker needs to work well, and one size doesn't fit all. I used to have a small kettle smoker, and and then a mid-sized offset from Home Depot. Both needed an entirely different set of time and temperatures. What I can say is this. The bigger smoker, the easier it will be to net a great product. Smaller smokers tend to have thinner the walls which will lead to tons of fluctuation during the cook. Fluctuation sucks. Your briskets hate it, and so will your guests. So, if you can get an insulated smoker, get one. If not, try putting some bricks on and around your firebox, or wrap the whole thing in metal insulation. You can throw firesafe moving blankets over the cook chamber. The point is, hold the heat in. Get creative. But understand that holding heat isn't the same as cutting off airflow and oxygen. You should allow your fire to get the oxygen it needs or it will start to smolder and produce acrid smoke. Not tasty.
Ok, on to the cook:
We start cooking at a low temperature, which will make your wood smoke more. The pellicle will help trap the smoke. We use wood aged for about one and a half years. We use all white oak, no charcoal or lighter fluid. The wood is pretty dry stuff. It burns really clean. Not much silty smoke. We'll go low for a few hours, maybe 4 depending on the size of the briskets, then we'll crank the heat into the 250 - 260's for another 4, and will finally go up to 310 - 325. We also wrap our briskets with butcher paper when they get a nice color. Wrapping them tightly will hold in more moisture and induce a bit of a braise, wrap them loose and the paper will release more fat. Up to you. That last cycle at the end seems that it would burn the briskets, and maybe if you have a small smoker it will, so be careful, but for us it actually sort of cauterizes the meat. It allows us to sear the outside, which I've found helps retain more moisture on the inside, especially in the flat. When it's done we'll let them breath for a moment on the smoker, then I'll rest them for around 4 hours before we serve them. Save the butcher paper, you can use it to light the fire next time.
It should also be said that I like to serve super tender brisket. Many places prefer much more of a steaky texture. That's totally preference, but it's not mine.
Anyway, I hope this is helpful. My biggest take aways are:
- The quality of the beef has a huge impact on the final product. Call the meat companies, figure out who is the local distributor, and drive there. Coerce them into selling you a nice ass brisket. Ask them to go inside the plant and pick one.
- What we do, or any of the other BBQ guys do, is ALWAYS slave to the smoker. You've got to, got to, got to keep working to understand your cooker. That's the key.
- No dirty fires, no dirty smokers, clean it all, season it. Treat it like precious cast iron cookware.
- Insulation is your friend.
- A good brisket doesn't need much seasoning.
I don't know what else. I hope this is helpful. Feel free to write back if there are any questions.
Hopefully you all are having a wonderful holiday season, and are gearing up for a great 2013. I'm so very excited to announce a bunch of killer new things coming up at BrisketTown this year:
NOW OPEN MONDAYS
I'm so proud to announce that we've been selling out each night since we opened! To keep up folks bellies filled, we're now opening up shop on Mondays! Visit our website for our new hours.
Starting on January 5th, it'll be Taco Town! We're expanding our menu to be open during the day with Tex-Mex-style breakfast tacos. We'll be open for tacos Monday through Friday from 8AM until 12PM, and Saturday and Sunday from 8AM until 3PM. Our menu will change frequently, but expect some awesome new proteins, including house cured and smoked pulled pork bacon tacos! Nom nom nom.
Since rolling out our pie program about a month ago, folks have been devouring our delicious pies like crazy. Most nights we even sell out before the meat! Starting on January 5th, we'll be making pie available all day long. To boot, we'll be adding a bunch of new pastries, both savory and sweet, to the menu. Oh, and WiFi… we've got that.
In the weeks to come, expect a few new sides to be added to our dinner menu including braised greens, baked beans, and *maybe* even mac and cheese!
It's been our goal from the start to work with as many local purveyors as possible, and to forge lasting and meaningful relationships. In the last month a few new ones came into fruition. We started working with Blue Bottle for our drip coffee, The Bedford Cheese Shop for the fromage available for sale during dinner, and in our sides and tacos, as well as Heritage Foods for a good amount of our pork! We'll keep you posted as new relationships develop.
We've been plowing full steam ahead with our catering program. We've been dropping off delicious smoked meats to companies like Foursquare and Stumptown Coffee, and folks have been loving it! If you or your company is interested in our catering program, please visithttp://delaneybbq.com/catering
MORE COMING SOON!
There are more great announcements coming soon, including additional seating, later hours, and beer - but one thing at a time! Thank you all for your continued patronage and support. I hope each and every one of you has a happy and healthy 2013, and I can't wait to see you all at BrisketTown! Be sure to say Hi to us on Facebook, and we'll see you soon.
I feel bad. I had hoped to keep blogging throughout the summer, posting photos from all the events in real time. Unfortunately the rigor of our series got the best of me, and I've been delinquent in keeping up with the site. In the days to come I'll start posting recaps from the events, and many of the photos are already up in our gallery. But that's not really what this post is about.
Last night was our last Brisketlab, and what an event it was! Figures that after 30 successful evenings with great weather, our 31st and last would come with a typhoon! We braved the weather and served what might have been some of our best brisket to date. Glad to go out with a bang!
I want to send a big thanks to all of you who gambled, took the risk, and got in on our cooky meat project, without much info at all. We're miles from where we were at the start, and that couldn't have happened without your dedication and support. To thanks!
I also have to give a huge thanks to both Hunter and Angela, without whom the entire series couldn't have happened. Hunter put in tireless hours with me at the smoker, preparing sides, handling customer support issues, and carting boxes of smoked meat. Angela single handily planned 31 amazing labs, booked 31 brilliant bands, and coordinated over 100 volunteers. Not an easy task. So, thank you both.
And now it's time to build a restaurant. Keep your eyes on the site. We'll post more as it develops.
Our sixth Brisketlab was at the beautiful Brooklyn Winery in Williamsburg, and man, what an incredible space that is! The massive interior is divided up into two sections, one with an all glass atrium, the other filled with giant fermentation vats. The brisket came out wonderfully - nice bark, fat rendered well, and the seasoning was great. I think we're really getting close!
At this lab we had the music of Baby Soda. I even grabbed a clip of their last number! Check it out:
As with all the labs, staff photographer Matthew Kanbergs was on scene snapping away:
Plus, you all took amazing photos. Here are those from the event tagged #Brisketlab on Instagram: