barbecue beef brisket

Beef brisket must be the holy grail of barbecue, and it is a tricky meat for sure. A long flat muscle that does a huge percentage of the animal’s work, we could wonder why on Earth the bother? Flavour. Concentrated meaty flavour that doesn’t come from a jar. For those of us who long for the noisy streets of New York, it is also the route to deli pastrami.

You could of course pop the brisket in the slow cooker overnight but that becomes a different beast from the long slow smoke over coals. Where pulled beef brisket could be eaten with spoon and, delicious as it is, has a certain air of pappiness about it, barbecue beef brisket is tender yet whole. Soft yet chewy. It takes on the charcuterie quality that smoked or air-dried meat has.

If you have followed our month of USA barbecue then you should be a dab hand at the whole indirect cooking on the barbecue scene. Brisket is now your final challenge, and a worthwhile skill it is to master. Who amongst us does not have the innate desire to tame and control fire?

We have switched from lump wood to briquettes this time. It has been a learning curve, and the common knowledge about the differences between them offers a variety of opinions. Getting the grill to behave as an oven is not easy. Lump wood charcoal burns fast and bright, whereas briquettes last a little longer. The amount of heat generated is dictated by the amount of coals; to get as low as 225F you need fewer coals than you might imagine.

To keep the heat constant, we have used a chimney starter to generate a constant supply of already lit coals; just keep topping it up as necessary.

A new addition is the water bath. Placed underneath the meat, on the opposite side of the coals, it helps keep the thin flat muscle moist.

Brisket almost always comes rolled and tied. For these purposes, you need a flat piece. The butcher should hopefully oblige, but if not then just unroll the joint. Do not even attempt this with anything less than 2kg. Then you will need to remove the fine slivery skin from the surface; you can see how in the video that goes with this post.

Recipe for barbecue beef brisket

2kg beef brisket

2 tbsp sea salt

For the rub

2 tsp ancho chilli powder

1 tsp cayenne

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp onion powder

2 tsp dry mustard

Freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

3 tbsp oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp salt

1 tsp paprika

Black pepper, to taste

3 heaped tbsp dark brown sugar

150ml vinegar

75ml Worcester sauce

1 tsp tabasco

500ml ketchup

250ml yellow mustard

  1. Skin the meat and cover with the salt.
  2. Place in the fridge for at least 2 hrs.
  3. Light the barbecue with about 12 briquettes on one side.
  4. Place a tin of water on the other side and add a rack with an oven thermometer.
  5. The fire is ready at 225F.
  6. Mix the rub ingredients together and rub the meat all over.
  7. Place the meat on the rack and close the lid.
  8. This stage could take between 4 to 6 hours, until a meat thermometer reads 150F.
  9. Wrap the meat in foil and place back on the rack. Close the lid once more.
  10. Cook the meat this way until the thermometer reaches 203F, just beyond the red zone on the thermometer. It can take between 1 and 2 hours.
  11. Make the sauce over the hot side of the barbecue, or indoors if you prefer. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the shallots, garlic and salt. Stir until translucent.
  12. Add the paprika and black pepper; stir.
  13. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir, and simmer until thick. About 15 minutes. Leave aside to cool.
  14. When the meat is up to temperature, push the rack to the hot side of the grill. Remove the foil and grill on each side for 5 or 10 minutes to crisp up the bark.
  15. Serve thinly sliced with the sauce and any other barbecue sides such as corn, coleslaw, potato salad.