Before Red’s opened we’d toiled over this recipe. After many years of trial and error, great successes and dismal disappointments, we’re now happy to share our techniques to help Pitmasters smoke the finest piece of beef they will ever experience.
A brisket is made up of two parts: the point (moist) is the part that sits on the top of the cut, and the flat (lean), is the bottom. The main difference is that the point has a load more fat content, and therefore requires longer cooking. The end that consists of mostly flat is also referred to as the hunk of flat (HOF), while the remaining part is known as the hunk of point (HOP). One thing to bear in mind is that the HOF will cook faster than the HOP so check those temperatures closely during the smoke. Remember: ‘lookin’ ain’t cookin’’, so be sure to invest in a remote digital probe. Ask your butcher to order in a whole untouched brisket, which is essentially the whole muscle taken straight from the beast. The untouched brisket will need to be trimmed of a lot of its fat. The aim is to remove excess fat while leaving behind a good 1cm layer. This is essential for keeping your brisket moist and tender after the smoke.
1. The day before you want to smoke, prepare the brisket. Trim the fat off the underside of the brisket (not the point side) to enable the rub to penetrate the meat and give a better flavour.
2. Rub the trimmed brisket with olive oil and then the beef coffee rub. Make sure you work it in well. We use oil mostly because spices are more soluble in oils than they are in water-based substances like mustard, which is also a popular ingredient, added in the rub stage. And remember to RUB, not sprinkle! Wrap the rubbed beef in cling film and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 24 hours. The salt in the rub will help to give the brisket a good smoke ring, whilst all the sugars and spices will dissolve and their flavours will start to penetrate the meat.
3. Take the brisket out of the fridge a couple of hours before it goes in the smoker to allow it to reach room temperature. Meanwhile, prepare your smoker for indirect cooking at 150°C (300°F).
4. When the smoker is ready, place the beef inside, point-side down. This is important as the fat will insulate the meat and keep it moist. Insert a digital probe thermometer into the thickest part of the brisket. Add a couple of chunks of wood (remember to keep checking these do not burn out) and keep them topped up for the first 3 hours. Smoke the brisket for 3 hours at 150°C (300°F).
5. Roll out enough aluminium foil (shiny-side up) to wrap the brisket. Drizzle the foil with the olive oil, and then rub it all over the surface of the foil. The oil helps to dilute the spices, and improves the punchiness of the rub.
6. Place the meat in the smoker. Meanwhile, mix the Worcestershire sauce and water together in a clean, sterilised spray bottle to make a spritz. Once the meat reaches an internal temperature of 60°C (140°F), remove it from the smoker and place it HOP-side up on the oiled aluminium foil. Generously spray the whole piece of meat with the spritz, and give it another generous sprinkling of any leftover beef rub for added flavour if you like. Wrap the whole thing up in such a way that will create a sealed vessel. When you open it later you can collect all the lovely juices.
7. Place the wrapped brisket in the smoker, being careful not to puncture the foil. The sealed foil package will speed the cooking process and ensure that the meat stays tender. This technique is known as crutching and its main objective is to help harness the heat already in the meat, and ensure a constant increase in temperature during the ‘stall’.
8. Let the meat continue to smoke at 150°C (300°F) for a further 2 hours, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 80°C (176°F). At this point, open up your smoker and gently peel back enough of the foil from the top of the brisket to enable you to lift the meat out without losing the beefy juices in the bottom of the foil. Carefully pour all of the juices into a jug or bowl and reserve. Leave the brisket in the smoker for a further hour at 150°C (300°F) to help finish off the bark and ensure a good texture on the outside of the meat.
9. After 1 hour, or when the brisket reaches an internal temperature of 92°C (197°F), remove it from the smoker. Wrap the brisket in cling film, and then in an old towel or blanket and place it into a cool box.
10. Allow the brisket to rest undisturbed for at least 1 hour. When you are ready to serve the brisket, the way in which you cut it will be dictated by the result of your smoke. Rule of thumb is that you always cut against the grain. This gives a much more tender slice of meat because of the way the muscle strands lie in conjunction with your teeth chewing them. So for this reason if you’ve overdone it, slice it thin, but if it’s just right, go ahead and slice off thick manly portions. This is straightforward when you have smoked a HOF. But in a perfectly smoked HOP, the grain of the flat and the point run in different directions. If you’ve smoked a HOP, it will have flat as part of it, so follow the instructions as above. Once you get to the point, you can do one of three things. 1: Separate the point muscle from the flat, and cut both pieces perpendicular to the grain of the meat. 2: Turn the whole piece 90 degrees and slice through both muscles. This will result in both muscles being cut through perpendicular at a 45-degree angle, resulting in a much more tender slice of brisket. Remove the point and re-add to the smoker to make burnt ends.
11. Serve the brisket immediately for best results, and preferably with the warmed up juices retained from the foil, with a touch of your favourite BBQ sauce whisked in for added flavour and moisture.