One of the hardest things to teach people about grilling is dealing with ever changing circumstances that may or may not be out of their control. Grilling on a muggy summer day is much different than grilling in a blustery Autumn day and certain things should be done to account for the different weather. Grilling one day with an empty grill and then another with the bottom full of ash and thus a fire much more subdued than the previous cook out can greatly slow down the cooking process. Cooking chicken over direct heat and trying to keep the flare ups down with a squirt bottle while keeping the heat up in the grill enough to still cook the meat. There are many times the griller has to overcome some unforeseen problem.
I doubt I will ever be able to document all the obstacles I have ever faced while grilling but this last weekend I had a minor catastrophe that I had to deal with. I did a Brisket Sunday and made a crucial mistake that could’ve have easily resulted in an epic failure. Click below to see what I did to screw up and how I responded to that blunder…
Before I get into how this cookout went terribly wrong let’s start from the beginning. I picked up this 5.5 beauty at a local meat market near my house:
This is a pic of the brisket with the fat cap up. Someone asked me recently what the difference was. The above is fat cap up, below is fat cap down:
See the difference? I noticed a bad spot on the fat side that I removed. This happens from time to time. As long as the bad spot is small just trim it out. This was about the size of a dime and in the fat rather than the meat. Had it been larger and in the meat I would’ve taken the cut back to the butcher:
You may be wondering what that container is that the meat is in. It’s advertised as something specifically designed for marinading meat. The top and bottom of the inside of the container are lined with these little pyramids:
I guess the theory is that the squared inverted dimples would elevate the meat a bit and allow more marinade to touch it. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but it’s the perfect size for a brisket that is too big for a gallon ziplock bag.
Now for the prep. I dusted the outside of the brisket with granulated garlic, black and white pepper:
Now on to the marinade. Nothing fancy. Just horseradish mustard:
I slathered it all over the meat on each side – you can see the divot I created carving out that little bad spot:
Closed it off and into the fridge on Friday night. Next stop, Sunday morning – That’s right, a two day marinade:
Sunday morning I pulled it from the fridge and prepped my rub:
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp dried mustard
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp smoked salt (regular salt can be used here)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp each of black and white pepper
Here is the brisket in a disposable aluminum pan with the rub. The dry mop ingredients next to it:
The dry mop ingredients are as follows:
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp smoked salt (again use what you have here in terms of salt)
1/2 tsp each of black and white pepper:
Mix that together with the wet ingredients:
1 pumpkin beer (insert you fave beer here)
1 cup white vinegar
The primary wood I used here was hickory:
I also used some small apple chunks as well. The little chunks are better than chips but they don’t last long. Not a fan so I was just sort of getting rid of them. If you’re not a fan of hickory or don’t have access to it, check this link for a list of close to 50 different woods and such that you can use to smoke meat.
I set this up for indirect grilling. I realize that the grill is an offset smoker but I get much more consistent results just using it as a horizontal drum smoker with the indirect cooking method. With the chimney on the left I put the coals and smoke wood on the right and the meat on the left so the smoke traverses over the meat on its way out of the chamber via the chimney:
And yes, that is a thermometer probe inserted into the thickest part of the brisket. I have never used this probe in meat before. I have just used it to check cooking temps in the grills I use. I wanted to quantify the process a little more so I used the thermometer here.
The grill always runs hot at first because it doesn’t seal very well. So it ran about 300 for the first 90 minutes or so until I could get the temp down. I mopped at 90 minutes at which time the internal temp read about 150:
I mopped it again an hour later. By this time I had gotten the temp to where I wanted it about 225-250 by reducing the amount of coals on the right. As you can see a nice crust is forming with the rub:
After 3.5 hours the internal temp was around 180. This is where it gets sort of interesting. I foiled it. Covered the top of the aluminum tray with two layers of foil to make sure I got a good seal:
I realize that’s not all that interesting, but right after I foiled it I heard my son scream. 17 months old. He had gone up to a card table leaning against the wall that I had out to set up for dinner later and pulled it down on himself. He was OK but it scared the crap out of him. Well I rushed in to make sure he’s OK. My wife was holding and soothing him. In a couple of minutes he’s running around again like nothing happened. After that I went downstairs to watch football. And that was my mistake.
About an hour later I went up to check the fire. I go outside and the lid to the grill is still open from when I foiled the meat. When my son screamed I turned immediately and went inside. I didn’t close the lid on the grill. My meager fire that was holding the cooking chamber at 225 was just a few tiny bits of coals and the internal temp of the brisket was around 155 (the temp is on the left, the right is the alarm point at which it will start flashing if it goes over that):
I figure that the meat did some steaming in the pan for a while before it cooled down, but I basically stopped cooking for an hour and had a dozen people coming over for some brisket in 4 hours. Many things were going through my head including the words, “epic fail,” and how many pizzas I would need to feed 12.
Rather than give up hope I decided to whatever it was I could to try to salvage this mess. I had to start up a half a chimney of coals as there was no saving the little fire I had left in the grill. Once I got a nice pile of coals I literally slid the brisket right over the coals. Jump starting brisket like this may not have been a good idea. Brisket is all about low and slow to break down the connective tissue so it will be tender. But I had to do something to other than push dinner back to after 9:00 pm.
I decided I couldn’t do much more so I went back downstairs to watch more football. About 45 minutes later I smelled something burning. The grill was close to a window near to the where I was in the basement. I ran back up, slid it over to the other side and continue to cook it indirect.
That burning smell turned out to be from the thickened juices at the bottom of the pan. As they steamed out the amount of the juices got less and less. The edges of the little pool of juices in the pan blackened and burned a bit which was much better than the alternative. And the only reason it was not the meat is I placed the brisket fat cap down. A lot of people put the fat cap up so it will baste the meat but to me that really diminishes the mop sauce which bastes and flavorizes at the same time. That sauce is not penetrating that fat cap but it will penetrate the meat on the other side. That fat cap insulated the meat from the direct heat when I kick started the cooking process.
90 minutes after kick starting it the internal temp hit 200:
I pulled the foil off – check out the steam action:
I left it on the grill for another 15 or so in the pan. I then took it out of the pan and placed it on a large sheet of foil and wrapped it up:
You can see some of the blackened spots in the aluminum pan that gave off the burnt smell. I then put it in the microwave to stay warm. A cooler or an oven works well too:
90 minutes later it was the moment of truth – carving time. The wine was to drown my sorrows should this thing be like shoe leather. That is a Zen of Zin Zinfandel from Ravenswood that is really good and around $12:
So how does it look:
I’m not sure if the picture does it justice but it was spectacular. So tender it melted in our mouths. Despite the disaster of that hour off in the middle of the process, the foil really saved my bacon, or in this case my brisket.
The steaming action in the foil seems to accelerate the process of breaking down those connective tissues and keeps it very moist all the while. And while everyone told me it was really good, the real testament was my 10 year old niece, Katherine, who went back for seconds and thirds. That and there being just about none left at the end.
A couple of things about slicing brisket – the thinner the better and across the grain.
Now onto the actual meal. Couple of sammies for me:
And coleslaw is not just for pulled pork. It’s great on brisket too:
Still some room on that plate. What about sides? Fresh green beans, or as my son calls them, mean beans, with plenty of bacon:
And my wife’s cheesy potatoes made in muffin tins:
The recipe for the potatoes is sliced potatoes, layered with colby jack cheese and green onions. A little salt and pepper and two table spoons of heavy cream per potato muffin. Then 350 degrees in the oven covered with foil for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 30 more minutes
Heavy cream and bacon? Brisket and coleslaw? Not the healthiest of meals. But I did have whole grain Sarah Lee buns on hand to lighten the load just a little. That may not be a lot but hey, pick your battles. The rest of the week I’ll be watching my portions and my carbs. But on the weekend I eat like this:
So what’s the lesson here? Foiling is your friend with brisket. I plan on doing another one of these again soon to try to perfect the process without the one hour lapse in the middle. Then again, this turned out so well, maybe I should do it this way again?!?! Nah…
If you liked this recipe you may want to check out other beef products we have done on the grill by clicking here.
As usual, if you have any questions about the brisket, leave a comment below or shoot me an email.
Here is a link to a discussion of this recipe on the air on the Houston airwaves.