Thursday, August 11, 2011

Smokin’ Barbecue Brisket

I lived in Texas over thirty-five years before taking a case of beer and a brisket to a friend’s house and demanding he teach me how to barbecue brisket the right way. I had tried and failed many times; it’s not something you learn by doing. After the day-long lesson, and a few successes, I can now share the elusive secret. Most important ingredients to start: good friends, beer/Piña colada /daiquiris, music, sunshine and a cool breeze.

Purchase an untrimmed brisket with minimum hard fat deposits. The hard fat is thick; you can feel it when you squeeze the brisket with your hand. A leaner brisket will also fold slightly when you suspend it by the ends. Trim the brisket leaving minimum fat. Apply Lawry’s Season Salt to the surface of the meat; rub it in.

Create marinade and simmer on stove about 30 minutes. Adjust ingredients for larger/multiple briskets.

  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1 12 oz beer
  • ¼ c white vinegar
  • ¼ c lime juice (fresh squeezed, include the rind)
  • 1/3 c Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ c red wine
  • 1 tbs Lawry’s season salt
  • ¾ of an onion, diced
  • 4 fresh garlic cloves – crushed

After you’ve trimmed the meat, rubbed it and made the marinade, let the meat sit in the marinade over night. Save the marinade. Now look at your grill and wood.

The wood is important because different woods give off different flavors. For the best brisket, I recommend pecan…and only pecan. Mesquite is just too strong. Maple is too sweet. It won’t take much wood if you use a gas grill like I do.

My grill is a standard stainless steel model made by Barbecues Galore called the “Grand Turbo.” It was not designed as a smoker; however, a little creativity can turn it into one. After lighting the coolest burner, the one on the extreme right facing the grill, I put a couple pieces of pecan directly on the lower grate over the burner. I then stack the meat on the upper rack as far from the wood as possible. The wood will smolder if the heat is kept low enough. If it stops smoking, then you have a fire. Put the fire out and separate the wood pieces or move them farther from the burner.

I keep the smoke going for about five hours with the temperature around 325 degrees. I also cut up a large brisket so it can be stacked away from the wood. During the five hour smoking period, I rotate/turn the meat on the stack to ensure the thinnest meat is kept as far from the wood as possible (so it won’t turn to jerky) and to expose more meat surface to the smoke. When the meat is properly smoked, it will have a glaze-like red color.

You can take a couple of different paths at this point, depending on your goal. If you want meat that literally falls off the fork, seal it in foil (double wrap) and lower the cooking temperature to about 225 (you might have to remove residual smoldering wood to get the temperature down). Pour the marinade on the brisket inside the foil pouch. Cook the brisket using indirect heat for another two hours. The brisket is tender when you can lift the ends of the foil and the middle sags into a “V.” To check the right amount of heat during cooking, use a PVC pipe to listen for a boil when it is cooking. Adjust fire to maintain a low cooking temperature.

I have tried the above, and sure enough, the meat falls off your fork. But that’s not my preference. I like just a tiny bit of toughness…just enough for your teeth to tell they are munching something fantastic. I also don’t like the fact that the boiling process dilutes the flavor of the smoke. So, for the second path, I set the pile of meat inside a large turkey cooking pan, the kind with a little stand that can hold a whole bird. I then pour the marinate under the stand, put a lid on and cook at 225 degrees in the oven for two hours. In this case, the steam softens the meat, but it doesn’t dilute the smoky flavor. Very tender and delicious.

Smokin’ Read While Waiting

Although the cooking process is better with friends and beer, there are times you’ll be cooking alone. A good read will keep you in stitches and prepare you for the party to follow. I recommend The Substitute. Here’s the blurb:

Miss Havana’s public persona was far from the truth because, in her capacity as substitute teacher, the small community where she lived knew her as the breathtakingly beautiful young woman who demanded every student learn, but in her private life, ostensibly caring for aging parents in Chicago, she raced through the lives of powerful men, leaving a wake of destruction…and a deep desire for revenge. Little did she realize her conflicted life would end in a chaotic death at an early age, and to eternal conflict with the devil. The surprise ending will leave the reader stunned and gasping for more.

The Substitute is available in from http://www.solsticepublishing.com/, Amazon and other e-book outlets.

About the Author

Although his Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. are in Chemistry and Meteorology, James worked as a scientist and system/software engineer before retiring a third time, then turned to writing. Extensive travel, from Thule, Greenland to Australia’s Great Barrier reef – and to dozens of countries in between – provide the real-life experiences he incorporates into everything he writes.

James enjoys boating, kayaking, skiing, traveling, hiking, tending nine grandchildren (no more than two at a time), and ballroom dancing, but his first love is writing, and all other activities are molded around it. He has completed seven novels and one short story, and intends to continue writing in the Sci-Fi and Paranormal Comedy genres. He has contracts with xoxopublishing.com, Solstice Publishing and Eternal Press.

Thanks for reading.

James L. Hatch








Tina Donahue said...

I didn't know you had a PhD, James - wow, that's something.

You sound like you have your brisket barbecuing down pat, so I think I'll let you do the cooking. :)

Delaney Diamond said...


Sarah J. McNeal said...

I love a man you can barbeque. LOL
I remember you told me that you never did forcasts as a meteorologist when we talked about my dad who did. I remember that almost every year at the annual weatherman's cookout, it would invariably rain. The news media always had fun with that little tidbit. Be glad you didn't have to suffer the humiliation of a forcast gone wrong.
I love the cover for The Substitute. I know it's going to be quite a success.
All the best to you James. Loved your blog today.

Renee Vincent said...

Oh I love a man that can cook, too! James, you keep surprising me every time I read your posts. Can I hire you to cook for me on a daily basis? haha

Great post, James!

Adele Dubois said...

James--Your post was really fun to read. The brisket sounds like heaven! Thanks for the recipe. Best of luck with your book!


Brenda Hyde said...

Wow, that sounds SO good. Thanks for the tips- I only have a gas grill, but I saw this one I hope they put it on clearance-- it's half gas, and the half can be used for wood or charcoal. The best of both worlds:)

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Tina, Delaney, Sarah and Renee. I just got in from salmon fishing. It is unreal here: 72 degrees, greenery everywhere and an abundance of fish. Wow! Yes, I maxed my limit today with a couple of 18 pounders, and proved conclusively that even retired people can vacation with purpose! Love it.

Thank you all for your great comments. I really do love to barbecue, and generally grill three to four times each week. My honey grilled chicken legs are a favorite of all the grandchildren. Cooking is one of the things remaining on my bucket list, especially exotic sauces. I've acquired a few French sauce cookbooks, and will begin that training soon.

Yes, Tina, I have a Ph.D., but rarely tell anyone. If you ever have to say it, you've probably failed already.

Thanks again for all the kind comments.


James L. Hatch said...

Hi Adele and Brenda. I would have included you guys in my previous post, but was grilling salmon when the comments came in. My brother bought a large grill after I gave him a few lessons, but I always do the cooking when it comes to things like salmon (where there is little room for error).

Thanks for the encouraging comments. I am thinking I will begin a blog soon, something like "Cookin' with Miss Havana", where I will share humorous stories about cooking (from her POV) as well as some serious recipes). I suspect my secret salmon glaze will be a huge hit.

Thanks again for reading ladies.