Tips for Making Perfect Backyard Brisket
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Tender slices of juicy meat with a flavor-packed crust, brisket is a staple on any BBQ joint’s menu. What is it exactly? It’s a cut of beef taken from the breast section just under the first five ribs and is usually broken down into two different parts (it’s also what corned beef is made from). Brisket is typically cooked very slowly over a long period of time, which is one reason many home cooks don’t try it at home. But then Southern BBQ pro Myron Mixon came along with his hot and fast method, making this delicious cut of meat accessible to the home cook.
“It’s one of the easiest things to make in the backyard,” says the judge of TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters and author of a new cookbook, Smokin’ with Myron Mixon. Check out his easy-to-follow tips below and then try your hand at making his recipe for the Perfect Brisket and let us know how it turns out!
The Meat: Mixon says that the key to making great brisket is using the right grade of meat. He used to think that brisket was brisket, but there’s a lot more to it. While there’s a lot out available, the best is Wagyu, which is a type of cattle that has the most marbling of any piece of meat so it has a lot of fat interspersed throughout it — this makes a big difference in flavor and the time it takes to cook. It is an expensive piece of meat, but it is definitely worth it.
The Cut: Brisket is usually sold boneless and in two parts at most butcher shops: either the flat cut, which has minimal fat (and is more expensive) or the point cut, which is more flavorful and fatty. In his recipe, Mixon calls for a whole untrimmed brisket (so he can feed more people), which you might have to special order from your butcher. Though, if you do buy one of the cuts, you will need to adjust the cooking time because they will weigh less.
Trimming the Meat: Before you begin cooking the meat, you’ve got to remove the membrane (the web-like silvery coating on the meat). As Mixon writes in his book, this “involves slowly cutting away the layers of sticky white matter from the actual beef, and it can take damn near forever.” But if it’s not done, then your meat is going to be “tough and gummy instead of tender and juicy.” And if you’ve already invested in a good quality piece of meat, it’s not worth taking that risk. Mixon also mentions that another reason to remove the membrane is that a dry spice rub won’t stick to fat and the rub is what creates that delicious crust on the outside (read more about it below). So what’s the lesson here? Trim your meat. (Photo courtesy of Corbis/Jerry Errico/The Food Passionates)
Injecting with Beef Broth: The night before you want to cook it, place the meat in a Tupperware or in a pan and inject it with the broth-filled syringe everywhere except for the fat cap and let it sit overnight. Bring it out the next day and then continue with the rub.
Rubbing it Down: Apply the rub before it goes in the smoker. What’s the point of the rub? It’s used to add flavor to the outside crust and get that part nice and crisp. What does Mixon say to using ingredients like alcohol in the rub? (Think tequila or bourbon.) “To me, bourbon and wine are meant for drinking, let the BBQ stay pure.” (Photo courtesy of Corbis/Brian HagiwaraStudios, Inc.)
Cooking it Hot and Fast, Myron Mixon-Style: Instead of cooking all-night long, low and slow like the old-fashioned, traditional method, Mixon created his signature style of cooking that cuts back on time but still maintains that delicious flavor and taste. How? He cooks it hot and fast, uses a water pan, injects his meat, and maintains a constant smoker temperature. (Read more below.)
Internal Temperature: You’re looking for 205 degrees at the tip of the point, that’s where the probe should go.
Smoker Temperature: For the backyard, Mixon recommends having a 300 degree average temperature. Cook for about two and a half to three hours in the smoker uncovered at 300 degrees. He usually does it at around 350 degrees, but says that 300 at home is a safer bet. Then, wrap it tightly in foil and put back on the smoker for another hour and a half or two hours until it hits that 205 degree mark internally.
Letting the Meat Rest: Just like a juicy piece of steak, you need to let brisket rest. But because it’s such a large piece of meat, you need to let it sit a little longer than a filet, more like an hour and a half because you don’t want the juices to run out. Mixon actually wraps his in a blanket while it’s resting. He mentions in his book that it can be any type of heavy blanket, but “it better not be the one that you want to use again on your bed.” Then, he says, to remove the foil and retain all of the juices. Place those in a gravy separator and you can use it as your dipping sauce. No need to make anything else.
To learn more about brisket and barbecuing in general, pick up a copy of Mixon’s new book and you’ll be set for your outdoor adventures this summer.
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