Saturday, March 10, 2007

Eliot's BBQ Secrets

We've been holding BBQ's for a number of years now and Eliot has established a reputation for smoking a pretty good brisket. Since my technique is neither particularly sophisticated nor secret, I thought it would be useful to capture it here for posterity.

I start with a large (10+ pounds) full brisket, the kind with the big fatty bit at one end, rather than the smaller ones you typically find in supermarkets, where the fatty bit has been trimmed off. I get mine from Costco and they seem to be pretty good quality, although you could probably find better ones at a specialty meat market.

I do dry rub smoking, that is, I don't use any marinade before smoking or a mop during smoking. This is the BBQ style exemplified by Kreutz Market in Lockhart, Texas.

My rub formula is as follows (amounts are approximate--I never actually measure when I'm doing this):

- 2 cups black pepper, ground

- 1 cup (or so) kosher salt, ground

- 1/2 cup whole cumin seed, toasted then ground

- 1 tablespoon chile powder

- Garlic salt

You could also add some sugar, which I can't remember if I've ever done.

Rinse off the brisket and pat it dry, then rub on the rub and wrap the brisket in foil or plastic wrap or whatever. Refrigerate overnight.

For smoking, I use a standard side-box smoker. I insist on pure hardwood charcoal--never briquets. Lately I've been using pecan as the smoking wood, largely because the one good tree on our new property was a pecan tree that the builder accidently cut down--I saved the wood and have been using it for smoking ever since. I think pecan produces a slightly less harsh taste than mesquite. I've also used hickory in the past to good effect.

You want to allow at least one hour per pound--I found that for a 13-pound brisket 13-14 hours was really necessary, which can mean getting up quite early if you want to serve by 6:00 p.m.

You need to keep the smoker temperature between 225 and 300 degrees, ideally right at 250. Colder and it won't cook, hotter and it cooks too fast. I use a meat thermometer and cook to temperature, about 155 in the thickest spot.

During smoking, the main challenge is keeping the fire going--I find I have to add coals and/or smoke wood about 20 minutes or so. I have a relatively small smoker so it's hard to build up a big pile of coals, but a larger smoker would be easier to tend.


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