The Dom Brisket Experience
Back at the beginning of the year we ran a "Win a Brisket" Competition! Our lucky winner was Dom Barnes, who was delighted to finally get a chance to "pop his brisket cherry". We were on hand to offer advice to Dom during the cook, and we were delighted to see how well the end result turned out - great job Dom! After wards, Dom wrote us a wee article on how he found the daunting experience of cooking his first brisket, we have added it here in the hope of encouraging more people to get out there and try this! Here's Dom's story....... A quick introduction, I’m Dom, 29 from South Wales, family man with a small army too feed, I have always had a keen interest in food, but since becoming a member of Country Wood Smoke Facebook group for just over a year, I’ve constantly challenged myself with outdoor cooking, before I joined the group I have always enjoyed BBQ’in, until I joined the FB Group it was mainly direct grilling/cooking. My first experience of smoking was with an old bucket some hot coals and some crab apple tree shavings that I had just torn off the tree, I placed the coals in the bottom the shavings on top prawns on skewers balancing on top with a damp tea towel to keep in the smoke. To my amazement it worked really well and ignited that fire to smoke more foods. Now since Joining CWS my BBQ collection has expanded 10fold I went from owing a B&Q Blooma Kinley Trolley to a Weber Master Touch GBS, A Vision Grills 23” Kamado & an American style Offset BBQ, Brinkmann Trial Master Limited Edition. My partner moans about my addiction but has yet to complain about the food. Over the past 12-18 Months I’ve cooked a Pulled Pork a few times using Pork Shoulder, Pork Belly Burnt Ends (PBBE’s) Beef Ribs, Pork Ribs, Ox & Pork Cheeks, a few “Fatties” I used chorizo and black pudding wrapped in apple sausage meat and then wrapped in a bacon lattice, steaks, chickens, salmon you name it. I’m always open to try new things. Anyway enough of that lets move on to talk Brisket, often seen as the holy grail of BBQ, I said at the end of last year this year I would pluck up the courage and try and cook a brisket this year, for me a lot of apprehension surrounded it, I didn’t want to turn a potentially beautiful piece of meat into charcoal or jerky. When I found out I had won the A&O competition cooking a Brisket became a reality a lot sooner that I had anticipated, I was excited yet nervous also. The first thing that I had to choose was my cooking vessel, Kettle, Offset or Kamado. Each with their different advantages. If I had enough confidence and mastered the skill of the Offset that would have been my go to, but my concern of temperature spikes and fire management put me off. I wanted this cook to be as stable as possible, this leaves the kettle or Kamado. With the kettle I could use the snake method to control the fuel, my concerns were air flow due to vents being easily susceptible to change in wind. And heat retention, due to the time of year, would the colder temperatures mean it’s harder to maintain temperatures? Plus there is no fixed or improvised heat deflector so as the snake burns round some of the brisket could be exposed to direct heat. I wanted this beast to be indirect all the way. Everything pointed to the Kamado for the best chance of having a stable cook due to the ceramics insulating properties with its 2 tier grate I could improvise a heat deflector as unfortunately mine currently doesn’t have one by means of an oven tray filled with water, which would help stabilise temps and act as a barrier to protect the brisket from direct heat. Right BBQ decided now for fuel, my first thought was lump wood in a minion method, I had cooked several times at around 270-300f on it but this was too hot for what I was aiming for with my brisket around 225-250f is the common benchmark. So cue the test run to see if I can keep the temps low. Fail! Panic shock and horror! Back to the drawing board, I shut down the vents on the Kamado at 200f and the bugger kept rising before settling at 280f and wasn’t budging. A quick chat with Scott pointed me in the direction of ProQ Cocoshells, I had watched a YouTube video previously of Weber Briquettes, Aussie Heat Beads and ProQ Cocoshells they stormed through outlasting both the Heat beads and the Weber Briquettes, being the first ones to burn out, I did have Weber Briquettes on standby but was worried about the ash content and duration they would last. ProQ Shells arrived in time! Woohoo! I took a leap of faith with this based on the research from the YouTube Videos and other peoples experiences of them and didn’t do a test run and left it in the hands of the BBQ gods. The Pro Q coco shells I ordered came in a 10kg Box split into 2 x 5kg Packs, I suppose this is great to protect them from the elements less chance of ruining the whole lot if they was to be exposed to the elements by mistake. I loaded my kamado up with about 4kg of briquettes it was about 2-3 layers deep in places, I was mindful of excessive fuel potentially contributing to higher temps. The night before I trimmed my brisket, I tried to remove the majority of the silver membrane that can be found on the muscle and some of the loose flappy fat, excuse the lack of technical knowledge! I gave it a good dusting of Dirty Cow, I ensured it had an even coverage all over, according to the destructions its best to be used at 5% ratio, technically I should of used all of it, but being mindful of those eating it I decided to go a little easy and I stood quite a high chance of sprinkling the rest on the floor if I wasn’t careful, so using just shy of a full tub 200g on a brisket that was 5kg. At just after 0900 I lit approx. 6-7 briquettes in my chimnea with natural fire lighters, the wood shavings and wax ones. I made an small hole in the middle of all the briquettes in the kamado so these would go into the middle once lit, it took approx. 25mins for them to be ready, I placed 4 small chunks of oak approx. size of a fist close to the centre of the minion as its often said that meat will take on smoke in the first part of the cook and not so much later on. [caption id="attachment_21893" align="alignnone" width="768"] Firestarter[/caption] Once the coals were lit I placed them in the centre, placed my water pan on the first grill grate filled with warm/hot water, I used a water pan as I know the water would absorb the direct heat provide moisture and help keep a stable temperature. And then placed the brisket on the 2nd grill grate and closed the lid. I had the vents open until it reached 200f then closed the vents sequentially down in small increments at a time both top and bottom until I reached 250f. To monitor the temps I used an InkBird two probe monitor, through Bluetooth app I was able to set pre alarms if it went above 260f or below 240f. It probably took me just short of 30mins to get to 250f and maintain it, I then left it and probably checked on it every 15mins for the first hour, just checking the temps not opening the lid, as im mindful that this can release the heat built up in the smoker and also increase the oxygen to the fire so any prolonged opening of the lid on the kamado can result in increased temps once closed. I opened the lid approx. once an hour, to check the colour on the brisket and the water level. Unfortunately I forget to check on the water level a few times and at around 1430 it ran out and the temp shot up to 274f this gave me a mini heart attack as its quiet hard to bring temps down in a ceramic cooker due to its excellent heat retention, I topped up the water and shut the vents down and waited until it slowly crept back down to 250f it felt like an eternity but was probably closer to 30-40 mins. Just before 1600 around 7 hours into the cook I reached what is known as the “stall” the point at which moisture is evaporating from the meat at such a rate as its absorbing it that there’s no internal temperature rise, a lot of factors can affect how long this stall lasts, things such as size of meat type of meat etc. it can be an hour or so or last several, I’ve heard of 6 hour stalls! This brings us on to wrapping, some say wrap others say don’t, If I didn’t wrap then I would probably of been looking at a 13-16hr cook no doubt, if you are going to wrap you sacrifice the “bark” as this will soften as you effectively braise the meat when wrapping. A lot of people wrap in foil this was what I chose to wrap with, another option is butchers paper, it allows the meat to breathe more and people say this can give a more authentic taste. I wrapped with some butter, beef stock mixed with dirty cow rub. Once it was wrapped I returned it to the kamado. Unfortunately I was being mindful of the time as much as I would happily sit and wait for it to cook patiently but my partner, the in-laws and children wouldn’t be so happy, I upped the temperature to 270f as my method is that now its wrapped I couldn’t dry it out by having the temps too high as I was worried of before. Throughout the whole cook I was like a parrot on Scott’s shoulder constantly chirping away asking for advice tips and recommendations, to be fair his help and support was second to none, never further than a few minutes away from a response. It came a time when I had to make a decision, it had reached what I would of thought was the right temperature but I was advised to take it off when it probed like butter, and then there’s me thinking I’ve never probed butter!? so I pokes it a few times and wasn’t sure so left it on for another 15mins, poked it again and this time it was a lot softer so I whipped it off and covered it in about 7 or 8 tea towels to rest. I decided to serve it in a brioche bun with pickles slaw and a smokey mayonnaise I had stumbled across. I managed to buy my resting time buy putting on the sweet potato fries in the oven after I had taken the brisket off to rest, fighting off the house of starving people to wait that little bit longer. All in the brisket cooked for 9 hours rested for an hour giving a total cooking time of 10 hours, some may say that’s a little quick but I was more than happy with the end results. Nothing goes to waste in my house so a few days later after the odd cheeky slice here and there I knocked up a pretty epic chilli with the left overs, with one of them funky multi pressure cooker things. So there you have it my first brisket, hope I didn’t bore you too much and maybe if it gives someone the confidence to try it themselves all the better.