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May 21, 2008 08:43 AM

OK Texans-who will share their BBQ Brisket secrets [Moved from Texas board]

I usually post to the HomeCooking board, but thought I would go right to the source!

I went to wedding in central Texas last summer and the best smoked brisket and sausage I've ever tasted at the rehearsal dinner. I tried to get the recipe from the cook (Who was a friend of the family) but he wouldn't tell me anything. I live outside of Washington DC and have ordered 2 whole briskets from my local butcher to do this weekend for memorial day and need advice on how long to smoke, the rub, a sauce.... I usually only smoke pulled pork shoulders for sandwiches.

Also, the sausage was unlike any sausage I'd ever tasted. From what I have read over the last few days it might have been beef/pork mixture? I remember it having tremendous flavor. I'm not sure I could even find a product like that in this neck of the woods. Any good mail order services?

Finally, the potato salad served wasn't like potato salad I am used to either. It didn't seem to have much in it other than potatoes and onion - and was a little yellowish/orange in color. It must be typical to Texas b/c the same thing was served when I ordered BBQ on our way home at the Austin Airport.

Lots of questions - but my mouth is watering for that meal!!!!

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  1. JennyHunter, here are some answers:

    First, brisket, pork chops, bbq prime rib, etc. Coopers BBQ, Llano TX

    Second, sausage. Elgin is the Sausage Capital. Southside Market, Elgin, TX

    Third, potato salad. I think Salt Lick BBQ has the concession at the Austin Airport.

    Please note that ALL of these places sell online.

    There are plenty of others, but this should get you started.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Thefoodczar

      I looked up Elgin for sausage and found a few different places that mail order. DO you have a preference? Is Southside Market the best?

      1. Really sad the cook didn't open up with the recipie, but if you had real smoked central Tx BBQ briskit it is very hard to recreate without a real seasoned smoke pit. I BBQ alot but I'm scared of briskit, Getting a briskit smoked to where it is tender,juicy and smoked just right is a gift few Texans have. Just remember low and slow, The best luck I have had is smoking in a water smoker with wood chips for about 8 hours and then finishing off in the oven. It's a great way to spend the weekend, and briskits are fairly cheap this time of year.

        1. Hi Jenny. I am not a Texan, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night...

          Seriously, I have been smoking for many years, and have sampled the main places in TX as well as Memphis, KC, etc., and can offer you some advice.

          First, what smoker are you using? See the pic of a brisket on my Weber Kettle. Whatever the cooker, it must be low (200-250 chamber temp) and slow (about an hour per uncooked pound... yes, 14 hrs or so for a 14-lb "whole packer" brisket). Charcoal... wood... a combo, whatever you like there. TX places use a simple kosher salt and rough cracked pepper rub... I add a little granulated garlic and cayenne. That's all you need. Remember it aint done til it hits about 200 internal temp. It could take faster, or slower... but that's when it will become tender. You can also just stick a fork in, and when it goes in and out easy, you're there.

          First big pitfall is to go X hours (say, 8) and say "wow, it looks done... even over done... and it's tough... I must have gone too far" and then pull it off. Don't do it. Be patient. Wait for it. It didn't get high enough yet for the fat to break down. You will be rewarded. You can also "hold" it in foil for several hours in a cooler (after you wrap it, as stated below)... really... it will come down very slowly from 200 over those hours. You want to keep it out of the danger zone, of course, over 140. But it will tenderize further during that time.

          Second pitfall is having it still come out dry. Don't bother with a mop... it won't help the inside. Some folks (me too) will foil it up nice after it hits about 160-170 internal, when some think that it won't take much more smoke, anyway. Finish in smoker or over, since the foiled brisket dont know the difference :-) That will retain moisture.

          Another thing: The "packer" is comprised of the point and the flat. Some separate them before the cook, others after. You need to separate them, because you need to slice brisket across the grain, and when they're attached, the grain runs in different directions. The point has more fat, and will also actually take longer to cook. Some pull the whole thing off when the flat's done, lop off the point, chop it up with a little sauce, and put it back in the smoker -- that's burnt ends. Here's a link to show how to separate the point from flat.

          Sauce should be vinegary tomato. Not sweet. Try Stubbs original. Dont mess with sauce now... stay focused on the brisket.

          On the sausage, I will say to you that you can buy any old italian sweet or hot sausage. But rather than grilling (direct), smoke it, indirect. 30 mins, turn, and 30 mins. It is a whole other deal. People will go crazy. I gah-ron-tee. See my pic. When they cut into it, and the say "hey, its not done, its pink inside!!" You say, "c'mon Yankee, that's a smoke ring... if it was undercooked, the pink would be at the middle, not at the edge!!"

          Let us know how it goes.

          19 Replies
          1. re: woodburner

            Thanks for all of this info. I think I am going to have to wake up very early on Sunday! For the sausage, are you saying you smoke it for 30 minutes, or that you turn it every 30 minutes for how long total?

            1. re: JennyHunter

              One of the most popular places in Houston (Goode Co.) put their method in the Parade magazine a long time ago, and basically it is that you have a really great rub that you coat the brisket in, wrap in foil and let it sit in fridge overnight. Now before you put the rub on you should trim some of the excess fat off the meat, but not too much. You want that layer of fat on the top to keep it moist and juicy. After taking the brisket out of the fridge, let it sit for a bit, and then smoke at a low temp, fat side up, for up to 12 hours. And you do need to use a good mop to baste the meat while it is smoking. Maybe baste like once every hour or 90 minutes. You know when it is done because you can put a fork in it and it will let you turn the fork, meaning it has broken down and is tender. And make sure to cut the meat against the grain starting at the point end.

              Now you could bake in the oven and then put on the smoker, or conversely smoke and then bake. Either way you want the saucy mop. It's not like a bbq sauce though, don't get me wrong.

              If you can find a smoked beef/pork combo sausage that would be really good. My favorite is a pork/venison combo from Chapell Hill Sausage Co in (duh) Chappell Hill Tx, but I checked and they don't send it out. You have to go there or get it in a local store. But if you can't find something like that, smoke it yourself as woodburner said.

              Potato salad - can't help you there, sorry, but I imagine it is just potatoes, onions, mayo and mustard. Pretty basic, simple stuff. Have fun!

              1. re: danhole

                On the potato salad, Boil russet potatoes. Also some egsgs. Chop both. Add chopped sweet onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dress with Miracle Whip and some yellow mustard. Some people add pickles.

              2. re: JennyHunter

                30 min, turn, 30 min, total 60 min. for links as shown in the pic. Perfect. BTW, I stand by my comment on mopping brisket. Waste of time... not absorbed by the meat. All the opening and closing of the smoker does is disturb your fire, you heat consistency, and slow the whole thing down. With the rub, and a smooth cook, you get a wonderful bark on the meat. The fat cap (correctly, on top of the brisket as you smoke) is what protects the meat, and the collagen (tough fat) inside the brisket is what moistens it when it breaks down... nearing 200 degrees internal.

              3. re: woodburner

                Woodburner-you are a lifesaver-I think.

                I'm barbecuing my first brisket as I type. I bought the whole brisket at the SaveMart by my house. 1.29 a pound!! I've always wanted to try one. I rubbed it with mustard, put a rub on it, and let it sit for about an hour. I didn't have any wood, so have used briquettes(?) for the whole thing.

                I'm about 8 hours into it (should have mentioned, it's 10 lbs.), and was about to throw my hands up in despair, because I sliced a piece off, and thought "it's tough, and over-cooked!" Then I read your post.

                I've been mopping it every two hours, and I turned it once, but have pretty much been cooking it fat side up the whole time. (I've kept the temp between 210-225 the whole time)

                Long story short, I'm going to keep hangin' in there, and give it a chance. Which means I'll be barbecuing till midnight or so! Wish me luck!!

                1. re: spanky46

                  8 hours on a 10-lb brisket... definitely not done yet. Do you have an internal probe? Needs to get to about 200 or so before the nasty collagen breaks down. Try foiling it up and finishing that way -- will go quicker and stay moister. Let us know what happened!!

                  1. re: woodburner

                    Hey Woodburner-Well, we finally had to call it quts around 11:00 last night, my husband pulled it out this morning,(we wrapped in foil in the fridge overnight), and put it back on. The coals were still warm!

                    We also figure out that it is closer to 13 lbs... so I guess that's why it's not done. We've still got it fat side up. Should we give in, and wrap? Would that be the best result? Guess I try too hard to be a purist when I cook.

                    1. re: spanky46

                      Hey spanky--I'm not woodburner, but woodburner helped me and mr. diva break in our then new off-set smoker last summer. I say foil it and let it go for another several hours. You need to get it to temp so that the collagen breaks down, as woodburner says. It's done when it's fork tender. Best of luck--I'm always happy to find another woman who's interested in tending fires and big hunks o' meat.

                      1. re: diva360

                        Yeah... I go with the foil these days... stays moister, and finishes quicker. 13 lbs is a whole "packer" brisket -- both the flat and the point. Did we discuss this before? Debate is whether to separate them before or after the cook. I think after is the way to go. But the flat finishes faster than the point, which is fattier. When the flat's done, separate it, then chop up the point and add sauce, and put back in the pit. It will take another hour or so and you'll have "burnt ends." The best. Check out this link for separating briskets. By the way, when the brisket is done, you can hold it in foil in a cooler for several hours before eating... just gets more tender. Keep the probe in it and make sure it stays above 140. It will take hours to drop from 200.


                2. re: woodburner

                  Is that the point or the flat on your rig??


                  1. re: Davwud

                    That's a med-sized flat, maybe about 6 lbs. I have trouble finding full packer briskets around here (Westchester, NY). Sam's usually has just the flats.

                      1. re: Davwud

                        I usually leave all the fat on... most will trim to about 1/4-in., but I will leave a little more. Fat side up, it makes for a nice baste through the cook. When I slice, I will remove some if it's still too much left.

                  2. re: woodburner

                    I just bought a frozen brisket, it must just be the flat because it only weighs about 8 pounds. I think I know how to smoke it from all your good tips, but I am just a California girl, how do I serve it? On rolls? With some kind of sauce? We don't see much brisket out here, but I am hosting a party in July for some French visitors on Bastille day, and I thought I should do something quintessentially American, which smoked brisket certainly would be. TIA

                    1. re: dkenworthy

                      As others have said, I would caution on "trying" a brisket for a high-stakes type of meal. People do spend years trying to get a good product... sometimes mine come out great, sometimes not so much. Sometimes, blech! It's great to start doing them, but a party for French visitors?? Maybe a nice rib roast, bone out is my preference, several bones worth or a whole roast (up to 14-16 lbs). With a rub of kosher salt, coarse cracked pepper, rosemary and a little cayenne, on the smoker (or indirect on a grill with cover) with charcoal and some hickory/mesquite, about 2-3 hours, depending on size and temp (I run it high around 300), til it hits 125 or 130 internal, rested for 30 min, perfect med rare. A nice creamy horseradish sauce. Sounds American to me...

                      Anyway, if you go with brisket, I like a simple vinegar and tomato based sauce, which is what I found across Texas. Something like this:
                      14 oz ketchup
                      1 cup cider vinegar
                      1/2 cup worcestershire sauce
                      2 tbs yellow mustard
                      2 tbs lemon juice
                      1 tbs chili powder
                      2 tbs paprika
                      1 tsp crushed red pepper
                      1 tsp black pepper
                      1 tsp dark brown sugar
                      1/3 cup brisket or bacon drippings (optional)
                      3 cups water

                      In Texas, sliced across the grain, thin or, if tender enough, a little thicker... served with -- gasp -- a couple slices of white bread on the side. That may be just too darn American for your visitors. Another option is to pile it onto rolls, or just serve sliced on a plate. Beans. Cornbread. Slaw. Berry Cobbler.....

                      Ugh. I'm stuffed!

                      1. re: woodburner

                        Hello WB---if you're still around, I am assuming you put this sauce together in a pan or pot and reduce somewhat, correct???

                        Thx in advance.

                        1. re: mtomto

                          Yes, in a pot, and reduce it a bit, but not much. Really you're just meding it all together fo about 10-15 min. It is a fairly thin sauce, and it is more spicy and tangy than sweet. The brisket cooks only with the dry rub... the sauce is drizzled on at serving, or just offered on the side.

                      2. re: dkenworthy

                        How do you serve it? Sliced with Wonder Bread on butcher paper!

                        1. re: paulj

                          That's how they serve it in the Hill Country around Austin... like here at Cooper's in Llano.

                    2. jenny:

                      the type of wood used makes a big difference. Most central TX places use post oak.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: planojim

                        True... I use a mix of mesquite and hickory. I like mesquite...