Yeah, really. Beef brisket barbecue. Look at it. You know it's wrong, but it's just unavoidable. At some point, if you steep yourself in woodsmoke and ash long enough, you're going to have to lay down your abundant pig and put some beef on the burner.
I must admit, I have often passed through Texas, but never stayed long enough to even call myself a visitor. I've spent more nights in Oklahoma - which is to say, two - than I have in Texas, which is sure to rile any Longhorn. But, I have had 'q in Amarillo, which is bound to be as good a place as any, I suppose, if you're looking for some beef. (I've never spent the night, but I have eaten a few meals in Tejas; I've got my priorities on straight)
My approach to the brisket is pretty straightforward. Which is my excuse for not taking any pictures of it before it was virtually finished. I started with three pounds from the flat cut, not the point, which has too much internal fat - great for corning, not so much for smoking. Some of the fat cap was removed when I had it trimmed at the butcher, but a nice bit of fat cap keeps the whole thing moist, and adds a load of flavor, so you do NOT want to remove all of it.
My dry rub was super simple. Salt, pepper, and chili powder, in roughly equal amounts, rubbed all over the hunk o' meat. I've heard tell of Dalmation rub - naught but salt 'n pepper - and that sounds right to me, too.
After futzing with my smoker a bit (chunks or chips, chunks or chips??) I went with large hickory chunks, and got enough smoke going to smelt iron. Hickory smoke was just pouring out of the grill, and the temperature got close to 275º (more like 260º, really). That seemed ideal. I gave it three hours in the smoker, without touching a thing - added a bit of wood after 90 minutes, but that was it. I was looking to get the whole thing up to 160º internal temp, and the beef was there in three hours.
Then came the interesting part. Having smoked the beef to 160º, I resorted to "The Texas Crutch." The brisket is wrapped in tin foil, and some liquid - beer, apple juice, water (I used white wine, thereby assuring my eternal banishment form Texas I'm sure, but I'm not complaining) - is sealed in with the foil. Then, continue smoking for another hour or so. At this point, you're not really smoking, since the smoke can't penetrate the foil, you're just slow cooking. Keep it up until the meat hits 190º, checking on it after an hour.
Here is it is, right out of the "Crutch," a perfect 190º.
Here's why you want that fat cap. The fat has just absorbed all the goodness of the smoking and slow cooking, burnished the meat to a delectable finish
Now THAT looks pretty good. Most of that liquid is just the wine, and a bit of fat- the meat itself is still plenty juicy.
Once you slice up the whole thing, you're left with some of the finest cooks' treats imaginable, the shredded leavings of the sliced brisket. In New Orleans they make whole po' boys out of this "debris," compiled from several days worth of pot roasting. As Calvin Trillin said, the best food in the world is the Arthur Bryant burnt ends of cut brisket (this is about as close as I can get to that), and they used to give that away for FREE while customers waited to be seated
I don't know if it's the "best" food in the world. But I have a feeling I will be smoking more brisket again. And now I have one less reason to go to Texas. I can do beef right here in Carrboro (keep it down, or the Tar Heels may kick me out, too!)