Smoked Beef Brisket

Smoked Beef BrisketI have talked multiple times about barbecue, and what some may or may not agree it actually is.  My take on it is that if everyone you know chows down on it and eats anything and everything you make on your smoker, you are doing it right.  This is my take on Smoked Beef Brisket.  Mouth watering, beefy taste that melts in your mouth.  it truly is awesome to eat when done right, and tough as nails when done wrong.

Everyone has their own method for this, and every single one of them swears it is the best way possible.  That’s just normal for the barbecue world.  My take on it follows the advice of many different people, which I have taken and mixed together to get what I like.  Try it out, and as always, feel free to change it to make it yours.

Start by making the rub.  You can buy them, but what fun is that?  I call this one Beef Rub #4.  It is the fourth tweak I made to my beef rub.  I actually got up to #9, and realized it was good but not great, and #4 was great, so I went back to it.  It works really well on all manner of beef, even things not smoked (though it is different without the smoke, it is still awesome).  Go make a bag of it.  I’ll wait.

http://average.ninja/beef-rub-4

Now you need to buy and prep your brisket.  Lately the Costco near me has been stocking Prime Beef briskets (full packer) for $3.50/lb.  Amazing price for prime beef, but it is the full packer, which is the flat and the point still together.  They weigh between 12 and 16 pounds, so it isn’t a cheap piece of meat, but it will feed a small party or large family, with some leftovers.  You can buy a smaller flat to get it around 5-8 pounds and still have this turn out well.  Anything smaller starts to get more difficult due to the reduces times involved (remember, smoking brisket is about low temperatures for a long time, ie Low and Slow, or it can toughen up.)

Speaking of timing, I have found that a 13 lb full packer brisket takes about 12-14 hours, from first on the smoker until cutting to serve.  A six pound flat takes about 7 hours.

When you are ready, get the brisket out of it’s plastic wrapping and into a clean sink.  Rinse it to get off any of the butchery bits, and put it on a large baking pan.  Pat it dry with paper towels (both sides).  At this point, I trim the fat to about 1/4″ thick all over the place.  My friend tells me that is terrible, the fat is all the flavor and the best part.  I smile and nod my head, but I still do it, because you want people to eat the food, and 1/4″ is about what I like with the rest of it all together with it’s run still on it.  If people are trimming off huge chucks of fat, they are also trimming off the rub.  I don’t suggest anything less than 1/4″, as low and slow needs the fat to keep it from drying out.

Then you rub it with some vegetable oil, and add the rub (and rub it in a bit, like the name says.  i tend to use food grade disposable gloves when I do this, so my hand doesn’t smell like the rub for a week).  On a full packer, I use about 2/3 of a batch of Beef Rub #4, so adjust accordingly with different sized briskets.

Once it is rubbed down and ready for the smoker, it looks like this:

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I also find the grain either at this stage, or before I add the rub.  You will eventually want to cut perpendicular to the grain of the meat to get it the most tender, and it can be difficult to see that once it is smoked, so I cut a small flat spot off the far end that is perpendicular to the grain, so I can just make cuts parallel to my flat bit once it is done.

IMG_2750Since a full packer can take up to 12-14 hours from the time you put it on the smoker until it’s ready to eat, I usually put the rub on at night before bed, cover the brisket and stick it in the fridge.  I then get up at 3am to put it on the smoker, and go back to bed for a few more hours.

So after the rub is on, and you are ready to cook it, put it on the smoker (fat side up is the school of though i belong to) and put a probe into the thickets part, trying to avoid putting the probe end right into a large fat deposit, as that will give you inconsistent results.  You want it to measure the temperature of the meat, not the fat.  As the fat melts, it lets off water in the form of steam, which will show a temperature spike, then a cool down as it evaporates, repeated over and over.  That is not a good way to measure the meat.  I use a warm smoke method, about 160-180 degrees.  Let it smoke that way for three hours.

Once you hit the three hour mark, turn up the heat to 225 degrees, and keep smoking it. Smoke it until the internal temperature of the meat is 150 degrees.  At this point you will start into multiple stall periods.  Some people will just leave it alone to power through it, and some are temped to raise the smoker temperature.  Leaving it alone will work, but can add hours of cook time as the water boils off and evaporation cools the meat.  Raising the temperature will toughen up the meat.  What I do is called a Texas Crutch.  Wrap the meat tightly in aluminum foil, heavy duty extra wide.  You will want to use one large piece at least for the entire bottom half, so you don’t loose all the juices while it cooks.  Also at this point, I put it in the oven, as smoking aluminum foil doesn’t do much, and costs more than my gas oven.

IMG_2753Leave the probe in the meat, and continue cooking at 225 degrees until the internal temperature of the meat is at 203 degrees.  I find that a higher temp dries it out more, and a lower temp isn’t as tender.  Once that is done, you will want to use a Faux Cambro, which means to leave it in the aluminum foil, and wrap some old towels around it, and put it into a camp or drink cooler.  Leave it there for one to two hours and it will continue to cook, tenderizing the entire time.  This also allows you some leeway in timing when your guests will arrive.

Once everyone is ready to eat remove the brisket from the cooler.  Believe me, after hours and hours of smelling it cooking they will be ready to eat.  Unwrap it and drain the juices into a large bowl or cup.  I find this is easiest if I put the entire foiled brisket on a large cutting board, unwrap one end of it, and gently tip it to the counter’s edge, pouring the liquid into the container.  After that, gently move it to the cutting board.

IMG_2756Cut the brisket parallel to the cut you made at the first, or perpendicular to the grain of the meat.  If you are cooking a full packer with the flat and point, then you will want to stop cutting just before the rise in the meat just before the point.  Cut the remaining meat in half, perpendicular to the original cuts.  Cut the thicker piece (the point) in the same direction as the new cut that halves the meat, and the thinner piece in the same direction as the first cuts.  This is because the point has it’s grain perpendicular to the flat, and you want to cut it opposite it’s grain when it is the main piece.

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Serve to your crowd, and take all the credit.  Best of all, enjoy!

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edit: if you want to understand brisket better, there is a LOT of good info at AmazingRibs.com

Family Friendly Chili

chiliBack in the early days of my hobby of cooking, we lived in Atlanta.  We had just moved there, and were starting to try new restaurants, food, and anything we could find that was “southern”.  There are a lot of amazing foods in Atlanta, and the people are awesome.  They are friendly, helpful and willing to share ideas and recipes (as long as they are not the family secret recipes. 🙂

Anyway, at church they announced a Cornbread and Chili Cookoff.  Can we participate?  sure.  How hard can those be?  They are basic dishes that everyone has a version of, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.  So we teamed up with out friends (Chad and Becky), and we started researching Chili recipes.  There were a lot of them.  And I mean a LOT.  But we wanted it to be out own, so we started mixing and matching bits from different ones.  And we came up with what Chad called “Jeremiah 4:19 Chili” (read the verse if you want in on the joke, because it was HOT).  We made some mistakes along the way, and we didn’t get the spices perfect, but it was a good chili, just way too hot.  This recipe is not that chili.

This recipe is a Family Friendly Chili, one you can feed the kids, friends, neighbors, etc, without just catering to those manly men who line up to prove their strength and worth.  You guys know who you are, claiming it doesn’t hurt, then sneaking around the table to the bread in an attempt to slow the pain ripping at your throat.  Again, this is not that chili.  Everyone can enjoy.

We aimed for a meaty chili with just a hint of heat.  Go ahead and try it, I think you’ll like it.  And then you can change it and make it your own, because that’s what chili is all about: sharing, enjoying, and bragging whose is the best.  It’s what family secrets are made of. 🙂

 

Add tomatoes, bacon, and hamburger to the crockpot, and cook it until it is done, but not mush.  From frozen, on high, this took us abut 3-4 hours.  Or you can do low overnight.

chili chili

Chop the onions and green pepper, and saute them until soft or translucent.  Add to the meat in the crockpot, along with the beans, garlic, and jalapenos.  I drain them first, but if you want a little more spice leave the jalapenos juice, and for a less thick chili don’t drain the beans.  Last, add all the rest of the ingredients and stir them in.

chiliSimmer for a few hours.  Then mix the corn starch and cold water until there are no lumps, and stir it into the hot chili.  Then serve some hot, with sour cream and cheese, and enjoy!

Or refrigerate overnight and reheat.  That will allow the flavors to blend even more.  Then serve with sour cream and shredded cheese.  And enjoy.

chiliAnd, of course, modify it as you wish.

Edit:  yeah, I lost in a local chili cook-off.  Well, I came in fourth.  I talked to the judge after, and he was judging almost solely on chili powder flavor.  To him, a chili is all about that specific flavor, and mine wasn’t.  Feel free to spice this as you like; after all, food, like art, should be catered to it’s audience.

NOTE:  I have been informed by some of my friends that this is a “really spicy chili”.  Other friends answer that with “No way, it’s just enough heat to be a chili”.   I don’t think it is particularly spicy, and several of my kids enjoy it.  However, if you are not a fan of spice, and don’t want the jalapenos, you can leave them out or replace them with mild green chilis.  Or you can make it as listed and add a dollop of sour cream and some cheese to your bowl to mild it out a little.  Your mileage may vary, and everyone’s tastes are different.  As always, alter any of my recipes to your own taste, pallet, profile, etc.

Family Friendly Chili
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 quarts
 
half alarm meaty chili aimed at families
Ingredients
  • 3 lbs hamburger
  • ½ lb bacon
  • 1 - 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

  • 3 - 15 oz cans beans (2 red kidney beans and 1 black beans)
  • 1 - 4 oz can diced jalapenos
  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 green pepper

  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • ½ Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
  • ¾ teaspoon Oregano
  • ½ teaspoon Cumin
  • ⅜ teaspoon paprika (or smoked paprika)
  • 3/16 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 Tablespoons Corn Starch
  • 2 Tablespoon cold water
Instructions
  1. Chop up the bacon. Put bacon, hamburger and crushed tomatoes into a crock pot and cook until done falling apart, mixing together, but not all mush). Frozen hamburger can be on high for about 3-4 hours or low overnight)
  2. Once the meat is done, stir in the beans, jalapenos, and garlic. I drain the beans and jalapenos, but if you want a less thick chili don't drain the beans, and if you want a slightly spicier chili, don't drain the jalapenos.
  3. Chop the onions and green pepper and saute in a skillet until they are soft. Stir in to the chili.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients (minus the corn starch and cold water) to the chili, and stir them in. If you can wait, let it simmer in the crockpot on high for an hour or two. Once the simmer part is done, mix the corn starch and cold water together until there are no lumps, and stir it into the hot chili.
  5. Serve with sour cream and cheese.
  6. If you want it even better, put it in the fridge overnight, and reheat it before serving. The flavors will blend and you will have a better chili.

 

Fettuccine Alfredo

fettuccine alfredoWho isn’t a fan of Fettuccine Alfredo?  It’s creamy, cheesy, warm, and delicious.  And it is such a simple perfection; how would you improve on it?

Easy.  Let people do with it as they want to.  Set out bowls of anything you can imagine would be good with Alfredo, and let people mix it up as they want.  Peas, broccoli florets, bacon crumbles, sauteed mushrooms.  My mouth waters just thinking about it.  But my favorite is always Blackened Cajun Chicken thighs and tomatoes.  Let the creamy Alfredo cool off the spicy cajun seasonings, with some ripe tomatoes to bring it all together.

To over simplify the experience, it’s awesome!

Start by mixing up the cajun spice blend.

Pat the chicken thighs with a paper towel so they are somewhat dry.  Sprinkle some Cajun seasoning on it and slap it into a hot skillet.  The amount of spice used depends on your heat tolerance, but a gentle even coating will go a long way (more than you would salt it, less than a dry rub).  Cook them until they are cooked through, then turn up the heat a little and sear them until the spices turn a dark brown.  You can go all the way to blackened (as per the name) but I am not a fan of smoke in the house if I don’t have to. 😀

fettuccine alfredoNow chop all the vegetables that you want and put them in individual bowls.  Don’t forget to saute the mushrooms (if you like the fungus)!

fettuccine alfredo fettuccine alfredo

Now make the Fettuccine Alfredo!  This part is usually last, because it cools quickly, and if it sits around it can resemble glue.  Don’t worry if it does that!  You can plan for it!  Just keep about a cup of the water from cooking the pasta, and set it aside.  if the Alfredo gets too thick, you can add a little of the water and stir it in.  Like magic, it will be perfect again!

fettuccine alfredoOK, we all know it isn’t considered good for you.  But that’s fine; just don’t eat it every day, and eat it in moderation.  Yeah, there is an entire sermon in that statement, maybe later. 😀

Cook the pasta.  Save a cup of the water, and drain the pasta.  Then you put in the butter, and let it melt.  Toss the pasta in the butter.  Now pour in the cream, salt and pepper.  Toss the pasta in the cream.  Add the grated cheese and stir together over low heat, and watch it all come together.

fettuccine alfredo fettuccine alfredo

Adjust for salt and pepper if you need to.  Don’t be shy, as it can take more seasoning than you think.  Just taste it as you go; nobody likes salty Alfredo.  (Who am I kidding?  It would have to be like a salt-lick for me to stay away!)

Serve immediately, and let people mix and match whatever they want.  This one is my favorite.  You should go find what is yours.

fettuccine alfredo

Fettuccine Alfredo
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Classic creamy Italian comfort food.
Ingredients
  • 1 lb pasta, cooked and drained, still hot (saving 1 cup of it's water)
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick), cut up
  • 1¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup Parmesan-Reggiano Cheese, finely grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Add butter to the hot pasta. Allow to melt, and stir together.
  2. Add cream, salt and pepper. Stir together.
  3. Add Parmesan-Reggiano Cheese; gently stir together until it forms a cream sauce.
  4. If sauce becomes too thick, add some of the water and stir.