I haven’t heard about slow smoked briskets until a random ad popped up on my FB feed. It was Aaron Franklin’s MasterClass on slow smoked briskets. Just looking at those jiggly, juicy slabs of meat immediately got my attention. And so began the obsession.
I did not waste any time, I did some research and gave it a crack, twice. Failed on both occasions. The results had some good flavour but were too dry they were more like a jerky. I didn’t stop there, I kept reading blogs, followed Facebook groups, particularly Meat Church Congregation. There’s heaps of different BBQs discussed within the group but it doesn’t take long to notice that the smoked brisket seems to be the most challenging and the most coveted one. Think of it as the boss level if it were a video game.
Now, considering the crazy long cooking hours, is it worth it? Let’s find out.
Before we start, let’s get to know a little bit about Mr. Franklin. According to his business website, franklinbbq.com, “Aaron Franklin is widely regarded as one of the most influential pitmasters in the U.S. He received the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2015. Popular and critically lauded restaurant, Franklin Barbecue, was awarded Texas Monthly’s coveted Best Barbecue Joint in Texas, and Bon Appetit’s Best Barbecue Joint in America.”
Sounds like the man can cook.
The 20-hour process (more or less)
This is not a tutorial, just taking you through the real-world process. I say real-world because tutorials are handy, but they don’t tell you everything. Experience is the best teacher, as always.
Now imagine meeting me at a lobby, on a Monday morning, and you try to have some small talk, “Hi, how was your weekend?” This would be my response (good luck listening). 😀
8:00 pm – Prepping the meat
Trimmed a bit of fat. Trimming is important, I don’t think you can skip this step. There’s heaps of tutorials on that, check this one out.
As far as I know, when it comes to Texas-style BBQ, it’s just salt and pepper. But everybody’s going crazy about the Meat Church dry rubs so might as well give it a shot. It’s mostly salt and pepper anyway.
8:15 pm – Prepping the grill
I have two options here – gas or charcoal. Based on experience, the charcoal delivers a better smokey flavour to it as it burns the smoking wood better than its gas counterpart. That should be a no brainer but gas BBQs can also be decent smokers if done right.
I went for the charcoal, hard to beat the flavour on this thing. And because it is going to be a low and slow cook, I will be doing the “snake method.” Just one of those things I learned from the internet – what a great time to be alive!
The idea is, you will light up a few briquettes on one end, and the fire will slowly “crawl” through, giving you a steady and low temperature for a longer period of time. It’s not rocket science but I’m impressed, pretty clever.
See those chunks of wood? Those are hickory wood chunks and that is where our smokey smell/flavour will be coming from, not the coals. There are other woods to choose from, cherry is by the far the most talked about.
The first chunk should be at the “head of the snake” as smoking is at its most critical at the first 30mins. I don’t know why, but that’s what I’ve been reading.
So I lit it up to pre-heat the grill.
Left it to tuck my kid to bed, and hope it’s at around 110ºC when I come back.
10:00 pm – Houston we have a problem
I went back outside to check the temperature. Surprise surprise! The guage barely moved.
Let’s go back to “the snake.” In a perfect world, it will give you a steady temperature over 100ºC, easy. In reality, it depends. With an outside temperature of 9ºC, I needed to light up more beads at the head, and “thicken” the rest of the snake, if you may.
And so I did.
11:30 pm – Start cooking!
I waited for more than an hour but the temp wouldn’t go past 70ºC. So I thought, maybe it’s fine, I’ll just put it in now and see how it goes. Considering that I plan to have it for dinner on the next day, I knew I had plenty of time.
Into the grill you go. No photos this time. Just too cold outside 😀
I setup my bluetooth thermometer (iGrill 2), and looking at the ambient temp on my phone, I can see that it’s going up steadily. Looks promising.
About an hour later, it was at 110ºC. Weber didn’t fail me.
2:30 am – First spitz
We’re done with our movie, time to sleep. But before I do, I’ll give it a good spitz just so it doesn’t dry up. From the forums I’ve read, I’m supposed to give it a spitz from this point onwards every 45 mins or so. But I gotta sleep so maybe one will do for now.
Before I hit the bed, I turned the vents a few notches down as the temp kept creeping up slowly. I didn’t want to wake up with a charred brisket.
6:40 am – Houston we have another problem
I only have about 3 or maybe 4 hours of sleep at this point but it’s not like it’s a Monday. Today is BBQ day!
The problem with my iGrill 2 is, the bluetooth signal doesn’t reach our bedroom. It’s quite a stretch actually so I don’t blame the poor thing.
I went out, checked the guage and it was down to 40ºC! There were probably like 3 or 4 beads holding it together.
At least it was enough to hold the meat temperature to 48ºC. Not that bad.
6:45 am – Firing up the big boy
It’s a cold winter morning, I knew there was no way I can bring the temperature back up in a few minutes.
I had to act quickly so I fired up my Spirit E310 (gas BBQ). Gas BBQs may lack the flavour, but they don’t care if it’s winter – that we can all agree on.
So I gave it a good spitz, chucked it in, and went back to bed.
Still no photos. Can’t be bothered this early in the morning. 😀
10:30 am – Time to wrap
I just woke up from my nap, a 3-hour nap that is. Checked the brisket and I like how the bark was looking so I knew it was time to wrap.
I used butcher’s paper for wrapping. You can use tin foil if you want, it’s called the Texas crutch. However, foil tends to leave you with a soggy bark because it’s non-porous so all the moisture is trapped. The butcher’s paper has some room to breathe if you may.
Foil or paper? It’s a preference thing, can’t go wrong with any. Aaron Franklin uses paper though.
Still no photos. Lazy-ass blogger.
Anyway, I gave it a spitz, and wrapped.
4:15 pm – The bell
I spent the day at the garage, cleaning and getting organised when my phone rang. Finally, the most awaited alert of the day.
Let’s pop the hood.
4:20 pm – Rest
Okay we’re not done yet. Rest is very important. I don’t have the luxury to do a comparison between a rested and non-rested meat so let’s just trust the experts. 🙂
Here’s another trick I learned from Meat Church – cooler/eski. Since we will be resting this for at least an hour, putting it in a cooler will keep it warm. They say you can even rest the meat in a cooler for up to 4 to 6 hours and it will still be warm. Gotta love simple solutions.
5:30 pm – Moment of truth
We’ve rested this for an hour, perfectly timed for dinner.
Let’s open this bad boy.
How was the taste?
To be honest, it was a little too salty for me. That was on me though, I went crazy on the seasoning. Lucky for us, we are rice people – paired it with rice and it turned out perfect! I will go easy on the rub next time though. Other than that, it was great. Best part is the fat, I think I now understand when they say, “the fat rendered.”
Now for the real question – was it worth it?
Short answer is, yes. If you look at the time from preparation to the time you get to slice it, it’s daunting. Truth is, it’s not that bad. If it wasn’t for the cold winter night, this would have been a walk in the park.
Another thing to consider is a bluetooth thermometer. You can check the temp every 2 minutes if you want, and you won’t need to go out. After all, maintaining the right temperature is the biggest challenge here in my opinion.
There’s another hack that I discovered. I switched to gas and it made things a lot easier. I can just get on with my day and wait for it to get done. The flavour is there already anyway.
I won’t do it with just the gas though, I will have to start with my kettle for the flavour, and finish it up with gas for convenience. I have the best of both worlds (thanks to some very generous and awesome friends 😀 ).
One more thing
As much as I think I nailed this one, I can’t be so sure unless I get to try the real deal. No, I’m not going to Texas. A decent local BBQ restaurant would be a good start. I have my eyes on two – San Antone and Third Wave Cafe. I’ll see you real soon!
For now, I’ll go back to lurking at the Meat Church Congregation group and hopefully learn a few more tricks soon enough for another feast. 😉
That’s it for now, folks. Stay safe and most importantly, don’t ask people about their weekends. 😀