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Friday, July 29, 2011

Brisket Experiment

Well, it had to happen, I decided to try injecting a brisket. And since I was going there, I went with a 15 pound choice grade packer brisket that was trimmed of most of the fat and injected with a test injection. Now, most folks will use a beef broth or commercial injection formula that either is designed to make a brisket taste more beefy (not sure why this is necessary) or to literally change the nature of the brisket. This second option I totally understand. If I was going to compete, I would use something like Butcher's Injection for it's proven flavor and texture improvements. But, I am going for an augmentation of flavor here, so I made my own.

In doing this, I was really trying to augment the savory profiles of the beef without really changing the flavor of the meat. I went with some proven elements for my taste palette. Onions, carrots, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, Bragg's Amino Acids and Red Boat fish sauce. I am hoping to get a blend of the aromatics and umami elements with the addition of some sodium as well.

Bob's Test Injection
1 small onion
4 small carrots
2 cloves garlic
3 shiitake mushrooms, dried
1/4 cup Bragg's Aminos
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Red Boat Fish Sauce
6 cups water

I brought the water to a boil, reduced to a simmer and added everything but 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. After 10 minutes and back to a simmer, I cut the heat and let it steep until cool. This was bottled and allowed to sit for 2 days. Upon opening, gave it the sniff and taste test. It smelled great, no fish smell, no funkiness, just a nice aromatic blend, I would liken to a vegetable version of demi-glace. It was a little intense and salty in terms of taste. But, no matter, I used two cups to inject the brisket until it started rejecting the liquid. Into the fridge for now. Upon removal from the fridge, there was a notable fish sauce aroma, that got stronger as the meat came to room temperature, not to worry, this always goes away over time.

Well, it took me an extra day to get the whole thing together and onto the kettle. I setup the kettle for a longer burn with a little adaptation to create sort of a heat sink under the brisket. Not sure how this setup will work, but, hey, let's mess with all the parameters at once. I did apply a dry rub to the meat, one portion an experimental rub called Cow Pow by the makers of Big Butz BBQ sauce, and the other a mix of leftovers from Simply Marvelous BBQ (their Cherry and Sweet and Spicy) mixed with some of my mother rub. Why would I do this, well, I needed to test the Cow Pow and did not have enough to do the whole brisket, but, it needed to be tested. The Simply Marvelous would have been fine alone, but, I wanted more heat from the Phu Quoc peppers that I am now using, so I added that to it.

I set up the kettle a little different to see what I could do with a few extra pieces to add some thermal mass and a little shielding of heat. he setup also allowed me to put a couple more pounds of charcoal to the overall load, meaning a few more hours of burn time. I believe I could get 6 to 8 hours with this rig.

Onto the kettle at 200F intially, and letting it run up to 300F over 4 hours, I will hold it there for a couple of hours more and let it then rest until ready to be sliced and tested. Now here is where things get even a little more odd, I had to shut down the cook about 4 hours in, to go take care of some family affairs, so the brisket was wrapped in foil and rested in a heated and then turned off oven.

Here it sat for three hours. Upon my return, it was returned to the now marginally running kettle for another 2-1/2 hours and then into the oven again to rest, as I had a dinner to attend to. I got home 4 hours later to a cold brisket. If you have ever had cold brisket, you know it can be hard and a little dry, this stuff rocked. It was tender, almost flaky with just a little pull and you could see it was still moist. 

The taste was right there. The CowPow rub was a great spicy complement to the beef, a true brisket rub. Here are the sliced pics, I wish you could smell and taste this brisket. The injection really upped the meaty profile without adding a lot of salt or strange meat texture, a perfect balance.
Sorry about the pics, this was shot at midnight, after a few cocktails and a full tasting menu with pairings, so there may be some focus issues. For those not familiar with BBQ, that may look burned, but, that bark is a lot of flavor.


  1. Looks good Bob. I have one question and that is...what happened to the other 2 tablespoons of Fish Sauce?
    marty leach

  2. Oops, I added the 2T of fish sauce to the injection prior to injecting but after cooling. I think fish sauce loses something after heating.

  3. Your test injection sounds very interesting. I just cooked my first whole brisket and used a more traditional injection.

  4. Great looking bark on that brisky, Bob. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one to sometimes be eating at hours like that!