If you'll recall, I recently mastered the two fundamental barbecue dishes, pulled pork and ribs, and tentatively set my sights on beef brisket as my swan song. Brisket presents a unique challenge compared two my previous endeavors, as most supermarkets I searched didn't have it available, or had paltry cuts that were far too meager for any recipe. Thankfully, the ever reliable McKinnon's meat market had exactly what I needed, despite smelling strangely of farts and rotting meat. Perhaps this is how they keep costs down. Whatever the case may be, I bought a 4.5lb brisket for $14, wrapped it generously in a plastic bag, and biked home with it in my backpack. I tossed it in the freezer for a few days while I researched recipes, before deciding on 'Busy Day Barbeque Brisket', by 'Shannon :)'. I'm going to assume ':)' is her husband's last name, because any woman responsible for a recipe this fantastic won't stay single for long. Wonderfully simple, the recipe simply required a slow cooker, an easy spice rub, and a little patience. I could handle the first two, and I found distractions for the patience part. Here's what you'll need:
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 pounds beef brisket, trimmed of fat
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups barbeque sauce
Step 1: Rub liquid smoke into both sides of the meat. I was skeptical about this curious elixir, but it really does seem to impart a natural smokey flavor you've come to expect from barbecue. Shortly after this, I mixed all the spices together in a small bowl and proceeded to rub these into every nook and cranny. Note: This recipe was for 3lbs of brisket, so I was a little more generous with the liquid smoke, but the spice rub was plenty.
Here are the spices pre-mixing.
Here is the meat pre-spicing:
Here is the brisket post-rubbing. Looks a little bit like someone dropped it on the ground, but I can assure you I did not.
After applying the rub, I set the slow cooker on low and poured the 2 Tbsp Worcestershire and 1.5 C Barbeque Sauce (I used TJ's Kansas City BBQ, it's great) into the bottom of the cooker, followed by the meat. To my surprise, the meat was MUCH too large to fit into my slow cooker, and needed to be sliced in half and nestled into place. Not knowing exactly why the BBQ/Worcestershire sauce was put on the bottom of the pan, I was concerned that this flavor would fail to reach the brisket and result in disaster. As you can see from the photo below, my fears were unfounded:
In fact, when I returned from a double featured at the beautiful Brattle Theatre (2001: A Space Odyssey and These Amazing Shadows, if you're curious) I found that the liquid level in the cooker was quite alarming. The added sauces combined with juices from the meat to form a marinade that had almost completely submerged the brisket. As it had been nearly 8.5hrs at this point (the recipe suggests 8-10), I gave it a sturdy poke with a fork and decided to take it out when it nearly disintegrated on contact. I set it out on a plate, and got to "pulling".
I'm not sure if brisket is typically "pulled" like pork, or sliced, but these brisket was too moist to be served any other way, so I went to work on it and served it on a fluffy roll with some extra BBQ sauce. And you know what? It was pretty great. The spices were quite flavorful and the meat itself was tender and satisfying. Certain portions of the meat were drier than others (I hypothesize that these parts either weren't submerged long enough or weren't submerged at all in the cooker), but after adding more BBQ sauce, they joined rank and were just as delicious as their meaty brethren.
Surprisingly, the leftovers seemed to get better and better as the week went on, with the meat absorbing more and more barbeque sauce and somehow becoming moister in the process. I'm sure this made coworkers especially envious, but they did their best to pretend they were enjoying their Lean Cuisines. This concludes my barbecue experiment. I hope I have proven to you that you do not need a "smoker", a "pit", a "grill" or any other elitist barbecue contraptions to make delicious barbecue in your own home. But you don't have to take my word for it!