Texas Smoked Brisket, and Texas Style Barbecue Sauce

There’s many things on my bucket list of things I’d like to master in the food world. Among the things I’d like to really put my finger in is barbecue. I don’t mean grilling a hot dog or burger, I mean true slow smoked to perfection barbecue. Sometimes the worlds most basic concepts can yield spectacular results. True barbecue is a grand example of that. A few good ingredients, a fire, and some patience, and before you sits something absolutely remarkable. Barbecue is something wonderful, but it takes some time to master the exact method. Getting all of your ducks in a row and perfecting the steps, a bit of trial and error is necessary. What we have here are two examples of brisket I’ve made recently. I’ve made brisket in the past with what I can only describe as a Kansas Style rub with a Carolina sauce. This did not make Mr. Oklahoma very happy. Although he eats just about every barbecue I put in front of him he’s been asking for Texas style barbecue. I’ve barbecued bologna, I’ve made some mighty fine ribs. Naturally it’s time to just move onto what I’ve found the most intimidating. Brisket, … Good brisket, slow smoked with a crunchy salty bark. I’m on a mission, to make the best brisket. Its a delicious job, but someone has to do it.

This was brisket #1, (about 4 pounds) It had an even layer of fat and it cooked in exactly 4 hours. 
So two weeks later, two weekends with brisket for supper I have come up with a great rub recipe. I have a good idea of what to look for when buying a brisket, and I have a better understanding of how long it should be smoked. Now true Texas style barbecue enthusiasts opt out when it comes to sauce, not us. We are sauce peoples, we love sauces. I make sauces, all the time and for every occasion. I can’t imagine a piece of chicken without barbecue sauce, a steak without glaze, or a french fry without dippy. Sauce and meat are like two peas in a pod, they are just meant to be. So in an honest attempt to replicate true Texas barbecue I was in search of a sauce that would not dilute the Texas style barbecue experience. What I found was a recipe from Food & Wine. I tried it as-is however… ouch. It was salty and spicy and not my favorite. I added a little sugar, and by a little I mean half of a cup. (along with a bit of this and that extra) The final result was a perfectly spicy sauce that was not only wonderful with the brisket, but it was insanely delicious with grilled chicken wings. This is my run down of what I’ve done with Texas Style Brisket. Keep in mind I’m a life long Northern girl. No no hate-emails please, I’m trying. 
Texas Smoked Brisket:
I made two briskets, two weekends in a row the smoker was going. Two briskets, two rubs. One sauce. The dry rub below is the one that we thought was the winner of the two rubs. Its salty, flavorful and not overly complex. 
4-6 pound brisket (see note)
Dry Rub-
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Trim off and remove excess fat from brisket, you want to leave a decent cap, but not too much. Combine dry rub ingredients into a bowl. Using a fork prick the brisket all over on both sides. Rub the seasoning all both sides. Place in the refrigerator overnight. (8-24 hours) I allow mine to rest overnight uncovered. It allows the seasoning to really penetrate. If you do this you want to be sure not to contaminate anything else in the fridge. Use the bottom shelf, and keep other items away from it.
Prepare your grill or smoker with charcoal and wood chips. The ideal temperature is 200 degrees. You want to maintain this heat during the entire cooking process. If you are using a standard charcoal grill you will want to place the coals on one side of the grill, and cook the brisket over indirect heat.  
Smoke 4-6 hours, or until the inner temperature reaches 185. Half way through cooking you will want to flip the brisket. A dark bark should form on both sides. If you are using a standard charcoal grill you will have to cook a shorter period of time unless you are able to keep the grill temperature low enough. 
Remove from grill or smoker. Wrap in foil or place in an airtight container. Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes. Slice and devour. 
(If you do not have a smoker or grill or your just not in the mood to deal with it, you can prepare this in an oven. Wrap in foil, or use a dish with a lid. 200 degree oven for 3 1/2 -4 hours. or- an inner temperature of 160-185 degrees. Adding 1 tablespoon of liquid smoke will give you some smokiness. Time will vary depending on the size of each brisket. To create a bark turn your broiler on high, Remove the brisket from the foil or covered baking dish and darken each side of the brisket until its your desired color/texture.)
Note- Picking The Perfect Piece of Meat: I learned that not all briskets are created equal. When looking for a brisket saying “just grab one” is not appropriate. 
  • Shape & Size- The first brisket I made was about 4 pounds. It had a great shape, and fat ratio. The second one was 6 pounds. It took closer to 6 hours. You want something that has a good somewhat symmetrical shape for even cooking. You don’t want a big piece of meat that tapers off into a smaller piece of meat. The small portion will not survive. 
  • Fat – Fat is flavor, you want some fat. However this is not bacon, you do not want a 50/50 ratio of fat to meat. Some people recommend leaving all of the fat cap on there and cutting it off before serving. I found that its more ideal to remove excess fat so that it cooks evenly. This also allows the seasoning to penetrate the meat. (not the fat you will discard) Find a piece of brisket that has an ideal amount of fat, not too much.  You may have to trim some off still. If you buy a piece with a lot of excess, you are paying for something you do not need.
Texas Style Barbecue Sauce

To most Texas Barbecue fanatics sauce is just blasphemous. The meat should speak for itself, it should have a flavor delicious enough that sauce is not needed. Although this brisket recipe is perfectly flavorful, we need sauce. This Texas Style barbecue sauce is great with brisket, and its also wonderful on grilled chicken wings. Its spicy, bold and scrumptious, it would be wonderful on a great variety of things.

Adapted From: Food & Wine True Texas Barbecue Sauce Recipe

2 cups ketchup
1/2 medium onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup Worcestershire Sauce
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon malt vinegar
2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 teaspoons mustard
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 cup of sugar
2-3 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Saute onion in a little butter or oil, just until slightly tender. Add all remaining ingredients and simmer 20-30 minutes. Store in an airtight container until needed. Can be made days in advance.