Recipe: Slow cooked smoky beef brisket

The great British barbecue is a treasured institution. Huddled under brollies sheltering from the inevitable rain, burning to a crisp some average meat over a hastily arranged instant BBQ from Sainsbury’s. It might sound rubbish, but its not. However, our travels to America have introduced us to a totally different kind of BBQ. A BBQ that has now made its way to these shores in the shape of Bodean’s, Pitt Cue Co. and a number of others. Bringing a combination of flavours we didn’t previously ever associate with this kind of cooking. Some of the BBQ we’ve tried is simply indescribably tasty, Black’s in Lockhart, Texas, Slow’s in Detroit and Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous in Memphis all giving us several parties in our mouths.

Meat. Bread. Cheese...what's not to like?!
Meat. Bread. Cheese…what’s not to like?!

Unsurprisingly, filling our faces with all that delicious meat made us want to try and make it ourselves. Sure, we could never hope to live up to the standards of our American cousins, but we’ve given in a crack. This recipe for slow cooked beef brisket is super easy to make and is pretty darn good, if we do say so ourselves.

Brisket is a good cut of beef to cook with, mainly because its pretty cheap so you can get a fair few meals out of £15 of meat, but the slow cooking makes up for some of its shortcomings in terms of quality versus the more expensive cuts. That said, even though its cheap, its worth getting it from a good butchers (we got ours from The Butchery in Forest Hill).

Before the cooking begins...
Before the cooking begins…

For this recipe, you’ll need:

*A slow cooker *1.5kg of beef brisket *1 finely chopped red onion *half a cup of ketchup *half a cup of BBQ sauce *two tablespoons of Dijon mustard *3 tablespoons of paprika *1 teaspoon of chilli *50g sea salt *50g smoked sea salt *1 tablespoon of black pepper * 1 tablespoon of white pepper *1 teaspoon of garlic granules *1 tablespoon of dark soft sugar *1 teaspoon of mustard powder *liquid smoke

How to make:

1. When we slow cook meat we like to give it a flavoursome rub on the outside that gives the meat that extra zing after a few hours bubbling away. Mix together the paprika, chilli, salt, pepper, garlic, sugar and mustard powder in a mixing bowl. You might want to add more of any of the ingredients to taste, for example if you like your beef with a more mustard-y flavour then chuck a bit more of that in!

2. Give the beef as good a coating in the rub as possible, you can pat it down with a bit of water beforehand so that the rub sticks more readily if you want.

Brisket with added rub.
Brisket with added rub.

3. Sometimes we’ll leave the beef with the rub on overnight just so it has some time to soak it in, but given this will be going in the slow cooker that’s not strictly speaking essential.

4. Time to get your slow cooker out. In order to give plenty of moisture we like to put a bunch of ketchup, BBQ sauce and a bit of water in with the beef. This is also where the chopped onion goes in.

5. Once you’ve mixed it all together its time to put the beef in. 1.5kg of rolled brisket should fit quite nicely.

6. Now there’s a bit of a trick. Slow cooking brisket doesn’t make it smoky, obviously, so here’s where we cheat a bit. We bought some liquid hickory smoke (you can get it in Whole Foods and its not hideously expensive, surprisingly), and if you spray it in the slow cooker with the beef fairly liberally – around ten good squirts – you should get a hint of smoke. If you want it more smoky, add more squirts!

Liquid smoke - magic!
Liquid smoke – magic!

7. We normally cook it for about eight hours on low, we’ve never done it for less but six hours on medium would probably do. As a rule though, the longer and lower the better!

8. Once the waiting is over you can finally take the lid off your slow cooker. The brisket should by now have filled your house with a very tasty smell!

9. You can serve it any number of ways but we normally plump for dishing it up inside some brioche buns, with a bunch of BBQ sauce and a bit of coleslaw and mac n cheese on the side. You can’t beat that kind of meal! 1.5kg should give you about 10 buns or so – more if you’re less greedy per bun!

Fluffy brioche buns complement the brisket perfectly.
Fluffy brioche buns complement the brisket perfectly.

10. This is optional, but we like to chop either end off – the ends will obviously be coated in a lot of the rub we put on earlier – chop them up into smaller pieces and put them in the oven at a very high temperature for 15 minutes or so. This gives you a kind of variation on burnt ends, and if you cook them with a bit of BBQ sauce on the top they’re very tasty indeed!

And that’s it, with not very much effort at all you’ve got yourself some delicious smoky beef brisket buns. Perhaps not quite worthy of the BBQ capital of the world, but pretty good all the same!

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