As I approach the mark of living the same amount of years in Oklahoma as in my native Ukraine, it is fitting to post my recipe of the king of BBQ: His Majesty, the Brisket.
It’s not just humility. For my taste, Oklahoma style of bbq is an example of the perfect syncretism of food. Combining the best traits of Texas, Carolina, Kansas City, and Memphis, it gives the product that is not overly dried (sins of Texas), moisty and “ketchupie” ( transgressions of Kansas City), vinegary and mustardy as sins of other areas. Just the right amount of wrong and the miracle achieved. BBQ in Oklahoma is sweet with a bit sour notes. At the end, it’s simply perfect.
I’ve not read much about the history of Oklahoma until one day after the dinner I picked up my daughter textbook. I’ve not gone to bed that night…
Among the fascinating stories that I learned, there was a tale on the inaugural party of the governor Jack Walton in 1923. Apparently, over 125, 000 people ate smoked delights from over a mile of bbq trenches. Among animals that were sent for this State BBQ was even a bear. Luckily, he ended up in zoo, not in the bbq pit…
Despite such glorious beginning, Governor Walton’s career came to be gloriously swift end, Oklahoma style. Trying to crack down KKK, he declared martial law and suspended habeas corpus in few unruly counties. Since it violated State Constitution, the Legislature established a Grand Jury to deal with this too progressive governor who dared to prevent the honorable Christian man from carrying taught-by-God-fearing-preachers lynching duties. The governor was not a sort to step down and declared the martial law for the entire state. At the end, he was impeached. Sic transit gloria mundi…
Hence, I just know that does not matter how much I try, my bbq will never come to level of that mile-long display of bbq pits…not to mention the current bbq chefs-d’oeuvre by the best masters in our state. Yet, I try. And occasionally, get some decent results. This recipe for brisket serves as an example.
Usually, I start my brisket on Thursday evening. My approach to trimming the fat cap represent via media: I remove some, but not much. The removed fat goes to fridge to be used for emulsified hot-dog or bologna type sausages. Although the melting fat does not really penetrates the muscle of the brisket, it a) well insulates the muscle; b) the right amount of warm bbqed fat is heaven on earth; c) whatever catches the melting fat during the bbq process underneath the brisket (beans, mac and cheese, etc) becomes a highlight of your dinner.
For slather, I use combination of: 1) two parts mustard; 2) one part of blackstrap molasses; 3) 1\8 parts bourbon; 4) no tomato products whatsoever.
Then comes the rub and no pump. I typically use coarse sea salt simply because I have plenty around because that’s the only type I use for sausages. Typically, kosher salt is the choice. Amount – 1% from the weight of the brisket.
The rests comes from the rub that I use for various grilled or bbqed products:
3 parts of BP, coarsely ground; 1 part onion powder; 2 parts brown sugar; 1\2 parts paprika; 1\4 parts of garlic powder; 1\8 parts of cayenne powder; 1\4 parts dried oregano. Based on this rub, I add some experimental spices or herbs, depending on the mood and the whim of the moment. What can I say…it’s all by Hamlet: “Ay, there’s the rub!”
All gets covered and goes to refrigerator for a day, until Friday evening. I start the smoker around 6pm so the brisket is ready for slicing around Saturday noon or an hour-two after. On the eternal question of that elicits more passion in discussion than the meaning of our miserable existence, “fat cap up or down”, I go with up. Temperature – 225 F \107C.
Choice of wood: pecan. No compromises here and no additional experimentation needed. This is what my palate demands. I also don’t apply mop on brisket.
As for the crutch, I tried and stopped utilizing the technique. First, it kills one of the most enjoyable parts of brisket – the bark. Second, the stall is not my problem. Since my source of smoke for bbq comes from the well-attuned cold-smoke device, I can safely load it around 11pm and sleep all night without the need to re-load or check on anything. I remove the brisket when the internal temperature above 195F\90C and closer to 200F\93C. I try not to venture beyond 200F although I heard that around 202\203 F things could get magical. Yet, if you let it rise just a bit higher, there is a risk to get a piece of rubber instead of tender, juicy masterpiece.
When brisket it removed from smoker, it gets wrapped in a foil or a decent butcher paper and kept in insulated\warm environment for an hour.
Then – do your best trying not to overeat. It’s not an easy task with a decent brisket…