Welcome to my guide to cooking Aussie Brisket. Many of us take recipes/guides from American sites on cooking the “perfect” beef brisket but the pitfall many of us (including myself) have identified is the fact that in the land of the brisket and BBQ not all are created equal.
Australian Briskets are traditionally smaller and different, our climate is different, our fuel is different.
This guide will hopefully help you understand the differences and be able to “translate” American recipes into Aussie ones.
This isnt a "competition guide" as how i cook at home is VASTLY different from how i cook in competitionsTHE MEAT
There are essentially 4 things to look for in Aussie briskets and it will help you identify rough size, fat content and quality.
Grass Fed – Sometimes under the heading of “organic” known for superior flavour but many times at the risk of lean or smaller sizes
Grain Fed – Many times cattle are finished on grain to up the fat content and size. These briskets tend to be larger with more fat and sometimes better marbling
Full Packer – This refers to the cut provided as you will get the full Point of brisket and 3/4 of the flat of the beast that runs along the ribs.
Brand Named / Vac Sealed – in many cases brand names are a great guide and help your average cook with identifying a product that is consistent.
The below list are some of the Aussie Briskets you can get, I will provide descriptions of each once I make SURE I accurately describe them. I will add other common brand name full packer briskets once I find them.
Cape Grimm – Grass Fed
Rangers Valley - Black Onyx
Tajima - Wagyu
Blackmores - Wagyu
Sher - Wagyu
As a guide I suggest any new cook looks to purchase/cook briskets about the 4.5kg in weight and nothing less than 3.5kg. The reason for this is that shorter cooking times due to smaller pieces of meat will not allow the collagen to break down into gelatin.BUTCHERING YOUR FULL PACKER
Many many new BBQ'ers look at a big piece of brisket and immediately think they should remove most of the fat. They do it on American Pitmasters, they do it in competitions ect ect.
There are some variables you need to know before identifying how much fat (if any) to remove.
- Direct radiant heat is a killer on a brisket. Fat will help shield much of the brisket from drying. (take not weber 57 users)
- Will you be making burnt ends or slicing up the brisket as a whole piece. some BIG briskets can handle splitting the point from the flat as each part is 4+kg
- how big/small is your brisket as anything under 3.5kg is likely very lean and prone to drying out
For those with direct heat or a small brisket (sub 5kg) i recommend removing as little fat as possible. there should be a good amount of fat sitting next to or under the point as well as across the flat. Remove the "bad fat" which is the stringy/stretchy fat and leave the Tallow (harder/denser fat)
If you have a 5kg + Brisket then its very possible you have excess fat around the point/flat area as well as along the sides. Its a good practice to have a uniform amount of fat around your brisket, 6mm is about recommended up to about 8mm
Other factors are how much marbling is on your brisket. a WELL marbled brisket (wagyu) will handles more trimming.RUBBING
In this section im not going to tell you how to suck eggs.
Everyone has their preference around flavour. I will however point out a few factors around rubs about what i have found does/doesn't work.
CHOOSING YOUR RUB
Many of us (myself included) love a S&P mix (otherwise know as dalmatian). Some add garlic/Onion powder to this to boost the flavour as well as fill in the gaps to create a superior crust.
What i have found over a number of cooks is that it is better to have a binding agent to stick the rub to your meat. American yellow mustard (light coating) or vegetable oil is my go to options. I have found that olive oil can impart an undesired flavour.
Whichever rub you go with the amount of rub to be applied is the amount that "sticks" on without patting it on. I have found this to be a good method to identify how much to apply.
RESTING WITH RUB ON
One pitfall that many cooks do is rest their meat with a high salt rub on it. Salt naturally draws out moisture and as such you are left with a potentially dry piece of meat even before you put the brisket on the cooker. If you are using a 50/50 mix i suggest that you put your brisket straight onto the pit instead of rest the meat with the rub on.INJECTING
Unlike rubs injecting in many cases is an optional task. Injecting in my opinion is a great way to add additional flavour into your brisket as well as increasing the mass to promote longer/slower cooking times for those sub 5kg.
WHAT TO INJECT
the most common injecting liquid is beef stock however i have found in the past that a high salt beef stock tends to OVER salt a brisket. Choose a low sodium stock so that you can control the salt content with the application of rub. After all its easier to boost salt than to take it away.
Worcestershire sauce, beer, dry rubs ect are other things that can be added to the liquid for injecting.
Be aware that MANY injectors do not handle particulate well so if you have a home made stock or are adding dry rub for flavour you should coffee filter or cheese cloth filter the liquid before attempting to inject.THE PIT
This topic can EASILY get out of hand on what cooks the best ect ect so i will just touch on some "considerations" i have found with different BBQ's i have cooked on over the years.
Weber 57 (using a snake method) - a LARGE brisket (6+kg) will have some trouble fitting on a weber 57. as a brisket shrinks some use a rib rack to initially hang the brisket over for the first part of the cook untill the shrinking occurs. Use a water pan for high moisture pit
Weber 57 (using a smokenator) - a brisket on the top rack away from the smokenator works quite well, be sure to rotate the brisket 3-4 times during the cook to prevent one side getting too much radiant heat. Continually check water pan
Kamado - ensure that you run a "clean" charcoal in a kamado as charcoal with moisture or not fully carbonised will impart an undesired flavour. Be careful with the amount of woodchips used in a kamado due to its low airflow
Gas Cabinet - be sure to only apply small amounts of woodchips. also use a digital thermometer to check rack temperature. These cabinets will only house up to about a 6kg brisket
Electric Cabinet - be sure to only apply small amounts of woodchips. also use a digital thermometer to check rack temperature. These cabinets will only house up to about a 6kg brisket
WSM - Waterpans are a great way to start out on a WSM. Use a minion method as well as be sure to keep out of wind/rain to prevent cooling of the pit where the meat is. Using a digital thermometer to maintain temps. Top or bottom rack is fine.
Pellet Grill - due to the relatively high airflow as well as radiant heat be sure to not have your brisket over "windy" areas (edges) as well as use a trivet to raise the brisket away from any hot spots on the pit. on bigger pellet grills the 2nd shelf is preferable (away from chimney stack). A waterpan can help compensate for the drying effect of the high airflow
Offset Smoker - With offset smokers its common to have a hot spot near the firebox. ensure that your brisket is away from this hotspot. A waterpan is a great addition to an offset for high humidity cooking
Gas BBQ - while it is possible to cook a brisket on a gas BBQ its very inefficient. if you do wish to then use a trivet to raise the brisket off the cast iron grates and use only a single burner on the opposite side of the grill.
Weber Q - as above use a trivet and possibly foil to prevent direct heat on the brisket. also you can add a cut in half can to fill with water for additional moisture/heat control. feathering of gas cylinder can be sued to manage the lower temps required.COOKING TIMES
This is the topic that many of us fall short on (or long in some cases
) the rough rule of thumb is 3-3.5 hours per kg when cooking at 225-250f. What i suggest for those whom are cooking in a high stress environment (you have your wife/partner cracking the shits or guests arriving) give yourself an extra 2 hours on top of the time you have calculated.
A Brisket will rest for up to 4 hours at the desired temperature in an Esky (obviously without ice) when wrapped in foil + towels.
A rest of 30mins is recommended anywayTO WRAP OR NOT TO WRAP
I would suggest wrapping briskets under the 5kg mark to prevent drying out as well as briskets with low amounts of marbling (grass fed). The temperatures people tend to wrap is at 155f however you can do it earlier or later. note that wrapping earlier can prevent formation of a nice bark.
during the wrap it is an option to add a small amount of additional stock (usually your injecting liquid)
Take note that wrapping will speed up a cook.
It is recommended to wrap multiple times to prevent foil from breaking and loosing all liquid. some will use a pan with foil over the top which is another option.
Butchers paper can be used on electric cabinet smokers, pellet grills and offsets as they are unlikely to ignite the paper. Butchers paper helps with moisture retention and has slightly different effect to foil in that it will allow an amount of breathing but will also allow the crust to form better.COOKING TEMP
Yes Yes, everyone says to cook to temp instead of time but please use these temps as a "rough guide" as a brisket is ready when it is ready.
On average i have found that 95% of briskets are ready between the temps of 195-203F.
The proper test of doneness is where the brisket "wiggles" like jelly when poked and a temperature probe goes in easily (like a sponge cake) when inserted into the point.RESTING
It is important to rest a brisket so that juices and flavours can be re-absorbed throughout the brisket. 30minutes is recommended but in the case of an early finish then up to 4 hours can be used.
Be aware that when carving the flat it will dry out very quickly so serve upon request and be sure to re-wrap between servings.
If at this stage you decide you want burnt ends then it is recommended that you cut off the point from the flat, cut into 2.5cm cubes, apply BBQ sauce and then place back on the pit.SERVING
the cutting thickness recommended for brisket is 6.25mm (1/4inch) the best way to know this thickness is to think of a standard pencil thickness.
It is common to use a ham knife (long thin knife) for slicing as many briskets are larger than your average kitchen or chef knife.IN SUMMARY
While brisket isnt impossible to cook in Australia many will agree its one of the hardest american style cuts to cook. Its definitely not a Piece of meat to be intimidated by and following the guide here you should be well equipped to make the right call through your cook. As always i will add pictures/links and additional info to this guide as i learn new techniques.
Good luck with your Brisket and remember, its the cut that separates the boys from the Men (or women