The great brisket experiment

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i is a moose

Smoking Fanatic
Original poster
Feb 14, 2011
The West Coast, USA

Please understand that this is just armchair speculation put into action. At present, I do not advocate brining beef, nor am I seeking to turn the brisket world on its head, just looking to see if I can make this idea work. Folks new to and familair with the smoking world alike are welcome to read this, but I must say that following the tried and true methods of handling a brisket is the sure way to smoked beef nirvana. Thank your for your time.

Ordinarily, brisket's just a fairly standardized system: salt and pepper, maybe some cayenne if I'm feeling saucey, 90 minutes a pound or so on the smoke, foiling sometimes, usually keeping the flat and point separate... relatively consistent, and good, but today I've decided to upset the established order some, and experiment. I'm going to try brining a brisket. Not so much to "corn" it, just trying to inundate it with a little extra juice, and some extra flavor.

Before I got into the project itself, here are the rules I set.

1. I cannot interfere with the beef flavor.

       Everything about this brine must act in a way to reinforce the natural taste of the meat. All, if any, spices cannot be dominant, but subtle, and provide more heat than taste. I like my cow to taste like cow.

2. Keep the salinity manageable.

       I can always add salt and pepper as needed, I can't easily take it away. Furthermore, I have no interest in pickling, or curing this meat, so lower amounts of salt than usual, and no curing compounds. Reading shows that meats will retain relatively similar amounts of liquid, be it high in salinity, or not (, so... what the heck.

3. Maintain a balance.

      I love to sweeten pork a bit, there't nothing in this world like the right amount of molasses in the pork; but beef has it's own rich flavor that doesn't take to sugars so well, so I'd like to balance the sugars so they're there to help the smoke "stick" to the meat, but not present enough to kill it.

4. Have fun doing it.

      The most important rule.

At this point, I took out my note pad, and my professor pipe, and got to work. Questions swirled around my head:

Which salt to use? Which flavors do I want to augment? Do I want to add fruit juices or pieces to this? Should I add tenderizers, or acids? What should be my source of sugar? What's better than water for a brine?

And then I thought:


This became my goal. I don't want brisket to taste like molsses, so that's out, I don't want my brisket to taste like corned beef or pastrami, so pickling and table salts are out. I don't want it to taste like cherries, or apples, or pineapple, or papayas, so fruits are out. I want this to stay semi-firm in the first bite, and not dissolve into mush, so tenderizers, like papain are definitely gone, nor do I want it to have a tangy pickled taste, so vinegar and curing compounds are way gone.

I did want: Savory beefy goodness, a little zip without dominating spices, so heavy spices like curry, tumeric, and cloves were reserved for vindaloo, and gingerbread men respectively. However chili powder or flakes were welcome. I also wanted the spices to form a "primer" for the smoke, so I dropped the red pepper flakes for chipotle, and added some of my southwestern rub, which has smoked paprika in it.

I also really like when garlic and rosemary play second (and third) tenor in a beef roast, so I invited them to the party. Sauteed onions would definitely enhance the flavor some too.

All the pieces began to come together.
Now all we need is for you to put those pieces together and show us some Q..................................
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I began the madness by Frenching one onion and slicing 3 cloves of garlic.



I began sauteeing the onion in a couple tablespoons of butter, I chose not to add too much fat, just enough to cok the onions, and help carry the fat-soluable flavors of the spices into the meat. Meanwhile I gathred my spices and herbs:

1/4C pepper corns, 5 fresh Bay leaves, 1T Chipoltle flakes, 1 T Southwestern rub, 1 handful of fresh rosemary.


For liquid, I chose 2 quarts of beef broth, and an additional 2 pounds of ice (not shown). I was leary of this broth because it's sold as "beef flavored broth" but I read the ingredients, and the first item listed was beef stock. It as also on sale, so, good enough for me.


For the salt, I really sought something that's flavor is nearly synonymous with savory meatiness. Well, soy sauce is on the forefront of this new "fifth taste" that's recently been added to sweet, salty, sour, and bitter: "umami" so 1/2 Cup of soy sauce went in.


In stewing applications, I've found that a little worcestershire sauce can make some things taste even beefier than plain beef, so 1/4 cup went in. The picture of which, photobucket has somehow magically lost. Thank you photobucket, you've made my life so happy these last 24 hours, but I digress...

I decided that the controlled sugars would be introduced by a 12-ounce bottle of Dr. Pepper, it's semi-sweet, and semi-astringent, so I thought it would balance itself somewhat naturally in the brine.


Once the onions were sauteed up, I added the garlic, and tossed it around until it begame fragrant, then added the beef stock, herbs, spices, and sauces, poured in the soda, and a shot of red wine, and brought it all up to a boil. I gave it a brief taste, and felt it was about right for what I sought flavor-wise, but need some help in the "kick" department. So I shook in a little hot sauce.


Once it returned to a boil, I let it all steep on the stove, lidded up for roughly two hours, added the ice, and set it in the fridge to chill. I prefer making my brines and marinades a day in advance, so they get a chance to really balance out before they go on the meat. When this happens, I'll give it a final taste for saltiness, and then the experiment will continue...
The brine actually ended up tasting really good! The final result was something I would be comfortable serving as a soup were it less salty, and had some veggies, and I hope the final heat is carried into the meat, it was spot-on. A fry-test will reveal how it balances into the meat.

Black Angus whole packer briskets were on sale today at Cash 'n' Carry for 1.90 a pound!

I figured that if I was gonna fail at something, I might as well fail big, and snagged two.

Here we have one of them. This one had been in it's packaging for some time, and was very much wet-aged to the point where the fat had lost a great deal of it's firmer qualitied, and the meat was very buttery to work with.


Briskey number two:


I separated the flats from the points, and trimmed them down


And since the fuel pump was primed, I figured I'd get this controersy engine going:

I decided to jacard the brisket. Not seeking the tenderized effect, just trying to get that brine as much acces to the meat as possible.


Third gear: some twine. I decided that I wanted the meat to be as even in thickness as possible to better insure an even cook time, so...



There they are, all nicely bound
and gagged, like good little hostages! I tied the points together opposite each other, and ended up with a roast as thick as the two flats.

Long time ago, while brining my first turkey, I'd discovered that large construction-grade garbage bags make excellent brine bags. (fresh bags, of course) Anywho, I just threw one in the bottom drawer of the fridge, poured in a little brine, added one brisky, little more brine, and repeat.


Burped the air out of my brine bag, and double-knotted the "neck", and I've been sloshing it about every couple hours to try and gaurantee as much coverage as possible.


Finally, I had all this trim to deal with:


So I cut out the toughest bits o' silverskin, and ground it up for burgers!


Now, we wait...
Your brine sounds a lot like the injections I've seen used on Briskeys. 

What would be the difference beween using an overnight brine and injecting then letting sit a couple of hours?

Is the Dayquill the secret ingredient?
It's very much inspired by the injections I've seen done, and I imagine the results would be about the same, just getting a flavorful liquid into the meat. I thought I'd try using a modified injection as a brine, just for kicks.

The dayquill is indeed my secret ingredient, the one keeping me from coughing all over the meat!
It's very much inspired by the injections I've seen done, and I imagine the results would be about the same, just getting a flavorful liquid into the meat. I thought I'd try using a modified injection as a brine, just for kicks.

The dayquill is indeed my secret ingredient, the one keeping me from coughing all over the meat!
But if you had used Nyquill it would have given it a licorice flavor...
It's cherry dayquill.  Looks like that cheap no name brand that fills my bathroom medicine cabinet.

That purple/green stuff is horrible.  I'd rather be sick.
But if you had used Nyquill it would have given it a licorice flavor...

And you wait until now to offer this suggestion? Where were you when I made the brine!

But, seriously, I laughed pretty hard at that bit!

It's cherry dayquill.  Looks like that cheap no name brand that fills my bathroom medicine cabinet.

That purple/green stuff is horrible.  I'd rather be sick.
I WISH it was cherry flavor, good gravy; this is the standard junk, bleeeah!

I also wish it was the cheap imitation brand, too, I bought it on my way home from woerk the other morning (night shift) and I work in a tourist town, it was marked up about 2 bucks over shelf price!


Interestingly enough, I've managed to get it into nearly every shot on this thread, too, weird.
Sometimes it's pretty funny seeing what is in the background of pics posted on the internet.  I stand corrected on the licorice flavor,  I saw red and thought cherry. One thing for sure, that stuff does work on knocking out a cold.
Glad that Dayquil/Nyquil issue has been cleared up. After my pink meat fiasco yesterday I was wondering if that got added to the brine....not so much of a Dr. Pepper fan or Mt. Dew but maybe a good root beer....waiting to see how this pans out..I like the Jacard twist....I'm sure this plot will thicken
I vote for Figjam's avatar becoming a Stickey! 

And if he changes it to Wolf Blitzer or something it is currently some really hot brunette that will have back problems as she gets older.
Well the plan is to do my fry-test in Friday. (Frytestday?)

I'm waiting as patiently as possible.

Chefwillie: I'm not a huge fan of either Dr Pecker or Mountain Dew, though MD was my late uncle (and childhood hero)'s favorite soda, so every now and again, I'll suffer through one. I really like good Ginger beer, now there's a soda!

Alelover: I cant say I "like" the taste of Nyquil, but as an Absintheur, I get mild enjoyment from the taste. Not as good as the real deal, but still anise has never been an unwelcome flavor!

Alblancher: yes. 'Nuff said.

Well, while I'm waiting, I've got some bread dough on the rise. I made the sponge the other day, and let it ferment good and long in the fridge, then I mixed in the remaining flour, melted butter, and eggs, and I've been beating it back in a desperate attempt to keep it from assimilating the fridge. I checked on it last night before work, and it was lifting the shelf above it up! Tomorrow, I plan on portioning it up, one ball for each of the three nights of the upcoming camping trip.

By the way, these briskies will be for an upcoming camping trip... so these better turn out edible!

The menu:

Saturday night: Beer Butt Chicken with southwestern rub, and perched on a Negra Modelo, served with corn bread, black beans and roasted corn compote, red rice and rice pudding.

Sunday Night: Pork Butts with orange/mustard glaze, fresh baked bread, mixed veggies, sweet-potato mash, and peach cobbler.

Monday night: Tri-tips with mushrooms and veggies, meyer lemon pasta, fresh bread and pineapple upside-down cake.

Tuesday Night: Brisket and red potatoes, coleslaw, fresh bread, and cinnamon cake. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.