Being a big fan of Jack Daniels whisky I’ve experimented a little with it over the years and lately in the kitchen while cooking. And no, not just grilling while drinking a jack & coke, but actually incorporating it into a great tasting recipe. Also, being a big fan of BBQ (who isn’t??) I thought it just made sense to combine the two! I’ve tried a few things lately, but hand’s down my favorite so far is the Jack Daniels brisket. I’ve received a lot of requests to share this recipe, so I thought this would be the appropriate place.
For this weekend’s smoke I chose a 7.5 pound beef brisket I already had on hand, its actually part of a larger 15 pound brisket I split in half a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I chose the smaller of the two Webster Smoky Mountain Cooker/Smokers and the full brisket would not fit.
For those of you wondering where on the cow the brisket actually comes from, the brisket is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of beef or veal. The beef brisket is one of the eight beef primal cuts. The brisket muscles include the superficial and deep pectorals. As cattle do not have collar bones, these muscles support about 60% of the body weight of standing/moving cattle. This requires a significant amount of connective tissue, so the resulting meat must be cooked correctly to tenderize the connective tissue.
This normally tough cut of meat, due to the collagen fibers that make up the significant connective tissue in the cut, is tenderized when the collagen gelatinizes, resulting in more tender brisket, despite the fact that the cut is usually cooked well beyond what would normally be considered “well done”. The fat cap often left attached to the brisket helps to keep the meat from over-drying during the prolonged cooking necessary to break down the connective tissue in the meat. Water is necessary for the conversion of collagen to gelatin.
Source: Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brisket
When selecting a brisket make sure to choose one that has even marbling throughout and isn’t too fatty. Normally, it will have a layer of fat on one side (the fat cap) that may be up to one inch thick. That’s fine as you can trim some off later or have the butcher hook you up. You’ll want to keep an even layer at least 1/4 inch thick, but I would recommend up to 1/2 inch on the larger brisket due to the longer smoking time.
Combine the ingredients below and pour onto brisket (meat side down) in a medium plastic bag. Afterwards completely remove all of the air from the bag to completely submerge the brisket and twist-tie closed. Marinate for a minimum of four hours in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to completely penetrate the brisket. Normally you wouldn’t marinade meat this long in citric acid as it breaks down the meat (actually it starts to chemically cook the meat), but because the brisket is such a tough piece of meat this is exactly what we’re trying to accomplish! This, in combination with the slow, low smoking process will result in a very tender finished product.
1 cup Jack Daniels whisky
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 TBSP minced garlic (4-5 cloves)
Jack Daniels is a registered trademark of Jack Daniels.
Trying to stick to the Jack Daniels theme I thought I would use a brown sugar based rub to add some sweetness to the meat. The quick caramelization of the brown sugar will help create a barrier that will retain moisture. I’ve used a few variations of this rub, this is the latest iteration.
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and use a whisk to evenly blend.
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 TBSP powdered ginger
1 TBSP onion powder
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP ground coriander seeds
1 TBSP crushed marjoram leaves
1 TBSP crushed rosemary
1 TBSP kosher salt
1 TBSP coarse black pepper
Fuel selection seems to be a religious topic, I’ve tried both cowboy lump charcoal and charcoal briquettes in my smoker and I’ve had the best results consistently with charcoal briquettes. Some people swear by cowboy lump charcoal, so it’s quite possible I was doing something wrong. As far as hard wood is concerned, my wife is not a big fan of smoked meats (her loss…lol), so I try to pick hard woods that are mild in flavor when smoking meat for the family. For this recipe I chose to mix apple wood chunks and Jack Daniels wood chips. I started with the apple and will alternate between this and the JD wood chips throughout the smoke. Remember to soak the wood chips in cool water for at least 30 minutes to avoid flare-ups. There’s no need to soak the apple wood chunks as the water will barely penetrate the seasoned wood. There’s a good post on hard woods for smoking at http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/woods.html.
You’ll want to preheat your smoker to ensure you’re at a consistent 200-225 degrees Fahrenheit before placing the brisket in to smoke. When smoking a brisket at such a low temperature you’ll have to let it smoke for at least one hour and fifteen minutes per pound to reach 190 degrees Fahrenheit internally, so in my case about nine hours. I have a wet-smoker, so moisture control is generally not a concern but if you have a dry smoker remember flip and mop your brisket every 45-60 minutes to avoid drying it out. Also, if you’re using a dry smoker after five hours you may choose to wrap the brisket in tin foil and finish in an oven at 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
Noon – Place soaking brisket in the refrigerator to marinate.
8:00pm – Pull brisket from its marinade and pat dry with paper towels. After brisket is completely dry rub it with 3/4 of the prepared rub mixture. Be sure to place the rubbed brisket in the refrigerator fat cap down to allow excess moisture to collect at bottom without making the rubbed meat a soggy mess.
6:00am – Take brisket out of the refrigerator and place fat cap up on wire rack to bring the meat up to room temperature prior to being placed in the smoker. Apply the remainder of the mixture to the top of the brisket.
6:30am – Preheat smoker to 200-225 degrees Fahrenheit.
7:00am – Load apple wood chunks in to fuel chamber of the smoker. Place brisket in preheated smoker. Set timer for nine hours.
Continue to check the temperature hourly or if you have remote thermometer keep an eye on the temperature to make sure it doesn’t go too low for too long. Also, depending on the amount of smoke flavor you desire add the appropriate amount of wood chunks/chips. Lastly, if you’re wet smoking also keep an eye on your liquid level.
4:00pm – If a constant 200-225 degree Fahrenheit temperature has been maintained during the smoking period the brisket should be done and should register at least 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest portion.
The Finished Product
After the brisket has been removed from the smoker you should let it set for at least 20-25 minutes. Also, after all of this hard work it’s extremely important to slice the brisket correctly. Brisket must be sliced thinly and sliced against the grain. If brisket is not sliced against the grain, it will be tough rather than tender.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words….