Sous Vide Smoked Brisket

So you my be seeing a trend, I am hooked on the sous vide technique.  As recent as five years ago, a sous vide machine was a several thousand dollar investment which really restricted the method to restaurants or people with crazy disposable income.  I the last two years or so, several companies have been able to make terrific sous vide machines for less than $200, such as Anova, Sansaire or the one I own, Nomiku.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I have had the privilege to purchase a quarter grass fed steer from my cousin and his wife who own Beyond Organics Farm.  In with my order were over a dozen different cuts of beef, from rib eyes to 7-bone pot roast to brisket.  I have (had) two briskets, flat cut with a very thin fat cap.  The larger of the two I plan to “corn” for Saint Patrick’s day, and the smaller one I decided to see what I could do using the sous vide method. I searched the internet and after a few hours of research, I came up with a recipe that turned out just amazing.  The trick is you need at least 48 hours to prepare it, so plan ahead

I started with a 2.5 lb flat cut brisket on a Friday afternoon, thinking I would eat it on Sunday night.  Preheat your sous vide water bath to 155 degrees.

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I took whole pepper corns, about 1/4 cup, a tablespoon of kosher salt and a little bit of fresh rosemary and pulsed it in a food processor until the pepper corns were halved or smaller.  Rub the fat cap of the brisket with the salt & pepper mixture.

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Place the seasoned brisket in a vacuum sealer and then into your sous vide bath.  Be certain to cover your cooking bucket as the water will evaporate over the 36 hours this will be cooking.  Cook for 36 hours at 155°F.  When it’s done, it’ll look a little like this.

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After 36 hours, remove the brisket from the bath and place in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours (up to a week).

 

This is where I became a bit leary of next steps.  Any traditional brisket is smoked, so how do I get the smoke into the brisket without drying it out?  I found a few ways of doing that, from liquid smoke to a true smoker (which I don’t have).  So I decided to use my trusty Weber Performer kettle charcoal grill. Light a half full chimney of lump charcoal, I prefer Cowboy brand available at most hardware stores.  Make sure it’s only half full.

When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 10-15 minutes.  Clean and oil grilling grate.

Remove the brisket from the sous vide bag, and blot dry and reserve the juice. If you want, you can add some more salt & pepper, I added a little, but would recommend not adding it, I have another solution for the flavor in a little bit.

Place brisket on cooler side of grill, fat cap-up. Add 4 to 5 hickory chunks directly on top of the hot coals.   Cover and allow brisket to smoke, adjusting vents to maintain a temperature about 275°F, and adding 1 chunk of wood every 45-60 minutes.  Smoke until a deep, dark bark has formed, about 3 hours.  As I thought through this, there was no way a half chimney would last a full three hours.  But I found that the larger hickory chunks, once “smoked out,” basically turned into charcoal and supported the slow and low temp for the full three hours.

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Transfer brisket to a cutting board and tent with foil. Allow to rest until the temeperature drops to between 145 and 165°F, about 30 minutes. While the brisket is resting, pour the remaining juices from the sous vide bag into a small pan and reduce for 5-7 minutes.  This is your au jus, which is why I don’t recommend adding more salt to the brisket.  Slice against the grain into thin strips and serve with au jus, white bread, dill pickles, cole slaw and sliced onion.

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