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Friday braai day: Smoked brisket

Today I want to talk to you about how I made my smoked brisket at the World Food Championships in USA. Smoking food is not big in South Africa – yet. America is where it’s at and it’s a lifestyle to them.

As one of plenty of teams who began by competing in ‘backyard’ competition, we were invited to Nationals, and were the only nominated team to make to Internationals. This was one of the best food experiences I’ve ever had. Touring through nine states over two months, cooking wherever we went and seeing the world’s best chefs take each other on live. I had my own way of doing things before America, but after watching the pros at work, I incorporated their style with my own South African flair.

By John Grundlingh

As you all know, a brisket is a very tough, cheap cut of beef, and so it needs to be cooked low and slow. The first rule of smoking a brisket as an art is that consistency is key. Keep everything – your methods, rub, injections, timing, wood, resting times, all processes – the same. If things are not working, you will have to make changes one step at a time. And because it is such an art, everyone has their very own rub and injection methods, and you will never get those recipes out of them. So I encourage you to get creative with this one when you try it for yourself.

Start by cutting all the excess fat from your brisket, including any membranes and begin injecting it with brine. This is a bit of your own personal rub diluted in bottled water. This will keep your meat moist in the smoker. Then rub the meat with salt, pepper and your special rub.

If you have a smoker, smoke it constantly for 5 hours at 110°C. Remove it from the smoker and cut off the point (the section marbled with fat that sits on top of the larger, flat lean section of the meat) and set it aside as it should be cooked. Wrap your lean piece of meat in brown baking paper to ensure it doesn’t absorb any more smoke, and return to the smoker to cook for another 4 hours.

If you don’t have a smoker at home, you can easily create this in a Weber. Make two charcoal fires, one on either side of the Weber, and place the brisket in the middle with no direct heat below. You can add burnt out charcoal every hour to keep the heat constant as well as a handful of woodchips such as hickory. As above, smoke it at 110°C for nine hours.

The internal meat temperature should be 79°C. And it will be perfectly cooked.

Let it rest for an hour and baste it with the juices trapped in the baking paper. Then cut into 5 mm-thick slices. Serve it as is or in a bun with slaw or in a taco.

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