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Texas-Style Barbecued Brisket

Method: Indirect grilling.

Advance preparation: 4 to 8 hours for marinating the meat (optional) and 5 to 8 hours for cooking.

Special equipment: 6 to 8 cups of hickory or mesquite chips or chunks, soaked for one hour in cold water to cover, then drained.

1 beef brisket (5 to 6 pounds), with a thick layer of fat at least 1/4-inch thick, preferably 1/2-inch thick. (Do not attempt this recipe with a smaller brisket, it will dry out.)
1 tablespoon coarse (kosher or sea) salt
1 tablespoon chile powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Rinse the brisket under cold running water and blot dry with paper towels.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and toss with fingers to mix. Rub this mixture into the brisket on all sides. If you have time, wrap the brisket in plastic and let marinate, in the refrigerator, for 4 to 8 hours (or even overnight), but don't worry if you don't have time for this -- it will be plenty flavorful, even if you cook it right away. (We marinated it overnight.)

Set the grill up for indirect cooking; no drip pan is necessary. If using a charcoal grill, preheat to low.

If using a gas grill, place as many wood chips as possible in the smoker box and pre-heat the grill to high. When the smoke appears, lower the heat to medium-low.

When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss one-quarter of the wood chips on the coals. Place the brisket, fat side up, in an aluminum foil pan (or make a pan with a double sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil). Place the pan in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat. Cover the grill.

Smoke-cook the brisket, using the indirect method, until tender enough to shred with your fingers, 5 to 8 hours. (Cooking time will depend on the size of the brisket and heat of the grill.) Baste the brisket from time to time with the fat and juices that accumulate in the pan. If using charcoal, add 10 to 12 fresh coals per side every hour and toss more wood chips on the fresh coals. (Add about 1/2 cup chips per side every time you replenish the coals.) With gas, all you need to do is be sure that you start with a full tank of gas.

Remove the brisket pan from the grill and let cool for 15 minutes. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and thinly slice across the grain. Transfer the sliced meat to a platter, pour the pan juices on top, and serve immediately. Serves 10 to 12.

-- "The Barbecue! Bible" by Steven Raichlen

Thursday, June 17, 1999

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