Although the Irish in me absolutely loves my brisket as corned beef and cabbage; slow cooked to perfection and tenderly falling apart—this year I wanted something just, well, different. I wanted adventure. Not only that, but whatever I cooked had to accommodate my time constraints of either being in the office completing the Alaska Health Improvement Center expansion and remodel or out on the ski slopes enjoying our record-setting Anchorage snowfall.
I did it—and bring you an adventurous rub with convenience. But first a few words:
Selecting your meat:
Meat grade. Beef is graded based on the age of the animal and the amount of fat marbling. The most common grades, from lowest to highest are: Select, choice, prime, and Wagyu. As long as your meat is grass fed and raised without hormones or antibiotics, the more marbling the better. Fat makes the meat more tender, flavorful, and juicy.
What about grass fed beef? Unfortunately, if your meat is not grass fed and humanely raised, it is loaded with all manner of hormones to make the animal get to size faster plus those animals need antibiotics because they are more likely than grass-fed to get sick. As well, the grain-based feed used often contains toxic chemicals—some that are even banned from production like PCBs. In fact, you might be disgusted by some of the things fed to commercial dairy and beef cows. Out of respect for you coming here to find a delicious recipe I won’t list them, but if you are interested read this Union of Concerned Scientists article.
Grains fatten the animals more quickly, but they don’t result in healthy fats in those animals. Grass-fed meat is low in “bad” fat (including saturated fat). It gives you from two to six times more of a type of “good” fat called “omega-3 fatty acids.”
We’ve heard how omega-3 fatty acids are essential for health. People deficient in omega-3 fatty acids tend to experience more anxiety, hyperactivity and depression, they are more likely to get Alzheimers, they tend to have irregular heartbeats and are more likely to have serious cardiac events and even high blood pressure.
Grass-fed, but not grain-fed, meat is an excellent source of omega-3s because these fats are formed in the green leaves (specifically the chloroplasts) of plants. Sixty percent of the fat content of grass is a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic or LNA. Even those cattle that are “finished on grain” lose their valuable store of LNA as well as two other types of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA very rapidly when sent to the feedlot.
With Brisket, this is very important because the fat surface on the outside of the meat will baste and tenderize as you slow cook the meat. In other words, you want the fat.
Two of my favorite vendors: In Anchorage you can select the cut you like by visiting Duane Clark at Sears Mall 10-4 on Wednesdays. I’ve seen the Clark family farm and met his animals. Beautiful.
If that can’t work, order your quality grassland meat products from US Wellness Meats. Good quality and low shipping costs.
I cannot stress this enough: When shopping for brisket, go grass-fed and go for the highest grade you can find. If the grade is not labeled, chances are it is “select.” Avoid it. Brisket is the classic example of “garbage in garbage out”. Please don’t write to me and say you can’t figure out why your brisket was tough if you did not buy USDA Choice or better. Also hand pick the piece with the most fat striation visible.
Yield. Calculate about 1 pound of meat or more per person. There will be significant loss, up to 20% from fat trimming and up to 40% from shrinkage. You’ll end up with about half a pound per person, more than enough and maybe you’ll have some leftovers. Figure 12 servings if you are cooking a whole packer of about 12 pounds. Usually, your store or butcher sells smaller cuts.
1 Tbs whole white peppercorns
1 Tbs whole coriander
4½ Tbs ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
3½ Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
2-4 Tbs ground sea salt
2-4 Tbs olive oil
Preparation time. 15 minutes to make and apply the rub. If you can, let the rub soak in for an hour or two, or even overnight.
Cooking time. Rule of thumb: 50 minutes per pound at 190°F.
1. In a sauce pan, sauté the peppercorns and coriander until they just start to pop.
2. Immediately remove from the heat and put in your spice mill or Magic Bullet; grind thoroughly. (In a 3. pinch you can mash them with the back of a spoon against a glass bowel, but this takes a little longer…)
4. Mix in all the other spices.
5. You can trim the fat off your brisket now, or later, your choice. It is easier to trim after it’s cooked. That said, some of the rub is lost if you wait. I trim it down to ¼ inch before cooking—use a very sharp knife.
6. Rub the brisket in olive oil and then rub the spice mixture all over.
7. Place the brisket fat side down in an oven dish. Seal the dish with foil. And I do mean seal—you do not want moisture escaping of the brisket could dry out.
8. Put in your oven then set your oven to 190-200°F depending on how low it can go. Go do something else…
…Some time later come back and take your brisket out of the oven. Let it rest while you finish up some of the sides you’ll serve.
Slice: don’t slice until the absolute last possible minute or it can dry out. When you do slice it, use a sharp knife and cut across the grain.
mmmm…. Serve immediately