Friday, June 28, 2013

Mesquite Smoked Bison Brisket

It is always a good thing to challenge yourself.  One of my most recent challenges was to smoke a brisket.  I have smoked a beef brisket in the past.  While smoking a brisket is always a challenge (at least for me), I wanted to up the ante.  I decided that I would smoke a bison brisket.  

The challenge came together as my beautiful Angel and I were returning from a wedding in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  We were driving down the Interstate, looking for an exit that would take us to a bison farm in Monkton, Maryland.  I had told Clare about this Gunpowder Bison & Trading Company, which is a bison farm where you could watch the bison and buy various cuts of bison meat.  Clare really wanted to see the bison, so we decided to stop at the farm.  I also decided to purchase a bison brisket.  This gave rise to my latest barbecue challenge ... and it was quite the challenge.

Smoking a brisket is difficult enough.  The primary concern is ensuring that that the brisket remains moist throughout the smoking process.  When you use a beef brisket, you at least have a fat cap that can help in that regard.  Bison meat is much leaner than beef, which means I could not rely upon fat to help ensure that the brisket retained its moisture.

I debated about using an injection.  I thought about injecting beef stock, beer or even butter into the brisket to help maintain its moisture.  I have watched many an episode of Barbecue Pitmasters, where pitmasters take large syringe-like injectors and repeatedly poke a piece of meat to insert some liquid.  Ultimately, I decided against an injection.  Instead, I would use a combination of techniques.  First, I would try a wet smoke, using a substantial amount of liquid in the bowl, which would convert to steam and rise to keep the meat moist.  Second, I decided to wrap the meat after a couple of hours of cooking.  I realized that wrapping the meat would affect the bark that otherwise would develop.  In the end, the choice between bark and moisture, I chose the moisture.  Finally, I decided to cook the bison brisket for 2/3 of the time that I would ordinarily cook a beef brisket.  This would help prevent the brisket from drying out.

Finally, I decided to use mesquite wood for the smoking.  Mesquite is a wood that is traditionally used to smoke briskets, particularly in Texas. 

In the end, I think this challenge went well.  The brisket was moist, although a longer cooking time could have helped to make the brisket a little more tender.  The salt and pepper was just the right seasoning, and, I had just enough mesquite smoke to flavor the brisket.  This brisket was not perfect, but it was definitely a great start.  I will definitely be making this recipe again and I will update this recipe accordingly.  

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves many

1 bison brisket (about 3 pounds)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Mesquite wood
8 cups of water
3 bottles of beer (such as Shiner Bock)

1.  Prepare the brisket.  Trim and prepare the brisket.  Season the brisket liberally with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Make sure all sides of the brisket are seasoned.  Wrap the brisket in plastric wrap and refrigerate it overnight.

2.  Prepare the smoker.  Prepare a chimney and light it.  Once the coals are ready, add them to the smoker.  Add the water and beer to the liquid bowl and place that over the fire. Bring the temperature up to 200 to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.  If the temperature exceeds 225 degrees, bring the temperature down to that level. 

3.  Smoke the brisket.  Place the brisket in the smoker, fat side up.  Smoke the brisket for about 2/3 of the time that you would ordinarily smoke a beef brisket (one hour per pound instead of an hour and a half per pound).  After about two hours, wrap the brisket in foil.  Smoke the brisket for about another hour.  For a beef brisket, you want to reach a temperature of at least 180 degrees.  For a bison brisket, I pulled it out once the temperature reached about 160 degrees. 

4.  Finish the dish. Remove the brisket from the smoker and allow it to sit for at least twenty minutes.  Slice and serve immediately. 

A smoked brisket, whether beef or bison, always calls for a nice beer.  I would serve this brisket with the remainder of the six pack of Shiner Bock that I bought to smoke the meat.  



Farmhouse Geek said...

I'd suggest leaving it on longer, 160 really isn't enough to melt all the connective tissue. I'd leave it wrapped to keep it moist and keep going to at least 185, several sources cite cooking beef brisket as high as 225. At this point the juiciness isn't coming from the meat like a steak, but from dissolved gelatin from the connective tissue; though melted fat is definitely playing a role too.

Still, sounds tasty, I wish I could have tried some!

Keith Bolek said...

Thank you very much for your insight and tips. When I try this recipe again, I will definitely try to cook it to a higher temperature to see if helps to keep it moist. If I do that, I will probably also inject and/or use another method to keep the brisket moist, as it does not have as much fat as a beef brisket. Thanks for reading my blog! Keith

Anonymous said...

I tried this recipe this weekend. 2# bison brisket. I used a bison rub overnight prior to smoking. I smoked it for one hour, then one hour wrapped in foil to 160'. The smoking tips and techniques were very helpful.
The flavor was wonderful, but the meat was very tough. Maybe a tough cut? I was very disappointed.
I cut it all up and threw it in the crockpot with potatoes, onion, stock and kale. Still good flavor but falling apart tender stew. I think I will stick with braising briskest.

Keith Bolek said...

It is very difficult to smoke bison because of the very low fat content in the meat. The content is much less than in an ordinary beef brisket. It is made even more difficult because brisket is by its nature a tough cut. I am sorry that you were disappointed. The recipe is a work in progress, although I have not had an opportunity to smoke a brisket since I posted it. Keith

James Nunez said...

Not sure if your process is conducive to making this a success. I just purchased two 6lb bison briskets from a local rancher in Ohio. I am from texas and have a Mesquite smoked meats business here i have about 30 years experience and i have recently increased the capacity of my smoker to include a offset firebox and a vertical smoke chamber with augmented heat source. My smokers main chamber is is 36 inch long piece of 24inch diameter stnadard schedule carbon steel pipe the smokebox is 3/3in. thich carbon steel plate 24x24x22 in size. the vertical smokebox on the opposite sife is 36in tall by 24 deep by 22 wide. I mention this only to provide context the equipment you use is specific to you and your smoking success also time temperature and various other variables will affect outcomes. Second and this may help your efforts smoking is a seperate process from cooking. you should smoke at a temp that is between 150 and 200 degrees with the bulk of the time in the lower range cooking should be a a heavy commercial stainless pan that can be foil covered you can build an expanded metal grate to lift your meats off the bottom or leave them as is regardless cooking should be at 225 for a certain amount of hours based on size and desired tenderness. If you would like to follow our first bison brisket venture please like our facebook page Texas Beef And Cattle Company. We'll be embarking on this endeavor in the next few days always good to collaborate!

Keith Bolek said...

Thank you for your comments. As the post notes, this was a start. I only have a 22 inch Weber Smoky Mountain smoker, which is what I use to smoke everything. This post was my first attempt at smoking bison, but it won't be my last. I will definitely take into account your advice when I make another attempt.

Tom said...

Have you tried this since? I just picked up a 3lb bison brisket and I am very curious. I am also using an offset charcoal smoker, so i wonder how much would be different compared to your smokey mountain smoker(i use to have one and loved it).

Keith Bolek said...

Tom, I have not tried the recipe since but it is on my rather lengthy to do list. I hope your brisket turned out great.

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