Smoked Brisket Sous-vide

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Brisket is a cut of beef that is not well know at all in the Netherlands. Most of the brisket (“puntborst” in Dutch) is used to make a cold cut called “pekelvlees” (brined beef). Since Dutch beef is very lean and it is difficult to get ‘exotic’ cuts like brisket (yes it is that unknown around here) from imported beef, I had never before tried to cook brisket sous-vide as I didn’t have high expectations of a lean brisket cooked sous-vide. But after the success with a smoked leg of lamb finished sous-vide, I thought it would be interesting to try the same preparation on a piece of brisket. It turned out great: the brisket had the texture of a tender perfectly cooked medium-rare steak and a very interesting deep smoky flavor. Since I only used a small piece of brisket to try this the smoky flavor was a bit strong, but that will be easily remedied by using a larger pieces and/or a shorter smoking time. This is what sous-vide is about: by the low and slow cooking (48 hours at 57C/135F) the meat is tender without becoming dry, and the smoky flavor from the out layer has the time to penetrate into the core of the meat.

Ingredients

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beef brisket (in this case trimmed, but a thin layer of fat would also be fine)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp smoking dust

Preparation

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Rub the brisket with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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Refrigerate for about 2 hours. This will draw out some of the juices, but more importantly the salt will be absorbed into the meat.

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Pat dry with paper towels and rub all over with olive oil.

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Put the brisket in a smoker with 2 Tbsp of smoking dust.

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Smoke for 15 minutes.

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The brisket will get a very deep brown shiny color. Only the outside has been cooked by the smoking, inside it is still raw.

Let the brisket cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until completely cold. If the meat is still warm while you vacuum seal it, more juices will be drawn out.

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Vacuum seal the brisket when it’s cold.

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Cook sous-vide for 48 hours at 57C/135F.

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Make a gravy by heating the bag juices. If you like you can add some concentrated beef stock as well.

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Carve the meat across the grain.

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Serve on warm plates with the gravy.

Wine pairing

This calls for a spicy oaky full-bodied red wine such as a cabernet sauvignon from California.

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24 thoughts on “Smoked Brisket Sous-vide

  1. Fantastic use of less expensive cuts. I completely approve. Brisket is readily available here. I have to admit that I have never cooked i. It is often referred to as Housekeepers Cut. This for some reason has put me off. I am also put off by the awful over-roasting of this cut that is shown in supermarket ads. The meat can only be like cardboard after such treatment.
    Best,
    Conor

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  2. This looks great. Brisket is the main cut used in texas barbecue and is often smoked at low temperature over 12 hours. Sous-vide makes great sense here (in Texas it would be sacriledge ..;-). We often smoke for a few hours and finish in the oven, but sous-vide will be even better, we just need to allow for time. Thx.

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  3. I rarely prepare brisket, Stefan. It’s a lot of cook to prepare for myself and, when entertaining, I prefer to use other proteins. Of course, if I ever get sous-vide equipment, this may change. If I ever do, I’ll surely come back here to get this delicious recipe and method.

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  4. Stefan, you are the King of Sous Vide. 🙂 I cook brisket when I barbecue because it is such a nice piece of meat to slow cook with the fragrance of the smoke with a nice rub and a mop. It is stellar and Texas is renown for it’s barbecue brisket. I never would have thought about putting a light smoke on it and then doing it sous vide. Outstanding. Please tell me about the experience. I imagine the meat was very tender and flavorful but how about the smoke flavor?

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    1. Thanks Richard, you are too kind 🙂
      The meat was indeed tender and flavorful with a pronounced deep smoke flavor. I think I will use a larger piece and/or shorter smoke next time to make it slightly less pronounced. In any case, there is no need to worry about not having enough smoke flavor! Due to the long cooking time and the fact that it’s vacuum sealed, the smoky flavor penetrates all the way to the core of the meat.

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  5. I love these technical master classes – now all I want is a a smoker, a water bath, a KitchenAid, oh and a bigger kitchen to put it in. I just purchased a two rib prime roast. I asked the butcher to ‘French’ it – he thought I was mad but I want to see those bones sticking it out once its cooked – am i right or just plain wrong to do it?

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    1. A prime rib roast (or cote de boeuf as it is called in French) is not usually ‘Frenched’ because that way you throw away quite a bit of meat (unlike with lamb where it is such a thin layer that it doesn’t matter so much). But you probably had enough meat anyway 😉
      What I would recommend is to cut away most of the thick layer of fat. A small layer would suffice to ‘baste’ the meat. The rest can be used to render. The beef fat you obtain in that way is great to sear the meat and will provide an additional beefy flavor. There will be crackling left as a snack.

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    1. You could, and it would be a nice touch, but it would not allow the smoke flavor to penetrate all the way through the meat (as I assume you’d be serving the meat righter after smoking it).
      To smoke it after sous-vide, cool in the pouch in ice water for 5 minutes or so. Then take it out of the pouch, reserve the juices to make a sauce, and pat the brisket dry with paper towels. Rub with olive oil and smoke for 15 minutes.
      If the time it needs to be ready is not critical, you could take it out of sous-vide at least 24 hours before it’s done, smoke as described above, and then allow to cool completely before vacuum sealing and cooking for the remaining time. Because the brisket needs to be cool before vacuum sealing it again (otherwise you will suck out too many juices), this means the brisket would be ready to serve about half a day later than planned.
      The brisket will also be great without smoking, so you could also just smoke it next time 🙂

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      1. Ok. I think I’m getting the hang of things. I really appreciate your input. I want to post this for St. Patrick’s day, so I’ll not do the smoking part this time, but good to know for the other half that’s in the freezer.

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  6. Thanks so much for your recipe! I’ve been using my sous vide supreme for a couple of years, & wanted to do a smoked brisket like we usually make in a ” BBQ pit” here in Texas. I’ve been looking for a good master recipe, & yours was just right. We like a very smoky flavor, so I smoked mine a little longer than you did using a good amount of oak smoking dust–maybe about 25 minutes total. I had put the rub on the meat about 24 hours in advance. I vac’d it with a couple tablespoons full of duck fat (no oil) & sous vided @ 133 x 60 hours. Absolutely perfect! Thank you again, all the way from South Texas

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  7. I just did a rubbed brisket in sous-vide for 48hrs @131. I then cut it in half and put one half on my smoker for 4 hrs for my wife and son who like it well-done(yuk). The other half I cooked over coals like a steak for 5 mins a side with hickory wood chips. It was a tender medium-rare.
    For the sauce I de-scumed the bag juice like you described, and added some red-wine and bbq sauce. I let this reduce to a thick gravy. I call it bbq gravy. This process is way easier than a regular 12 hr stint in the smoker.
    Glad to see others doing this too.

    Thanks

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to leave such a nice comment, I appreciate it.
      Have you ever tried the other way around, i.e. smoking first and then finishing sous-vide? I like the way the smoky flavor penetrates all the way through the meat that way.
      I’ve also done the quick sear on the grill like you did with a prime rib type cut and it’s always outstanding that way.
      Do you do any other sous-vide? I always like hearing about what others are doing with it — my blog is full of sous-vide recipes and experiments.

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