Smoking a (lot of) brisket
As we’ve talked about before, we have a weekly lunch meeting here at Decagon. There are a diehard group who regularly volunteer to make this lunch for 100+ people and that’s for good reason. It’s a lot of work. I was introduced to this experience through our luau and frankly, I swore I’d never do it again.
Here in Pullman, the home of Washington State University, we have two different seasons – when the students are here and when they aren’t. Since class is back in session, we figured a traditional smoked brisket barbeque would be a fitting end to a terrific summer. Smoking is one of the oldest methods of food preservation. The heat, combined with the dryness of the smoke, works to significantly reduce the water activity in the meat to levels which cannot support microbial growth. Often, the meats are rubbed with salt or sugar which works to further reduce the water activity of the meat.
We started by buying 55 pounds of brisket from a local meat locker. While the chainstores around here carry brisket, it can be difficult to find in bulk. We ended up paying $2.69/lb which is high but competitive. The meat was then rubbed with three different combinations:
- Apple – Containing sugar, chili pepper, red pepper, garlic, salt, onion, molasses, apple cider vinegar.
- Brown Sugar Rub – Salt, sugar, brown Sugar, paprika, chipotle seasoning, cinnamon, black pepper, onion, garlic, and vinegar.
- Mesquite – Chili Pepper, Salt, Garlic, Onion, Red Bell Peppers, Sugar, Paprika.
We let the meat sit in the refrigerator for 10 hours before we put it in the smokers. The meat smoked for roughly 12 hours before it was sliced against the grain and placed into serving trays. The meat was quickly devoured.
We knew that smoking preserves foods but we weren’t sure how much we would affect the aw during the cooking process. After being smoked for 12 hours or so, we pulled a sample and measured the water activity in a 4TE AquaLab. It came out to .9118 which is far lower than anyone would have thought. With the exception of Staphylococcus, we could almost leave this meat out without worrying about bacteria growth. Smoking is indeed a powerful tool in preserving food.