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For the love of brisket

Brisket has now arrived on the menu at Benito’s Hat.

Over the last few months we have eaten a lot of brisket cooked by the fair hand of Felipe. The biggest challenge of this development for us was to create fantastic bar-b-q brisket using a conventional oven. Felipe is a phenomenal Mexican chef but this is a new challenge for him and, whilst I love my smoker, I have never tried to do it in the oven. But let’s have at a go!

When cooked the traditional way in the smoker you are looking at at least a 12 hour process. A labour of love that turns the brisket (a cut of beef from the lower chest) in to a tender and succulent delight with a slightly sweet crust. For a great start on how to smoke at home and an explanation of terms like mop, rub and red smoke ring take a look at http://www.thesmokerking.com.

Recipe testing at the restaurant is nothing short of heaven . . . your own personal chef cooking food at your whim and, when you think it isn’t quite perfect, asking him to do it again with, “a bit more mustard . . . another chipotle . . . maybe you should cook it at 10c less for 5 hours . .  etc.”. For one of these early tasting sessions we drafted in some expert help in the form of Texas Joe (http://texas-joes.com/) and Andrew Kojima (http://kojcooks.co.uk/). Both proved fantastically knowledgeable and useful and I hope they enjoyed our experimental session. Joe’s knowledge and devotion to the art of BBQ probably has no peer on these shores whilst Koj’s pallette and technical cooking ability provided a very interesting and different view point.

Felipe lays out some Brisket options for us.

Felipe lays out some Brisket options for us.

The other part of the preparation was seeing what else is out there and my trip to Texas to see the in-laws over Christmas provided a perfect opportunity to see the real thing and how we measured up. Queue a meat-fuelled, belt-busting tour of cowboy country where the only options for your five-a-day come in the form of beans, slaw and corn.

The Texas Monthly’s list of The 50 Best BBQ Joints in the World begins with the words, “Texas barbecue has no peer on earth.” This statement, as arrogant as it may seem, is, in my opinion, undoubtedly true and if you are ever visiting Texas then this list – http://www.texasmonthly.com/lists/50-best-bbq-joints-world – really is the definite round up of where to get your smoked meats. The crying shame of this trip was that we didn’t make it to their top pick, Franklin Barbeque, Austin, this time.

First stop was Hatfield’s BBQ and Beer Garden in Rockport. I’m sorry to say things did not begin well:

Kenny (pit master): Just to let you know we have everything except brisket and ribs

Me: So that means you have sausage, chicken and pork?

Kenny (pit master): That’s right

So when there are really just 5 things on the menu, missing 2 of those is a little disappointing.

They keep things basic at Hatfields BBBQ, Rockport

They keep things simple at Hatfield’s BBQ, Rockport

However, what they did do they did well. Tender pulled pork, flavourful chicken and some really good sausage. They’ve also got a pretty good range of craft beer to try.

Next stop we’re in to the heart of Cowboy country in South West Texas and it’s a trip to Buzzie’s BBQ, Kerrville. We arrive as they open at 11 on Sunday morning and the place is quiet. However, by the time we’ve finished (by ‘finished’, I mean eaten less than half of our meals and packed the rest up to feed the family for the foreseeable future) the place has filled up nicely with the post-church crowd. “Fed the soul, now feed the stomach”, announces one such well-pressed gentleman on entering.

A small plate of meat at Buzzie's BBQ Kerrville

A small plate of meat at Buzzie’s BBQ Kerrville

The portions here were enormous, $14 dollars will get you brisket, ribs, pork tenderloin, beans and slaw fit for king(s). I found the pork tenderloin a bit dry but the brisket was good and the ribs were spectacular. We’d enjoyed a stein too many the night before in the very German town of Fredericksburg and so a pile of delicious meat and free-flowing coffee were just the thing. Buzzie himself circulates throughout, offering a warm, “Howdie y’all” to every diner and we left very satisfied.

Third on our tour was Two Bros BBQ Market, San Antonio.

Two Bros BBQ, San Antonio

Another no frills, barn-like place that focuses on the art of the slow-cooked brisket. Here they do it for 24 hours in an incredible bank of 6 huge smokers and then another few barrel-smokers out the back just for good measure.

Where the magic happens at Two Bros. San Antonio

Where the magic happens at Two Bros. San Antonio

The usual staples were in evidence but there were also a few inventive twists here to set this place apart (Texas Monthly calls it “high-end” BBQ). These include cherry-glazed baby backs, a range of sauces (one of which containing molasses) and beans cooked with peaches. I’m not a fan of molasses and I couldn’t get passed them in this sauce but, much to my surprise, the peaches in the beans . . . delicious! They were a great compliment to some top class brisket and ribs.

A notable mention must go to my Texan family. I am hugely grateful to Beth and Steve (parents-in-law) and Beth’s two brothers, Bobby and Pat, whose combined knowledge on the subject of BBQ could fill many Texas-sized books.

And finally, the Benito’s Hat finished article. Please come and try it and vote for keeping it or returning to our previous skirt steak: https://www.facebook.com/Benitos.Hat

The Benito's Hat finished article

The Benito’s Hat finished article


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