South Beach Reserve
Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda
The barbecue has always been seen as the mans domain. From TV ad commercials to movies, men are can be witnessed hanging around a barbecue while turning large pieces of meat, drinking beers whilst talking about themselves up to the lads and family. This perception has caused all men to have this sense of need or duty to be on barbecue duty, irrespective of their cooking skills and knowledge. While most will say they are a masters of meat in the safety of their back garden, there is some serious competition when it comes to barbecuing. It is here where the boys and men are separated.
As being a regular contributor to Gram, we were luckily enough to be invited to Gourmet BBQ Festival and take part in a BBQ Academy: Master Class that occurred throughout the day. We had arrived at St Kilda beach on a gorgeous sunny day. The venue showcased various barbecue goodies with some serious merchandise that could put Bunnings to shame. One of the highlights was a smokers barbecue with a truck exhaust attach! Mixed in with some serious equipment was a good selection of meat related food stands as well as beer and cider offerings. With live tunes playing in the background, it was certainly set for a great afternoon.
We were lucky enough to witness Andy Groneman, a 20 times pitmaster, demonstrate how to prepare and cook beef brisket. He was a lovely bloke who sure knew a thing or two about his meat. Brisket is one of the nine prime beef cuts which consist of the back, breast and lower chest of the cow. Given the nature of the master class there was a lot of information to take in and that couldn’t possibly cover in this blog. What we intend to provide is an outline of the main themes of cooking brisket should you accept the challenge.
One of the fundamental requirements is to find a good butcher who can provided a high quality brisket. Typically, when you order a brisket, the butcher will only provided you with the loin (commonly referred as “the point”). What you should also request is for the butcher to include the back (commonly referred as “the flat”) – all as one piece. It’s important to get both cuts of meat as there is a defined texture and flavour distinction between the two. Andy’s piece of meat was Angus beef which he had recommended to use with the cow having a grass and grain diet. The grass allows the cow to grow naturally with little stress. The grain is then introduce into their diet later in their life cycle in order to create the necessary layer of fat. Andy recommended organic brisket to be purchased, with no hormones pumped into the cattle, as this causes stress on the cow which in turn will create undesired toughness in the meat. Ideally the brisket should also be aged, with the suggested period being 14-21 days from death to purchase and should have a good level of marbelling throughout the meat.
Unwrapping the beef
Once you have obtained your fine piece of meat from the butcher and onlookers have establish your love for meat has no bounds, it’s time to unwrap this present. The brisket should not be stiff – it should have a natural floppiness when you hold it. Once you have removed the plastic there will be a beefy smell, which means you’re in business. If it’s sour then there is a problem; your meat may be off. The first thing to do to is removing the excess blood by damping it down with a paper towel.
The fat on the meat is to be used as a protective shield when the meat is on the pit cooking for five hours. However, there is too much fat on the brisket, and it needs to be trimmed off. Andy suggested to start removing fat from the trim, which is on the side of the flat piece. The biggest tip when removing excess fat was to have the knife pointing upwards to create a smooth surface. During this process it’s also appropriate to separate the point and the flat which is held together by a vein (identified as being white in colour). During this process, cut portions of the fat which is attached to the meat. The fat can be used for hamburger mince later, should you wish to re-use it. The flat piece of meat will have more fat to remove which will need to be removed on both sides.
Flavouring the brisket
Once the fat is removed it’s time to add some flavors. Injecting beef stock should only be done with the flat beef piece. The mixture Andy used to inject into the flat piece consisted of:
- 1 1/2 liters Actual Beef stock (Campbells)
- 1 tablespoon to a cup of powered beef stock
- 1 -2 tablespoons of worcester sauce
Note that the ratio of the mixture is roughly around one cup per pound (roughly 1/2 a kilo).
Andy combined these ingredients into a bowl and then used a syringe to inject the beef stock into the meat. The idea was to go against the grain to avoid bruising the meat. With the syringe, he tried to fill the little pockets within the meat with stock. Both sides were required to be injected. You can get creative with the flavours by adding other ingredients, but Andy tried to keep it simple and enhance the natural flavours of the brisket.
Rub Rub Rub
The selection of rub (also known as grain) can be very subjective and the selection is purely based upon personal preference. Once you have a rub that hits the spot, the first step is to rub both pieces of meat with dijon mustard. Andy had selection a pepper and chili base with two and half cups that was applied on both sides of the beef.
Cooking with fire
The meat is to be cooked in a pit for five hours at 107 degrees celsius. It needs to be wrapped tight in foil and can be glazed with worcester sauce and excess beef stock. If you’re cooking on the pit it’s ideal not to open the lid after two hours as this effects the cooking temperature of the barbecue. It should be noted that the time and temperature to cook the brisket can vary solely according to the size of the meat and how aged it is.
When serving, it’s best to cut against the grain as it impacts the taste of pieces (the meat is actually tougher if you cut with the grain) of meat. A smoke ring should be visible – that is, a red ring bordering the meat. Additional marinade can be added for gloss.
In terms of taste, we liked the point the most as it was succulent in contrast to the flat which was a little tougher. The beef stock could be tasted more prominently in pieces from the flat.
With the master class over and having had many tastings of the flat and point pieces, we decided that it was time to try out a meat stall. Sharing a Smokin’ Barrys meat selection – Smokin Barrys “Big Pork Ribs”, Smokey Pulled Pork, Smokey Beef Brisket and Gourmet Apple-slaw with Ranch Dressing [~$14] from Smokin’ Barrys, we got a boutique beer and ginger beer and sat on the grass.
The shredded pork was definitely our favourite meat on the plate; it was incredibly succulent and unusually tender from a van! The beef brisket was also really delicious, although a little hard to compare to the meat we had just sampled with Andy. The slaw was refreshing, however, perhaps not quite enough to cut through the yards of meat on our plate. Finally, we had the smokey ribs which were messy but fun! There was just enough fat to make it really tender and easy to pull off the bone.
Overall the Gourmet BBQ Festival was a great day out and is a really good opportunity for meat lovers to unite. The festival provided a great learning opportunity for those looking to take their barbecueing skills up to the next level or even just to learn about the different cookers on offer.
Final thought: “An educational experience in the world of barbecues and meat”