Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Smoked Brisket with Beans and Mash

I’m reading ‘Cooked’ by Michael Pollan at the moment. It is a huge beautiful hard back book, that wasn’t really the best choice to take on holiday as it barely fits in my bag, but I’m really enjoying it. It’s not a cook book, more a commentary on what cooking means and why people cook. It looks at the current fascination with food and watching people cook on tv, noting the fact that, apparently, people are now cooking less than ever. It suggests that cooking makes us who we are and defines us from other animals and describes how civilisation has evolved as we learnt how to use fire, cook in pots that held water and to ferment. It is part history, part chemistry, physics, aesthetics, psychology, anthropology, religion... and quite a bit Barbecue.

Michael heads deep into America, in the chapter entitled ‘Fire’ to learn how to Barbecue, a process hugely debated across the States; what is Barbecue? Who is authentic? Who isn’t? You can’t Barbecue a chicken apparently, only pork; only an entire pig in some states. He finds the so called king, pit-master Ed Mitchell who teaches him the process of slow BBQ, whole hogs cooked slowly overnight till the fat breaks down in huge smoking chambers with walls of coals and wood built up around the hog to cook it evenly. Then, chopped and seasoned, all of the beautiful, soft, smoked meat is mixed until there is a bit of every cut in every bite - shards of crackling finely chopped and mixed through the meat, it sounds amazing. Every state seems to differ; dry rubs, BBQ sauce, variety of hog, length of cooking, serving, and they all say the other is wrong...

Well, god knows what they would make of me and my little smoker in the back yard, but I’ve had him out again, and until I find somewhere to build one big enough for a whole pig I’m just going to have to stick to more manageable cuts of meat. There was a bit of brisket at Charlotte’s Butchers that looked lovely, so began the idea.

I made a dry rub from paprika, garlic powder, mustard powder, mixed dried herbs, black pepper, sugar and salt, about a teaspoon of each. Sprinkle it all over the meat and then leave in the fridge for an hour or so, or overnight if you’re organised.

Then it was just a case of getting Mr. Smokerson ready - up to temperature at about 250°F, a bottle of beer in the water bowl and a box of apple and hickory wood onto the coals. The brisket then smoked for about 4 hours. Mr. Smokerson keeps a fairly steady temperature for 4-5 hours usually, the water bowl and sealed smoker enables you to keep a low steady temperature as opposed to cooking with a ‘normal BBQ’, over charcoal... a process Ed strongly laments.

Such a delicious smoky meat, moist in the middle, with soft fatty bits and a sticky smoked crust. I served it with homemade baked beans and mash. So good, I don’t think it would win any points with the pit-master but it went down a treat in my house.


  1. This looks amazing! Excuse me while I go off and google how to make a smoker.

    1. you can make them out of a bread tin apparently! or a filing cabinet! don't ask me how though!


  2. Did you know that Pollan also wrote something called "Food Inc.", which was turned into a film...?

    A film which should make most people physically sick...

    So he has history regarding this view...

    Of course, it has never been shown on British TV.

    1. I have heard of it but haven't seen it... He talks about it a bit in the book in regards to pig 'farming' I'll have to watch it, although I can't imagine it is that enjoyable...


Happy cooking! Let me know if you make any of my recipes, send a picture, and let me know any of your own recipes and tips! Anna x