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Smoky Grilled Brisket and Mop Sauce – A Summertime Classic

Summertime calls for grilling, and great grilling calls for patience – and the ability to resist the temptation to eat your creation right away!  This week I picked up a lean beef brisket to grill and created a rub that is smoky, just a bit sweet, spicy enough to have a little kick and zingy enough to satisfy those craving new barbecue flavors.

Beer has long been used as a marinade and flavor enhancer.  When you cook this at home, experiment with different beer tastes – they are remarkably different.  The beer I chose today was Stone IPA. Let me qualify this statement with a disclaimer – I am not a big beer drinker, so I chose it because it was an ale.   Though I didn’t marinade the meat with it, I did pour it into the roasting pan to infuse beer-scented steam into the brisket while cooking.

Smoky Brisket Rub beforeblending

Here’s a true confession for you.  I create my recipes as I cook, writing down ingredients and adjusting measurements as I go.  But sometimes, the experimenting just doesn’t work.  Today I made my first batch of mop sauce using another Stone IPA, seasonings and a bit of broth.  I cooked it down, allowing the flavors to blend, and then I tasted it.  The resulting mop sauce was so sharply tangy that it was actually unpleasant, despite the underlying ripple of sweet spicy flavor. I know well enough to understand when a recipe can’t be saved so I tossed it down the drain.  Next time, I’ll try this technique again but opt for a beer with a sweeter finish on the palate, perhaps Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat or Blue Moon Belgian Ale.  Who knows – maybe I’ll even try it with a dark chocolate stout and a bit of coffee.

Leave a comment about what you try at home and we’ll compare notes!  Cooking a brisket perfectly comes from a bit of trial and error with your own cooking equipment.  Use the instructions below as a guideline but adjust cooking times according to the weight of your own brisket.  I purchased one already trimmed and ready to cook.  If your brisket has a nice fat layer, I suggest initially cooking with the fat side up so the juices drip down through the meat.

Smoky Brisket Rub

1 ½ Tablespoons ancho chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

When applying rub to meat, coat liberally with spices.

2 Tablespoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon sweet pimenton

1 teaspoon hot chili powder

½  teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon tomato bouillon

1 Tablespoon garlic salt

1 Tablespoon Alta Cucina Italian Seasoning

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

  1. Combine ingredients and store in airtight container until ready to use.
  2. Makes enough rub for one 5 pound brisket.

Using your fingertips - YES, they will get messy! - massage spice rub into meat.


Smoky Grilled Brisket

Brisket is best rubbed the night before then left to chill overnight.  The longer the better when it comes to spicy flavor infusion.

I cook with a gas grill, so these instructions will reflect gas cooking techniques.  To cook your brisket over charcoal, you will need to replenish your charcoal several times during the cooking process to ensure even cooking. 

Hickory chips and water

Smoker box

One bottle beer (I used IPA Stone Ale)

5 pound brisket

  1. As the brisket cooks, juices begin to collect on its surface.

    Begin by arranging sheet of heavy duty foil with enough length to fully enclose brisket.

  2. Place brisket on foil.  Sprinkle first side generously with one half of brisket rub.  Using fingers, press rub into brisket taking care to coat meat thoroughly.  Repeat with second side until all rub has been applied.
  3. Refrigerate brisket overnight to allow flavors to penetrate meat.
  4. Just before cooking, presoak the wood chips for at least one hour.  Drain and place chips in smoker box.
  5. If possible, set smoker box beneath cooking grates and on top of heating elements.  This will create the greatest amount of smoke for your grill.  If this arrangement will not work for you, place the smoker box in the back corner of the grill to allow brisket to cook at grill center.  It’s important to point out that you will not achieve a fully smoked flavor unless the chips are capable of maintaining heat and smoke.
  6. Preheat grill to 400 degrees, using only center heating element. When grill is preheated, turn grill temperature down to medium-low heat, around 225-250 degrees. Watch your temperature carefully or you could cook the meat too quickly. 
  7. Loosen foil on brisket to allow venting then arrange on rack in roasting pan.  Pour the beer in the bottom of the roasting pan.  Your goal is to cook the meat with indirect heat.
  8. After one hour, open foil packet to expose brisket to smoke, beer moisture and heat.
  9. After three hours, turn and baste the meat thoroughly.
  10. Continue cooking until internal temperature of meat reaches between 185-195 degrees.  The rule of thumb is approximately 1 ½ hours cooking time per pound. You will cook the meat low and slowly, and tenderness is achieved only after the components of the meat are allowed to transform over time.
  11. When you turn the brisket past the halfway point in cooking, baste, baste, baste with meat juices and mop sauce.

    Remove meat from grill, baste with remaining juices and re-close foil.

  12. Allow the meat to rest in its foil pack for at least 20 minutes.  When ready to serve, slice meat against the grain in ¼” slices.
  13. Serve with fresh bread, coleslaw, pickles and a cold beer!


Smoky Grilled Brisket Mop Sauce

A flavor intense sauce for you to use as for basting or dipping with the consistency of au jus.  For sandwiches, choose potato rolls.  Dip roll half into sauce and allow to soak into the bread.  Top with shredded meat, add a drizzle more of sauce and eat!

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 cups beef broth

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt (or more to taste)

4-6 drops hot sauce (or more if you really love a kick!)

2 generous teaspoons Smoky Brisket Rub (see recipe above)

The Smoky Brisket Rub will leave a wonderful char of flavor on the brisket surface. Cut cooked brisket into slices, or pull apart with a fork for shredded brisket then top with mop sauce. Delicious!

1 Tablespoon brown sugar (or more to taste)*

  1. Combine ingredients in saucepan and simmer over low heat until flavors meld.
  2. Serve warm with smoky brisket and hot bread.

*Just a note for Splenda sugar blend users.  Be cautious when adding Splenda to your recipes – it is far sweeter than sugar.  Please adjust quantities accordingly.  Less is always the best choice!  You can add more, but it’s hard to take away too much sweetness.  I know.  Today I had to double my mopping sauce recipe because I was a little too liberal with the Splenda brown sugar!


Super Simple Napa Cabbage Slaw

If you’re an onion lover, slice up a few of your favorites to add to this delicious slaw.

3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 ½ cups light mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon cider vinegar

Juice of 1 lemon

½ teaspoon sugar (or more to taste)

½ teaspoon ancho chili powder

The rough cut Napa slaw is crunchy and refreshing with a Dijon-mayonnaise dressing.

1 teaspoon celery seed

Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

1 head napa cabbage, shredded

3 carrots, thinly sliced lengthwise

  1. In large mixing bowl, whisk together Dijon, mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, celery seed, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
  2. Add shredded cabbage and sliced carrots to dressing.
  3. Toss to coat.  Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.


Finish up your meal with cold sliced watermelon and you’ve just found the recipe for a perfect summer evening with family and friends!