Slapilicious Umami Brisket

August 27th, 201258 Comments

 

4.5 from 2 reviews
Slapilicious Umami Brisket
 
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For the upcoming Labor Day barbecue weekend, I’m sharing my Umami brisket recipe because many backyard grillers are hesitant to venture into cooking beef brisket because it’s rumored to be one of the most challenging meats to cook well. Some even fear it having failed in successive attempts. Yes, it’s true that if two teams tie in points during a BBQ throwdown in the Texas-based International Barbeque Cookers Association (IBCA) contest, the team with the higher brisket score wins. Beef brisket is a meat category that SYD knows how to cook well and in 2010, SYD won the national KCBS Rancher Reserve Brisket Cup.

Once I demystify beef brisket for you and you follow my umami BBQ brisket recipe, you’ll be a brisket hero in no time at all.
So what is beef brisket? If you are familiar with corned beef or pastrami, then you’ve already eaten beef brisket which comes from the pectoral muscles of a cow.


The first problem you will encounter if you’ve tried to cook brisket like a piece of steak is that you’ll soon discover after cooking it that it chews like shoe leather. Because it is full of tightly wound connective tissue, it takes prolonged cooking to tenderize the meat.

The second issue you will face is that there will likely not be much flavor in the meat after you cook it. So what’s the secret to cooking beef brisket that has made some BBQ institutions in Texas holy shrines for beef brisket?

I’ve made my share of pilgrimages to the brisket holy land restaurants around the country and will reveal my secrets which begin with a story over 1,000 years ago in Japan and continued 150 years ago in Switzerland. In case you’re worried that I will ask you to inject your brisket to give it flavor, rest assured that you don’t need to inject your brisket using my recipe. You have my assurance that you will get close to a competition grade brisket without resorting to the chemical cocktails, MSG, and phosphates that professional BBQ teams often use to win contests. The SYD Umami brisket only uses mostly natural ingredients including some which will be very surprising to the BBQ world and destined to cause controversy and discussion for years to come. Remember that you learned it here first.

If you’re not a food scientist-type and want to skip past my Alton Brown stuff in the next paragraphs, I won’t be offended. So keep reading or jump straight to the Recipe Section if you prefer. I will show you how to create a mouth-watering super tender brisket that will melt in your mouth and will cause your family and friends to hail you as the new Brisket Queen or King of your neighborhood!

SKIP THESE PARAGRAPHS IF YOU’RE NOT AN ALTON BROWN TYPE!

So let me begin with the story of flavor which began in Japan. For over a thousand years, the Japanese have been using brown Konbu seaweed as a base for their soups and stews. If you’ve been to a Japanese restaurant and had sukiyaki or miso soup, it’s likely that the savory flavor of the soup came from that seaweed. In 1908, a Japanese professor named Ikeda noticed that when konbu seaweed was dried, powdery crystals would form. He tasted those crystals and discovered they had a savory taste that could not be described by the four tastes of sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. He likened the taste to the mouth sensation of cheese and meats and coined the term “umami” which roughly translates to “delicious” in English.

What Ikeda tasted was glutamic acid which is one of the 20 or so amino acids that exist on this planet. He analyzed those powdery crystals and discovered a separate distinct taste sensation caused by monosodium glutamate or MSG. Amino acids are the building blocks that make up protein in living creatures. For example, glutamic acid makes up the majority of the nervous tissue in your brain and is essential for learning and memory retention. So the fact that you’re able to read and comprehend my article shows that glutamic acid is working for you! The term “umami” was viewed with suspicion by Western scientists who felt it was an enhancer but not a unique taste on its own merit. It wasn’t until 2001 when researchers at the University of California San Diego showed that our tongues do have a specific taste receptor for MSG. Today, umami is widely accepted as the fifth dimension of taste.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, a year after Ikeda’s discovery, the company called Ajinomoto was formed in Japan to mass produce the ubiquitous white powder form of glutamic acid called monosodium glutamate aka MSG. Food companies soon noticed how it amped up the flavor of their products and started to use it in mass quantities to achieve a level of deliciousness in their foods by taking the MSG shortcut. Literally centuries of careful and pain-staking recipe development by various cultures throughout the world to develop naturally delicious recipes for soups, stews, and foods went out the window with the introduction of this white powder that became the boon of food manufacturers and the bane of consumers. Today, MSG is manufactured by the ton by glutamic acid producing bacteria. The liquid the bacterium grows in is siphoned off and refined into white MSG powder.

Because glutamic acid occurs naturally, it’s not really toxic to humans and stories of “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” which refers to headaches, allergies, and malaise after eating MSG-laden food have proven to be false after many toxological studies. The probable reason is the same reason why some folks are allergic to seafood. Most plants and animals on earth have a salinity or saltiness of about 1% in their body. The salinity of the ocean is about 3%. So if you are a sea creature swimming in the ocean and swallowing salt water, the salt will kill you as your body’s salinity will eventually match that of the ocean (called osmotic effect). Many sea creatures like fish compensate by producing glutamic acid in their bodies to prevent the ocean salinity from invading their bodies. This explains why saltwater fish are generally tastier than freshwater due to the presence of glutamic acid. So for folks allergic to fish, they may also be allergic to MSG.

Many foods contain natural glutamic acid, including soy sauce, fish sauce, cheeses, ripe tomatoes, tomato sauce, and many meats. That’s why your Caesar salad tasted so good because it has Parmesan cheese and minced anchovies (tip: next time try putting one tablespoon of minced canned anchovies into your meat stews and you will taste what I’m trying to describe). That’s also why your cheeseburger tastes so good with the melted cheddar dripping over your beef patty.

In my recipe, I use a product that is high in glutamic acid in natural form that was invented in Switzerland over 150 year ago. It is a natural product of a hydrolyzed vegetable protein-based sauce containing high concentrations of glutamic acid. It’s commonly called Maggi Sauce and many cultures around the world revere this condiment and think that their country invented it but it was the Swiss who brought this sauce into the world in 1897.

My second umami ingredient comes from Japan and it was discovered by Professor Kodama, a disciple of Professor Ikeda. It originated from the dried fish flakes of the bonito fish which is a type of tuna. If you’ve ever had a sushi roll in a Japanese restaurant, you may have noticed the chef garnishing the top of your roll with light brown flakes. This umami ingredient works differently than MSG but has a similar pleasing taste sensation.

My third umami ingredient comes from the ancient Chinese tradition of drying shitake mushrooms and rehydrating them in water before using them in Chinese dishes. Shitakes have been cultivated since prehistoric times and are used as food and as medicine, taken for a wide variety of ailments. Dried shitakes are widely used in vegetarian dishes and the Chinese discovered that drying and then rehydrating them makes them tastier than fresh shitake mushrooms. It was not until 1957 that another Japanese researcher named Kuninaka discovered that shitake also had umami properties. His most significant discovery was that the shitake was synergistic with the fish flakes, and with MSG such that a very small amount of each strengthens the overall taste sensation. For example, he discovered that when glutamic acid was mixed with the ingredient in the bonito fish and the dried shitake, it created a very powerful umami flavor synergy that was much greater than the sum of their parts by up to thirtyfold.
My brisket recipe utilizes these three readily available umami Ingredients, plus a couple of others, to create a mouthwatering brisket that I think you will like.


Shitake Mushrooms, Worcestershire, Maggi, Bonito Flakes, and Beef Paste
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 whole Brisket packer consisting of both the point and flat muscles. I like them in the 15-19 lb range. Always try to get Choice grade and above as Select grade briskets are usually not as tasty nor as tender.
  • ¾ cup SYD Hot Rub
  • 6 whole dried Shitake mushrooms (from Asian or Japanese grocery store), soaked in hot water to rehydrate, squeezed dry, and then finely chopped
  • ½ cup Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Maggi Seasoning (from Asian, Latin, Filipino, or Japanese grocery store)
  • 3 tablespoons your favorite beef base paste (I used Diamond brand from Restaurant Depot)
  • 4 tablespoons Bonito Flakes (from Japanese grocery store)
  • Brisket Mop – ½ cup beef stock mixed with ½ cup of water, plus 1 teaspoon of Maggi Seasoning
  • Finishing spices
  • ½ teaspoon SYD Hot Rub finely ground up using a coffee grinder
  • ½ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce mixed with ¼ cup of honey
Instructions
  1. Remove the brisket from the Cryovac packaging. Wipe off excess liquid with paper towels
  2. Trim the brisket with a sharp boning knife taking care to trim all the fat from both sides of the triangular muscle called the point. This will help create flavorful bark on both sides. The point is used to make brisket burnt ends which are twice cooked point served as little 1-inch cubes that melt in your mouth
  3. Remove any silver skin and excess fat from the top of the flat muscle.
  4. Trim off any excess fat cap leaving behind about a ½ inch fat cap. We will be cooking the brisket fat side down so you need some fat to protect the brisket from the heat source coming from the bottom of the pit (I use an 18-inch Weber Smokey Mountain)
  5. Trimmed brisket ready to cook
  6. Mix the beef paste with the Worcestershire sauce and Maggi Seasoning and spread all over the brisket except the fat cap
  7. Sprinkle the bonito flakes evenly and let the flakes melt into the brisket
  8. Apply the SYD Hot Rub generously enough to cover the exposed meat so you cannot see it any more. There is no need to season the fat cap
  9. Apply the chopped rehydrated shitake Notice the bits of re-hydrated chopped Shitake Mushrooms on top
  10. Put the brisket into a smoker at 250 degrees fat side down
  11. Cook until the crust sets, about 5-8 hours depending on your pit. Do not attempt to check the internal temperature. Just cook it long enough for the bark to form completely around the brisket. You can use my SYD scratch test to determine if the bark is properly set. Just scratch the surface of the meat gently. If no rub comes off in your fingernail when you scratch the sides and the top, then the bark has set. If not, let it cook and check back in ½ hour. Remember BBQ is ready when it’s ready so don’t hurry
  12. Spray your brisket with water using a spray bottle once you see bark beginning to form around the edges of your brisket (about 5 hours into the cook). Continue to spray every 30 minutes if you can
  13. Once you notice that the shitake bits are cooked and have deposited their umami flavor, remove them to allow the bark under the shitake bits to crust up. I suggest that you gently remove the cooked shitake with a fork. Apply SYD Hot rub and reseason any areas that don’t have rub. I use the bits to make a yummy mushroom sandwich snack between two slices of white bread with some mayo. Nothing goes to waste when I cook
  14. Continue to cook and remove the brisket from the smoker once bark has set.
  15. Make a double layer of foil twice as long as your brisket. Put your brisket in the foil and make a bathtub shape before you pour in the mopping liquid all over the top of the brisket. Wrap the foil tightly around the brisket taking care to remove all the air pockets. Return to smoker
  16. Cook at 250 for another 2-4 hours until tender. Check for tenderness by using a thermometer tip to probe the brisket from the top and through the foil taking care not to puncture the bottom of the foil pouch. Again, do not attempt to check the internal temperature for doneness
  17. Cook until it feels like your thermometer tip is going through a muffin when you probe your brisket. Remove and cut open the foil immediately to allow the heat to escape and stop the cooking. It takes me anywhere from 8-14 hours to cook a 16 lb packer in a 250 degree pit
  18. Do not put away the brisket to keep warm until the internal temperature drops below 170 degrees. On a hot day, this may take 2hours! Note that every animal is different and if you follow my technique instead of a time-temperature formula, you will always have a consistent result regardless of the specific characteristics of animal you are cooking. I’ve taught over 500 pitmasters this technique and they all have told me that this method is pretty fool proof. I have a string of students who have become Grand Champions using my technique
  19. I prefer to let the brisket rest at least 4 hours in a food warmer or igloo before serving. This allows the brisket to rest and reabsorb the juices. If you slice the brisket too early, it tends to be crumbly and the flavor has not mellowed out. Resting the brisket for a long time is one of the secret to my first place briskets
  20. About one hour before you’re ready serve the brisket, remove the brisket from the foil pouch. Pour the liquid into a fat separator. Discard the foil pouch. Drain off the au jus minus the fat and keep the au jus warm. Remember to taste the au jus and add water if it is too salty
  21. Place your brisket fat side down on a large cutting board. Use a Grafton edge slicer knife to remove the point from the flat. Trim away any excess fat from the point and then apply some SYD Hot Rub onto the area where you sliced. Return the flat to your igloo to keep warm and return the point to your 250 degree pit with the cut side down. Cook for another 45-60 minutes to render the fatty point until it looks and feels like excess fat has been rendered. Remove and spray the point with water to rehydrate it. Cover loosely with foil and keep warm
  22. When ready to serve the flat, trim off excess fat off the cut side the flat. Apply a thin layer of the BBQ sauce mixture on the side where the bark has formed. Slice your flat using a Grafton slicer into pencil thick slices. Taste and apply some ground up SYD Hot rub if it’s not salty enough
  23. Cut your burnt ends point into little 1-inch cubes. Sauce the point if you like. Some folks like to sauce the point and recook it a third time for another 10 minutes
  24. Arrange your slices on a nice platter and surround it with your brunt ends. Enjoy

58 comments... read them below or add one

  1. Pingback:Slapilicious Umami Brisket | Slap Yo' Daddy BBQ | Mr. Barbeque

  2. [email protected] says:

    Thanks so much Harry!! WOW!!!

    I can’t wait to try this recipe this weekend!! The brisket is in the refrigerator waiting for it’s trip to the smoker!!

    I have been pretty much a failure in the brisket department at competitions. I will put this in my binder that I take to every competition and I will treat it as gospel!

    Thanks again!!!

    • Harry Soo says:

      Best of luck! Let me know how your cook goes!

    • Harry Soo says:

      Folks on the Internet forums are trying and getting good results with my SYD Umami Brisket

      http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=143640

      http://tvwbb.com/showthread.php?35662-Harry-Soo-brisket-recipe&highlight=umami+brisket

  3. scooter says:

    Thank you Harry. Question, how do you measure out 4 TBS of the Bonito flakes? Do you chop them up first?

    • Harry Soo says:

      The bonito flakes are already in flake form so you just scoop about 4 tablespoons of the flakes and sprinkle all over your brisket. The flakes are like snow and will fuse into the paste mixture you rubbed your brisket with. Good luck

  4. BMerrill says:

    Harry,
    Great recipe and write up. Will try this in a few weeks.

    One Question. Is this a recipe without MSG, cause Maggi Seasoning contains lots of MSG. http://www.nestle.ca/en/products/brands/Maggi/LiquidSeasoning.htm

  5. scooter says:

    A question about when the brisket is finished, you mention using a probe only to determine tenderness/doneness with the resistance being that of a muffin. Are you probing the point, the flat or both? I’ve found the point always meets the tenderness test before the flat does and I rotate my big meats in the WSM.

    • Harry Soo says:

      Probe the flat. Don’t probe the point. The point will always be more tender than the flat.
      However, the point needs to be removed after the flat is cooked so it can be recooked to render the fat more.
      Good luck, Harry

  6. hoody123 says:

    Harry, definitely appreciate your sharing a tried and true recipe, but I’ve got to point out that Shiitake mushrooms are NOT a younger stage of portabello. Cremini are the younger stage of portabello and neither taste anything like Shiitake.

    • Harry Soo says:

      Thanks for pointing it out. I was mistaken as they are the same class called Agaricomycetes. They deviate after the class as the portobello becomes the Agaricaceae family and the shitake becomes the Marasmiaceae family. I will revise my description accordingly.

  7. wibs n fixuns says:

    1am Monday morning start the pits, 2am put Umami brisket on one pit and pork butt on other pit. Back to bed then get up at 6am, do what all pit masters do when they first get up. 11am start the ribs, 2:30 pm chicken on the pit. As you can see cooking all four meats. This is a tune up for Yakima this coming weekend. 4pm everyone one is here start serving.
    Everyone is saying I don,t know what you did different but this is the best brisket you have ever cooked you should use the in Yakima for the compition . This will be our fourth compition , last year it was our first placing 2 chicken 21 rib 31 butt 54 brisket out of 73 teams . Will post here next week with results. See you Harry Dec 16th for class.

  8. Derrick says:

    Harry, thank you for posting the recipe. I’d like to try your recipe this weekend, but I can’t get a hold of your SYD Hot rub. Would a rub with MSG cause any problems with the Umami ingredients?

    • Harry Soo says:

      Hey Derrick, you can get the rub here http://www.soupbase.com/Slap-Yo-Daddy-Rubs/products/42/
      If you use the discount code SYD10, you’ll get 10% off your entire order
      I think a rub with MSG would not cause problems if you want to try it.
      Just be sure the rub does not have too much MSG.
      Good luck!

  9. Route66 says:

    Harry,
    I have to try this recipe as it is easy and sounds great. While I can figure out the use of the reserved and separated Aujus in your recipe you might want to add where it and how you intend it to be used in your recipe for your followers. My thoughts are to dredge the fresh cut slices and pour over the top when serving to add moisture and flavor to the brisket. I really like your website and appreciate how you share your BBQ knowledge with everyone. You are truly an inspiration and one of my favorites on the BBQ circuit. Thank you for all you do.

    • Harry Soo says:

      Yes, dipping the cut slices in the au jus is good. I suggest you taste the au jus first as it will likely be too salty. I usually add hot water to my au jus before I dip my slices in them. Enjoy!

  10. wibs n fixuns says:

    Well theSkewered Apple did not work out for us. This was the worst we ever did in any compition . This was only our fourth compition so we have a lot to learn. Out of 66 teams we finished 58 I,m sorry to say . JD McGee and his wife Rhana of Wine Country Q took the $10,000. Check home. They deserve this they have worked very hard to get that check.
    See you Dec 16 th if not before.

  11. pitt says:

    Harry,
    Thank you for posting this recipe. What type of wood chunks do you use with this recipe. Also, would it be bad if I wanted to inject the brisket with Butchers bbq injection?

    Thanks!

    • Harry Soo says:

      I like 50-50 apple and hickory. Feel free to inject if you like. I created my recipe so you don’t have to but there is no right or wrong way. Just the way that’s best for you.

  12. glennz says:

    Harry,
    Were going to try the Brisket this weekend on my 18" Weber Smokey Mt, do you water the pan or cook dry?
    Thanks in Advance, going to have to fight off the Neighbors once they get a Wiff!

    • Harry Soo says:

      Cook it dry until the crust begins to form on the sides of the brisket (about 6 hours into the cook @250). Spray with water bottle until the bark completely sets. Don’t forget to remove the mushrooms for a great sandwich. Good luck!

  13. joefatmamma says:

    Harry, great write up. Thanks for sharing your insight. When you wrap, are you putting flat-side down or up? If down, are you probing through the point, down to the flat (and hopefully not down through the foil)? Been having issues getting a precise probe without opening the foil (which has been hurting my results).
    Thanks again.

    • Harry Soo says:

      I cook my briskets fat side down from start to end. I probe through the foil taking care not to puncture the bottom. If you’re a beginner, you can put a metal spatula under the brisket when you probe so you don’t poke through. Don’t look at the temp but rely on the probe tenderness. Good luck!

  14. Bashful Billy says:

    Do I understand you left the waterbowl dry on your WSM for this recipe?

    Can’t wait to cook this for Thanksgiving!

    • Harry Soo says:

      Yes, I cook the brisket with no water in the water pan. Try to double foil your water pan to ease cleanup. Good luck. Send pics when you cook it.

  15. ctokirio says:

    Hello Harry love your recipes. I am currently making the Umami brisket now and just made the shitake mushroom sandwich and I had to write to tell you how delicious it was! I will let you know how the Umami brisket comes out! Class of February 2010 student.

  16. cspirou says:

    Hi Harry,

    I am getting a smoker but I want to be sure it can at least hold a brisket. I am very interested in getting a Weber but I have concerns about how well it fits in there. I am surprised to see that you buy 15-19 lb briskets for your smoker. Do you have to prep the brisket in any particular way to get it to fit in there or does it fit just fine right out of the package?

    • Harry Soo says:

      Yes you can cook up to a 22 lb brisket in the WSM-18. Remember that after trimming, you lose about 20% and after cooking you lose another 30% (total 50%)from your original size. Just wedge the 22 lb brisket between the handles on the top grate and you’ll do fine. SYD won 1st in America in brisket in the Ranchers Reserve Championship cooked on a WSM-18. Good luck!

  17. BAD DAWGZ BBQ says:

    Harry can’t wait to try this recipe! Question tho what fuel are you using for charcoal?

    -Josh

  18. BAD DAWGZ BBQ says:

    Brand of charcoal sorry

  19. Don says:

    I do maybe 1 or 2 (at the most) comps per year. I probably won’t even do one this year because of my schedule. When I do compete, it is solo, on 1 22" WSM. I am nothing more than a "field filler" but I love doing it anyway. In my only comp last year, I used this recipe and got my 1st call in brisket! In fact, I was only 3 points behind the 2011 Jack Daniels GC one month before his title defense! Thanks Harry!!!

  20. cspirou says:

    I had a question about smoking brisket Texas-style in a Weber. I saw that Franklin of Franklin’s BBQ uses only wood and no charcoal and I wanted to know if using only wood is possible in a Weber?

    • Harry Soo says:

      Hey cspirou:
      I’m sure it could be done but with great diffulty.
      The WSM is a charcoal or briquette smoker. If you use small wood chunks, you could probably do it.
      I recommend you get a stick-burner pit (long propane tank cut and welded into a pit like the 4 at Franklins).
      Good luck!
      Harry

  21. bscut says:

    I’m gonna give this a try next weekend. How would this recipe translate to a 9 pound brisket? I’ll be using the 18" WSM. How should I adjust my times?

  22. sniper69 says:

    Harry, thanks for sharing this recipe. I made some of your rub from the recipe on this site (added msg as suggested) and started the brisket last night. I’m at the stage of letting it cool to 170 before putting it into a cooler lined with a towel to finish resting. So far everything smells amazing and I can hardly wait to taste the brisket.

    I did this on an 18.5 WSM. I still need to make some ribs and chicken on the WSM too.

  23. Dave says:

    Harry, thanks for the lesson on umami. Very informative. How long does it usually take for the mushrooms to "deposit their umami flavor?" At around that 5 hr mark when the bark begins to set and you start spraying it?

    • Harry Soo says:

      I leave the mushrooms on until it’s time to foil. The umami flavor continues to leach into the foiling liquid. Best of luck. Send pics!

  24. Dennis says:

    Have made this brisket version many times, but not for a while..I am doing it for the fight this weekend again, along with oxtail soup..thanks for a great recipe Harry.

  25. Tim Cook says:

    Harry I have an electric smoker i just purchased.How can i Get the smoke ring on my Brisket. I heard there was a way?

    • Harry Soo says:

      To get a smoke ring, you need to have smoke.
      See your electric smoker manual on how to generate smoke.
      I like hickory and apple wood smoke. Makes a nice smoke ring.
      Good luck.

  26. Edward Munoz says:

    Hi Harry, I just found this recipe and will be trying it tomorrow at my BBQ teams first practice this year. I have a question about spraying the brisket with water. Would it be best to stick with just plain water or could I use the leftover dried mushroom water with a little Maggi for flavor? Do you think a flavored spray be overkill?

  27. South Texas noobie says:

    Just did this technique (sub’d a Mesquite rub for SLD, but will get some for future smokes), and despite my doubts, did everything by the letter. Result was the moistest brisquet I’ve ever smoked. The pic of your trimmed brisquet was a huge help as I’ve left way too much fat on, and have never trimmed all the way around the point. Also have always relied on a meat thermometer – never again!! Even though the bonito flakes smelled really fishy and all the ingrediants were really salty, the finished brisquet was neither fishy smelling nor salty – just a perfect smoked moist rich tasting hunk o meat. This was only my 6th brisquet, so am a total rookie, but learned so much from your pics and technique, so thank you!! I’d post pics but not sure how here.

    • Harry Soo says:

      Glad you found my bonito shitake brisket technique helpful! Send your pic to [email protected] and I’ll post it on FB. Thanks so very much Noobie!

  28. Smoking sapper says:

    Ill definately be giving this a go this weekend!

    • Harry Soo says:

      Give it a go and send me some pics to [email protected]!

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