Sous Vide/Big Green Egg Choice-Grade Brisket and Anasazi Beans

Posted by johngl

Not being one who’s easily satisfied, I’m always looking for new and different ways of doing things. Sometimes they even turn out to be better ways of doing things. I may be onto something here.

The brisket below spent roughly 48 hours in a 135°F sous vide hot tub and then another seven hours smoking away in my extra large Big Green Egg at 200°F.

Holy crap, dude!

48 hour sous vide and 7 hour smoked brisket

I get a lot of whining: This takes too long! I don’t have that kind of time! I don’t have a $1500 Big Green Egg and an immersion circulator!

Okay, so you may have me on the latter though my “immersion circulator” cost me less than $200 and you can use a $90 Weber Kettle and do the same kind of thing. Time-wise, I literally spent less than an hour “tending” the meat. This included rinsing, trimming, seasoning, bagging, unbagging, firing up the egg, and moving the meat out to the smoker. That hour was spread over three days.

Stop whining already. I’ve done the heavy lifting for you. All you have to do is give it a whirl.

Speaking of whining…

There’s a lot of folks out there that consider themselves “foodies”. Several years ago, this descriptor was okay with me because it tended to describe those folks who were more inclined to actually cook something. I got questions from people asking me to further explain how I did things and there was avid interest in the process.

These days however, foodie appears to include all of those fanboys and girls that frequently utter some variant of “Yum!” or snap pictures of stuff someone else prepared and post it on facebook. Gee whiz, really? You drove your car somewhere, plopped your butt down at a trendy restaurant, and ate some (hopefully) good food. Look at what I did! You should be so proud of yourselves!  It’s actually more annoying than those new parents who seem to forget that humans have been birthing babies for quite a while now (4 million babies are born every year in the USA alone). It may be an “amazing” or even “miraculous” event, but it’s hardly original. Frequency wise, it happens twice as often as someone buying a new pickup truck. Get over yourselves.

Anyway, I no longer like the term foodie. Time for a drink methinks.

So, now that I’ve managed to alienate half of my readers, I’ll get down to the business of relaying some information to the other half that I actually give a hoot about: People that actually cook or are learning about cooking.

Let’s start with the brisket.

Choice grade brisket from Costco

This is roughly 10.5 pounds of Choice-Grade brisket priced at a very reasonable $2.45/lb. I picked it up at Costco. I priced a lesser grade of meat at my local grocery store which advertized it as “super trim” and priced it at $3.68/lb. So, for an extra $10+, you trim off a pound a fat that actually helps keep the thing moist? Hmmm. Not for me; I’ll just pay for that pound of fat and save about $7.50 and get a better grade of meat to boot.

To be fair, I actually did trim off a little of the fat mostly because it made it easier to get into the bag.

Rendering beef fat

Do I waste this stuff? Hardly. I render it down somewhat…

Same fat, cut up and rendered

Okay, so maybe it renders down a lot. This is that very same fat, cut up and rendered down. The brown bits got stuck in my freezer and are awaiting my next foray into making beef stock and the rendered fat got strained and put in my fridge to use for whatever I desire…like vegetables.

Prewarming the brisket

Trimmed a bit and now able to fit into a Food-Saver bag, I decided to take that first bit of chill off the meat by immersing it into 120°F water from the tap. My “immersion circulator” became a “water oven” because this piece of meat was so large, I couldn’t put in the pump that circulates water. I had to cope with two things: a) no pump and b) less water due to high displacement. In this situation, temperatures have a little trouble remaining constant until the meat comes to equilibrium temp. I thought by taking that initial 10°F or so of chill off the meat, I’d help mitigate overshooting. As it turned out, this apparently worked. Overshooting was limited to only 2°F and that only in the first hour. After that, temps held steady.

Rock steady at 135

It looked like that for over 46 hours.

After 24 hours

The meat looked like this after 24 hours.

After 48 hours

Here it is after 48 hours and the application of a rub. The measuring cup contains some of the juices from the brisket that I would use to hydrate the beans.

48 hour sous vide on the BGE

I couldn’t help but take a nibble off this brisket. It was deliciously tender, so I had very high hopes. I’d had the Big Green Egg going for about an hour and got the temp stabilized at 200°F.

200 degrees

Would I lie?

Two hours into the smoking portion, where I used both hickory and apple wood, the brisket was looking mighty fine.

Two hours into the brisket smoking

You may notice the foil covering the “plate setter” insert. I’ve found that by putting the radiant barrier over it, the amount of heat it transmits is kept down quite a bit. I wasn’t trying to “cook” anything here since the brisket was plenty cooked and already tender. Smoking was my primary objective.

While the meat smoked on, it was time to get started on a few other things, like the beans.

Anasazi Beans

I love these “Anasazi” beans. Though they are more than twice as spendy as pinto beans, I think they taste much, much better and are far more creamy in texture. These were prepared in most glorious spousal unit’s electric pressure cooker. This cooking vessel makes cooking beans brain-dead simple. With a pound of beans, I added eight cups of beef stock including some of what I drained off the brisket. Adding onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, cumin, chile pepper powder, and powdered ginger, I then popped on the lid and set the timer for 35 minutes. Pressure cooking is a little different because there is a pressure-building time, a full-pressure time, and a pressure-reducing time. The 35 minutes is the full-pressure time. At any rate, the beans are ready to eat in about an hour and a half, without the need of a traditional pre-soak. Further, after they are “done”, the pressure cooker automatically goes into warm mode. I left it right there until we were ready to consume mass quantities.

Point end cut

Whole briskets have two types of meat. Local BBQ joints sometimes refer to them as “juicy” and “lean”. The “juicy” is actually from the “point” end of the brisket and is literally laden with intramuscular fat (shown above). The “lean” is actually the “flat” part of the brisket (shown below)

Flat End Cut

Whichever parts you like best, the inherent “pinkness” of the meat is what everyone seems to look at. There is a red ring around the outer perimeter and this should be in the 1/8″ to 1/4″ range. This gives an idea of smoke penetration and is sometimes referred to as the smoke ring. On both cuts, the penetration looks pretty good to me with the pinkness seemingly quite prominent.

Lean cut brisket with Anasazi beans topped with crispy pork bits

Upper left are the Anasazi beans, the product of some marketing genius, are so-called due to the claim that a clay pot of beans — carbon-dated to at least 750 years ago — were “re-discovered” and actually germinated. This is coupled with claims that these beans have only 25% of the gas-producing properties of pinto beans. How can you go wrong with claims of ties to “ancient” native peoples coupled with a “no fart” guarantee? You can read about the claims, but I buy them simply because they’re some of the best tasting beans around. I will also state that these beans don’t have any adverse (toot toot) side affects, at least with us. I’m not sure if that is due to the cooking method or the beans themselves.

Obviously, there’s some brisket on that plate, too. According to most glorious spousal unit, “This is the most tender brisket you have ever made!” There you have the official endorsement. What I found to be the greatest aspect is that the meat, even when cut in some pretty thick slices (up to 3/8″), was literally fork tender and not-at-all dry. It also didn’t disintegrate when sliced and retained a chew reminiscent of that sous-vide top sirloin I prepared a few weeks ago.

Also shown in the picture is some home-made barbeque sauce. This is the same stuff I made with the St. Louis Style Ribs (with minor mods). In Texas, one does not douse one’s brisket in sauce. The meat should speak for itself. But if you care to bring more zip to the party, just dip it.

This method of cooking may seem long and arduous, but the actual hands-on time is quite minimal. The next time, and there will be one, I will be adding more salt to my initial rub (prior to the sous vide water bath).

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About johngl

A bit of a wildman, John hails from the Midwest: A land of corn, cows, pigs, and a host of other healthfully meaty pursuits.

Born on a dark and stormy night in late Fall, John grew up as the son of a meat cutter. There was always plenty of meat at hand. While not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, his family certainly ate well. According to his father, that was the whole point.

8 thoughts on “Sous Vide/Big Green Egg Choice-Grade Brisket and Anasazi Beans

  1. I tried your method, sous-vide then smoke. It was superb! I only did a 24 hr. bath @ 135 f. and then
    a 6 hour smoke, but it seemed to be enough. I dreamed about it overnite after dinner and had it again for lunch the next day.

    Thanks for the idea. I like your site and the pics.

    -montduck

    • Thanks a bunch for coming back and letting me know about your experiences! Way cool!

      Best wishes and good health to you!

  2. John – you are killing me! This looks great! I mean really great!!! I would love to drive to Austin, plop my butt at your table, take a picture and post it on facebook anytime. I won’t even call myself a foodie – more like an Alcoholian-ite. (grin)

    So doing the inventory, I am now (re)motivated to buy the BGE XL, Sous Vide PID, and a Pressure Cooker. I can live with that. Though I might have some splainin’ to do to my most glorious. 🙂

    Have you ever considered doing this backward? I mean smoking the meat first (letting it cool in the fridge overnight) and then sous vide. Do you think the smoke would penetrate better?

    Great post John! As usual!! Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi David! Thanks a bunch for popping in (again)!

      So, on your “backwards” question, yes, I’ve actually done this though not with a brisket (and with no refrigeration). And yes, the smoke flavor does penetrate better. In fact, it penetrates so well that it completely overpowers any other flavor. The other undesirable thing that happens is that the exterior is really wet with smoke-flavored juices. Essentially, that exterior bark comes out more like mushy cellulose. I’ve tried it both with whole tenderloin and NY Strip steaks and both time flavors were much much better going the route of sous vide first, then grilling or smoking.

      We were astounded how smoky a NY Strip steak tasted after grilling on a super-hot grate for less than a minute a side then sous viding. While it was cooked to a perfect medium-rare with a three hour sous vide, it was like biting into something marinated in a high concentration of liquid smoke and the “crust” was very soggy.

      The whole tenderloin fared a bit better because I didn’t leave it in the tank for quite as long and being whole, it was considerably thicker than the NY Strip steak.

      Considering I wasn’t really trying to “smoke” these things, I can’t imagine how smoky-flavored a brisket would get with a long-term hot tub soak.

      On the equipment thing, sorry, I can’t help you 😉

      As for the “foodie” thing … I’m not quite sure what triggered that particular rant. Without the new wave of non-cook foodies, some restaurants are going to have a hard time being successful.

  3. I would totally go to those lengths to make that! It looks so amazing. And I’ve never even heard of those kinds of beans, now I have a new food to try.

    Happy Weekend to you!

    • Thanks Jenn! Sometimes the beans go by different names. Others names to look for: Aztec bean, Cave bean, New Mexico Appaloosa, and Jacob’s Cattle. Best wishes and happy Sunday!

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