The first beef brisket Matt Horn ever made was untrimmed and cooked too hot and too fast.
But Horn, now acclaimed chef-owner of Oakland’s Horn BBQ, was determined to pull off the tough, fibrous cut. And more importantly, to put his West Coast stamp on what is widely considered the ultimate meat for serious smokers.
Here’s that OG recipe, which calls for cutting the fat to 1/4 inch thickness and cooking slowly and gently. Together they yield the succulent texture, unforgettable flavor and smoky crust that have earned Horn so many accolades, including a James Beard finalist nomination for Best New Restaurant of 2022.
This recipe and many more Horn Barbecue Menu Favorites are featured in his new cookbook, “Horn Barbecue: Recipes and Techniques from a Master of the Art of BBQ” (Harvard Common Press, $30).
Makes 10 servings
1 whole beef brisket (12 to 14 pounds)
5 tablespoons coarse black pepper
2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons onion powder (optional)
Mustard or olive oil, for the meat
Heat the smoker to 265 degrees. I use oak for this cook, but you can use any hardwood you can get your hands on.
Place the breast on a work surface so that the fat side is down. Trim the silver skin or excess fat from the breast and turn the breast over, fat side up. Ideally, you want to keep about a ¼ inch layer of fat over the entire brisket to act as a protective barrier during the long cooking.
In a small bowl, combine pepper, salt and onion powder (if using). Rub the breast with mustard or olive oil and apply the seasoning evenly to all sides of the breast.
Place the brisket in the smoker with the pointed side (thicker side) facing the firebox. Close the lid and do not open it for 6-8 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
Spread unwaxed butcher paper on your work surface, take the brisket out of the smoker and place it in the middle of the paper. Wrap the breast until it is completely covered and fold the paper over twice, with the breast ending right side up (the side with the large hood). Return the wrapped breast to the smoker, right side up, and do not remove it until the breast has reached an internal temperature of 203 degrees. The time required to reach this temperature varies. Pay attention to the feeling of the wrapped chest. As it begins to soften, start probing the chest to get an idea of its temperature.
Let the wrapped, wrapped breast rest for 1 hour before unwrapping to slice and serve.
— From “Horn Barbecue: Recipes and Techniques from a Master of the Art of BBQ” by Matt Horn (Harvard Common Press; $30)