Ultimate Brisket Burgers with Whiskey Bacon Jam
(recipe and images by Fire & Thyme)
Serves 6 (with leftover brisket and jam)
Brisket is considered one of the ultimate cuts by many BBQ enthusiasts and to get a truly authentic result - juicy tender meat, a spectacular pink smoke ring and a dark, smoky bark - low and slow over charcoal is the only way to go!
The brisket has to be the hero, so this dish combines thick slices of perfectly cooked meat with traditional burger fixings, and a secret ingredient to bring it all together, a whiskey bacon jam which delivers a fist-full of BBQ goodness.
- 1.2 – 1.5kg Greenlea beef brisket
- 2 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp coarsely ground pepper
- Spray bottle filled with water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 250g streaky bacon, finely diced
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 4 tsp crushed garlic
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tbsp whiskey (optional)
- 1/4 tsp liquid smoke
- 6 burger buns or baps
- Lettuce leaves
- Tomato, thickly sliced
- Gherkin, sliced lengthways
- Red onion, finely sliced
- Smoked cheese slices
Prepare the brisket by placing it on a board, patting it dry with paper towels, and then trimming off any hard fat on the outside of the brisket, leaving any soft fats to render out during the cook.
Mix the salt and pepper together in a small bowl, then rub it all over the surface of the meat, ensuring a generous coating – a good coating of the rub is critical in ensuring a nice BBQ crust (bark) on the finished cut.
Set up a charcoal BBQ kettle for a low and slow cook via your chosen method (see notes) aiming for a consistent temperature of 120°c.
Place the brisket on the grill, away from the heat source. If you have one available, insert a digital BBQ thermometer into your meat and another to measure the ambient temperature of the BBQ (see notes).
Once the brisket is in position, add your wood chunks to the coal and close the lid.
One hour in
After the brisket has been smoking for an hour, adjust your spray bottle to a fine mist, open the BBQ and give the brisket a very light spray of water, being careful not to disturb the rub by spraying too directly or heavily. Repeat this process at two hours and three hours, topping up or adjusting your coal and wood as needed to maintain the consistent temperature of 120°c.
Four hours in
The brisket should now be forming a dark crust as it takes on the smoke and water. To avoid the meat drying out it is now important to ‘boat’ the brisket. Prepare a ‘boat’ by laying out 2-4 sheets of heavy-duty tinfoil on a large board and crumpling the sides in to form a tray slightly larger than the brisket. Remove the brisket from the grill, place it in the boat, then slide it carefully back on to the grill. This protects the meat and lets it cook in its own juices, while protecting the bark and allowing it to continue to form.
Five, six and seven hours in
Each hour spray the brisket with water, and check your coal, wood and temperatures.
8 hours in
Depending on the size of your brisket, from 8 hours onwards, the brisket may be ready. This isn’t necessarily dictated by the internal temperature of the meat, but rather how the meat ‘feels’. Brisket may be ready anywhere from 88°c through to 102°c.
Once you are in the general internal temperature zone, check the brisket for doneness by probing it with a meat skewer. When it ‘probes like warm butter’ – i.e. the probe can be slid in to the brisket with no resistance or force required, it is almost ready.
When you’ve reached the safe temperature zone and feel the brisket has reached the desired level of tenderness, leave the meat on for an additional 60 minutes, then remove from the grill and rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
For the Burger
While the beef is cooking, make the bacon jam by heating a large, deep frying pan over a medium heat. Add the olive oil and finely diced bacon and cook until nicely browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the onions and crushed garlic to the pan along with a splash of water, and cook for 5 minutes until soft, fragrant and translucent.
Mix all remaining ingredients - other than the liquid smoke – together in a jug or bowl. Add the bacon back in to the pan with the onions and pour over the jug mixture.
Cook the jam for 20-30 minutes over a low to medium heat, ensuring a constant bubbling simmer and stirring constantly, until the jam has reduced and thickened. To check, dollop a teaspoon of the jam on to a cool plate – the jam is ready when the dollop mostly holds its shape and can be smeared nicely like a jam.
Add in the liquid smoke, season with salt and pepper if desired, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Once the jam is cool, spoon it in to a clean jar and set aside. Any leftover jam can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.
Prepare and slice the remaining burger ingredients and set them out in bowls or on a board, and if you wish, toast the buns under a grill for a few minutes until warm and browned.
Place the rested brisket on a large board, and cut in to long thick slices, across the grain.
To assemble the final dish, spread a generous amount of bacon jam on the bottom bun, top with a hefty portion of sliced brisket, then layer up the cheese and salad ingredients to your taste, adding a dollop of mayo on the top bun – enjoy!
To select a low and slow cook method, we recommend researching the snake method for a kettle, and the minion method for a vertical smoker.
While you can cook this on a gas barbecue, to get truly authentic brisket that will have people coming back for more, a charcoal kettle BBQ, or vertical or offset smoker is best.
The lid thermometers on most barbecues are of poor quality, and/or are in the wrong position to accurately measure the actual grate temperature from where the meat is sitting, so we recommend using reliable ambient thermometer like a Weber igrill or similar.
The perfect slice of brisket can be the base for any amazing burger. Try combing slices with grilled Portobello mushrooms and blue cheese; or grilled streaky bacon and onion rings – the options are endless!
With a cook-time of up to 12 hours, this isn’t something you can throw together on a busy week night. However, if you cook the brisket on a relaxed summer weekend, you can store slices in an airtight bag in the freezer, then reheat them either in a pan or in boiling water if sealed using a food saver.