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Bob Hart’s Recipe for Cooking Tri-Tip as Brisket

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Just one of the peculiarities of serious barbecue is that the most celebrated dish of all is one that relatively few people will ever taste, and even fewer will ever cook.


That dish, if you’ve not guessed, is brisket – a large and robust cut of beef that has to be cooked for a very long time to become tender enough even to chew.


The brisket is essentially the chest of an ox: every beast has two of them. In our world, they are usually reduced down to a section called the flat, rolled and corned, then boiled. But that hardly does them justice.


An entire brisket weighs at least 5kg or so, and is made up of several very different muscles and a very thick layer of fat. Smoked slowly, it is the central dish of Texas barbecue and, properly executed, it is truly magnificent.


But if you ever manage to find a properly executed version, it may well have spent 18 hours or so in a large smoker fired with burning oak before being rested for another hour or so and then sliced and served. And there is more to it than just that, I can promise you…


But no, that is not what I am going to suggest you cook this week. Because unless you are a barbecue tragic, like others I could name, life’s simply too short.


Instead, I suggest you track down, through any decent butcher, a smaller, better cut called a tri-tip. This is the delectable point of a whole rump, usually weighs in at the 1.6 to 2kg mark, and is usually quickly cooked to a juicy medium rare in a hot barbecue or even an oven.


However, if you are curious about brisket, and wonder how good it would taste if it were a premium cut in the first place, a tri-tip will tell the story for you. In fact, the main difference between a perfectly smoked brisket, and a tri-tip cooked as a brisket, but for far less time, is that the tri-tip is far more delicious. Trust me.


But talking of butchers, if you can’t find a decent one near you, try Leo Donati in Carlton or Gary from Gary’s Meats in Prahran Market. Either will supply you, if you ask nicely and call in advance to order it, with outstanding tri-tips.


Now, take your whole, tri-angular tri-tip and cover it well with the all-purpose rub from any of my books, or with any other reliable rub you can lay your hands on.

Add a generous sprinkle of sea salt and leave it overnight in a resealable plastic bag in the fridge.


Next day, either stoke up your charcoal cooker or fire up your gas barbecue – in either case, to a temperature no higher than, say, 120C if you can manage it. Place the tri-tip on the grill, drop the lid and find something else to do for an hour or so – or, at least, until the internal temperature of the meat has risen to, say, 80C. Low and slow barbecue cooking is done according to a target temperature, NEVER to a time. Be patient!


At this point, take the meat off the grill and place it on a large square of heavy-duty foil – ideally a double thickness. Drizzle the meat with heated beef stock, and wrap it tightly before returning it to the grill at that same temperature, or a little lower.


Once that internal meat temperature has risen close to the 95C mark, you’re pretty much done. Rest it for a little longer in the foil if you have the time, and then, open up the foil and slice the meat.


It will be moist, tender and magnificent – as all barbecued meat should be. It has been nowhere near as much trouble as cooking a real brisket. But it will taste very much like a real brisket. Only much, much better.

Peter 'Grubby' Stubbs