The scent of barbecue brings a flood of memories rushing back to me… memories of family and friends, some now departed, and the fun we had at my great uncle’s cattle ranch in the rolling hills of San Luis Obispo, CA. I have farmers on both sides of my family, and my childhood was full of Santa Maria-style barbecue cookouts. Uncle Dennis and his friends would stand over a huge iron oak-filled fire pit, slowly smoking the meat till it was tender and perfectly done. Aunt Pauline would make vats of ranch beans and salad. She’d spread French bread with copious amounts of garlic butter. Just before the meal, Uncle Dennis would throw the bread onto the fire pit till it soaked up the smoky oak flavor and grill marks were seared in. With the scent of garlic bread and barbecue in the air, we’d dig into the feast.
I miss those sunny afternoons. I miss sitting with my family and chatting about this, that and the other thing. I miss my Aunt Pauline and her sister, my Grandma Carolyn. What a blessing to grow up in a small town, surrounded by a loving family. Simple pleasures. Now that I live in the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, I appreciate it all the more.
While I grew up adoring those barbecue cookouts, my diet has changed quite a bit over the years. Now I eat flexitarian style, meaning the majority of my nutrition comes from vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. That said, once in a while my family craves meat. Every month or two we indulge in some organic steak or brisket. Sadly I don’t have a giant iron oak-filled fire pit in my back yard, so this has become one of my go-to recipes for preparing barbecue-style beef brisket. The slow cooker keeps the meat from drying out, and it requires very little effort… just set it up in the morning and let it slowly cook all day long. The meat cooks up meltingly tender. The longer you cook it, the more it takes on the consistency of tender chipped beef, which I love. The idea originally came from a friend who recommended that I slow cook a brisket smothered in barbecue sauce. Over time, I’ve added some seasonings to the method to enhance the flavor. This recipe has been perfected over time; it was one of the first recipes I ever posted on my blog, but I am resharing it today because the modifications take it from good to awesome. It couldn’t be easier. Stick it in the slow cooker in the morning, and by the time you get home you’ll be minutes away from a hearty and satisfying meal. Serve with mashed potatoes or a baked potato and a salad on the side. You can also pile the beef onto hamburger buns and make barbecue beef sandwiches.
This brisket will fill your home with the scent of barbecue, so be prepared. I actually love the smell… it reminds me of afternoon cookouts, my small town childhood and the love of my family. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Note: this recipe is gluten free if you use a certified GF honey barbecue sauce.
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- 1 brisket, 5 lbs., first cut
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (use 1/2 tsp for more heat)
- 1 1/2 cups honey barbecue sauce
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
You will also need
- Large slow cooker, 6-7 quart capacity
- Sprinkle brisket with salt and pepper. Mix the onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper together in a small bowl. Dry rub both sides of the brisket with the seasoning mixture.
- Stir together the honey barbecue sauce and brown sugar.
- Pour half of the sauce into the bottom of your slow cooker. Place the seasoned brisket, fatty side up, into the slow cooker. Don't worry if it's a little big for the cooker, the brisket will shrink as it cooks. Cover the top o the brisket with the remaining sauce.
- Cover the slow cooker and set heat to low for 9 hours, or until fork tender.
- When the brisket is cooked, remove it carefully from the slow cooker and place it on a cutting board.
- Pour the sauce from the slow cooker into a large bowl and let it cool.
- Slice off the fat cap from the top of the brisket and discard.
- Flip the brisket over so the leaner side faces upward. You'll be able to see the direction of the meat grain better on this side. Slice the brisket against the grain, at a slight diagonal, creating thin slices of meat.
- Skim the fat that has risen to the top of the sauce in the large bowl. It will appear lighter in color than the sauce, like droplets of oil on the surface. Skim as much fat as you can.
- In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch and 1 tbsp of water till completely smooth. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the bowl of sauce and stir to combine.
- Pour half of the sauce back into the slow cooker. Layer the slices of brisket meat on top of the sauce. Pour the remaining sauce over the brisket.
- Turn slow cooker to high for about 1 hour, till the meat and sauce are heated through and the sauce begins to bubble and thicken. Keep on warm setting till ready to serve.
- Note: the longer you cook this brisket, the more it will take on the texture of shredded or "chipped" beef. If you'd like for the meat to retain its sliced shape, no need to return the meat to the slow cooker. You can reduce the sauce quickly in a saucepan on the stovetop, then pour it over the slices in a casserole dish before serving. The leftovers make great BBQ beef sandwiches.