Texas Brisket on La Cajita China
Recipe by Dorothy Randoll
Randoll is a Dallas-area writer and special contributor to The Dallas
Morning News. She appeared with chef Tyler Florence on the Texas Ranch
Roast episode of Food 911 on the Food Network.)
Beefy, moist, falling-apart tender brisket is what you’ll have with these easy instructions for preparing one 15-pound brisket on La Cajita China. The same process works with La Caja China and as many as six briskets.
What you need:
La Caja China or La Cajita China
Heavy-duty aluminum foil
Oven mitts (the new silicon ones are particularly handy)
A rimmed baking pan that will fit inside La Cajita
can be ready ahead of time: mix the dry rub and make the basting sauce
days ahead of time; have the charcoal and heavy-duty aluminum foil on
Brisket: Buy an untrimmed (sometimes called packer style)
brisket available at most grocery stores. It will have a thick cap of
fat, and is usually in heavy plastic packaging. In Texas, it's
frequently on sale during the summer for 99 cents a pound. We stock up
for barbecuing all winter long. A 15-pound brisket fits nicely on La
Cajita China; briskets are available in size from about 8 pounds and up.
Calculate about 2 servings per pound. Leftovers reheat and freeze well,
so don't underestimate quantity. Besides, you probably won't have much
left over to worry about! La Caja China can accommodate about 6 briskets, depending on their size.
rub: Tyler Florence's Ancho Chile Rub is excellent on brisket. You may
already have a personal "house blend" combination of seasonings that you
like. For those who prefer less spice, try this:
1/2 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
Stir together to blend; store indefinitely
Optional additions, to suit your taste:
1 tablespoon seasoned salt (such as Lawry's)
Chili powder to taste
Cumin to taste
only baste the brisket once in this process. Basting adds moisture and
flavor. You'll need about 3/4 cup. You can use apple juice or a 50 / 50
blend of cider vinegar and water. I prefer to use this thin, tangy-sweet
barbecue sauce for basting brisket; it's also good with pork and
chicken. Don’t use a thick, heavy sauce – it may burn.
Dorothy’s Barbecue Sauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup bottled barbecue sauce
1/2 cup catsup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon chili powder -- optional
1 tablespoon paprika
all ingredients in a quart jar. Shake to blend thoroughly. Best if made
ahead of time; will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator. Makes 1
Prepare the brisket:
(NOTE: If you have a frozen brisket,
let it thaw in the refrigerator for 2 days to defrost thoroughly.) One
hour before you plan to begin cooking, take the brisket from the
refrigerator. Remove the plastic packaging, rinse brisket well with cool
water, and pat dry. DO NOT remove the fat; that will provide moisture
and flavor as the brisket cooks.
Place brisket on large rimmed
baking sheet and generously apply dry rub, whichever type you prefer, to
all meat surfaces. Let stand at room temperature until cooking time.
Prepare La Cajita China:
the beef rests, position La Cajita China on a level outdoor surface,
well away from buildings, canopies or shrubbery that could be burned or
damaged by the heat. Have about 20 pounds of Kingsford charcoal ready to
use. Place the fitted pan and the grate in the bottom of the unit;
place the charcoal pan on top.
Here's the schedule for a
15-pound brisket on a warm summer day. A smaller brisket will take
slightly less time; on a cold day, cooking will take a little longer.
Let's suppose you want to serve dinner at 6 p.m.
11 a.m. - Remove brisket from refrigerator, rinse, apply dry rub; prepare roaster.
Noon - Place brisket on grate in La Cajita, fat side up. Put top tray on pig roaster and build fire, using 4 - 5 pounds of charcoal in center of charcoal pan. Allow about 20 minutes for coals to burn evenly.
p.m. (or when coals are ready) - Spread coals evenly over the surface
of the charcoal pan. Keep an eye on the fire for safety reasons; do not
leave a fire unattended.
1:30 p.m. - Pour about 3/4 cup basting
sauce (or my barbecue sauce) into a container. Lift the charcoal pan and
place on grill handles. Brush the fatty meat surface generously without
removing it from grate. Quickly replace the charcoal pan and addanother
4 - 5 pounds of charcoal, distributing them evenly over the already
burning coals. Reserve any unused basting sauce.
Prepare the aluminum foil:
off two sheets of heavy-duty foil at least 8 inches longer than the
brisket and place on a rimmed baking pan that will fit inside La Cajita.
Tear off a third sheet, which will be placed on top.
2:30 p.m. - Remove the charcoal pan and set aside. Using oven mitts,
carefully place the brisket on top of the 2 sheets of foil on the
rimmed pan. Pour any remaining basting sauce over and top with the third
sheet of foil. Fold up all edges of foil to enclose securely. With oven
mitts, place the foil-wrapped brisket, pan and all, into La Cajita and
cover unit with charcoal pan. Add 2 - 3 pounds of charcoal, distributing
evenly over the already burning coals.
NOTE: it's important not to pierce the meat
with a roasting fork in order to move it off the grill and onto the
foil. We have found the simplest, safest way to do this is with oven
mitts. You can wash them later. A 15-pound piece of meat is too large
and unwieldy to manipulate with tongs, and you want to do this fairly
3:30 p.m. - Remove the charcoal pan and set aside. Place
an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the brisket,
poking through the foil. We are aiming for an internal temperature of
180 degrees. It will probably take one more hour of cooking to reach
that, but you need to check now to avoid overcooking. Add 2 - 3 pounds
of charcoal, distributing evenly over the already burning coals.
4:30 p.m. - Remove the charcoal pan and set aside. Place an
instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the brisket, poking
through the same hole in the foil.
If the temperature has reached
180 degrees, carefully (using oven mitts) lift the rimmed pan with the
brisket out of La Cajita and place it on a heatproof surface. (I set it
on kitchen stove.) Let it rest for one hour before carving. (If not at
that temperature, recover and test again after 20 - 30 minutes.)
p.m. - Carefully remove the top piece of foil from the meat. Using oven
mitts, transfer the brisket to the carving surface. I suggest placing a
cutting board in a rimmed pan. This will catch any juices, which can be
poured back over the meat after it's carved. It will also help keep the
counter clean. You will have several cups of meat juices trapped in the
aluminum foil. (Carefully pour this into a large bowl and refrigerate.
After the fat conceals on the surface, remove and discard. Transfer the
pure beef juice to containers to freeze for later use in chili, stews or
To carve the brisket, carefully slice off the fat cap and
discard. There are two sections to the thicker part of a brisket,
separated by a thin layer of fat that has mostly dissolved by this
point. However, you can see where the two sections separate. Carefully
cut along that seam horizontally to remove the top portion. You now have
two pieces of brisket, one larger than the other. Slice the brisket
against the grain of the meat, paying attention as the grain direction
changes. Place on a large platter. You’ll be ready to serve at 6 p.m.
NOTE: If you wish to delay serving the brisket, cover tightly with foil and place in an oven set at 170 degrees.
Meanwhile, back at La Cajita:
still have a large bed of glowing coals. If you wish, you can use these
to grill corn. Soak corn in husks in cold water to cover for 30 minutes
- one hour. (Start soaking the corn about 4:15 p.m.) Shake off excess
moisture and place on coals. Roast, turning frequently, 30 - 45 minutes.
Allow time to husk the corn after roasting, so the brisket doesn't have
to wait - if your guests aren't already it eating it right off the
Serve the brisket with warm barbecue sauce on the side. Have buns, sliced onions, pickles and lots of napkins available.