Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, is just a few days away, and in Kansas City that means it’s time to pull out the grill and fire up the barbecue.
I was born and raised in Kansas City. Until I started traveling extensively around the country, I thought there was only one kind of barbecue — Kansas City style. Kansas City is the birthplace of dry-rub barbecue finished with a tomato-molasses sauce with a hint of smoke.
There’s no doubt in my mind and in those of millions of barbecue affectionados across America that Kansas City has some of the finest BBQ you will find.
So being a Kansas City purist loyal to our hometown barbecue, it was very hard for me to visit other barbecue places across the country and give them a fair shake. Yes, I was biased, and I still am today. I have my favorite award-winning spots in Kansas City, some for the ribs, some for the brisket, some just for the mouth-watering chicken and sausage, and some just for the delicious side dishes.
Last year my wife, Lisa, and daughter Alexandra took a road trip across Texas. Austin was one of my main stops, because I had heard so much about its barbecue.
Austin is where I met Aaron Franklin, owner of Franklin Barbecue. Now there are more barbecue places in Texas than McDonald’s or Taco Bell restaurants, I am sure, and their history is just as deep as Kansas City. But on this trip I was going to be a tourist, I was going to wait in line at Franklin Barbecue like thousands of other people six days a week.
There’s a lot more to the story about my wait in line for the barbecue and getting a personal tour by Franklin himself of the back of the house of Franklin Barbecue. Some say it is the mecca for chefs to visit.
While there, I learned from the master the art of the brown butcher paper brisket. Aaron did not personally give me the recipe, but after observing his style it really wasn’t too hard to figure out. The recipe is available in his Franklin Barbecue cookbook, and you can also watch the PBS series on the place.
I’m telling you, it was some of the finest brisket I have ever experienced, and that’s very hard for someone from Kansas City to say. It was moist, full of smoke but not overloaded, and tender as can be. Oh my, what great flavor!
Believe it or not, after watching Franklin’s butchers and pit masters prepare the brisket, I cannot believe how simple it really was. Of course, there were some key ingredients, such as a salt-and-pepper rub known as a Dalmatian, some apple juice and some young oak wood for the smoker. If you had brown butcher paper to finish the brisket, you could possibly duplicate it at home.
And duplicate it at home I did. I purchased a raw brisket, gave it the perfect trim, added the salt-and-pepper Dalmatian and fired up my smoker. Around 10 hours later I was enjoying some butcher paper-wrapped brisket with my family and friends, and we all agreed that it was absolutely perfect.
Did I tell you about the burnt ends I also prepared with this brisket? That’s a whole other story.
And so, loyal Kansas City barbecue friends, fans and followers, I admit I got off the Kansas City barbecue trail for a while, but I want you to know I had to use a Kansas City barbecue sauce to finish, because between you and me, Texans still need a little work on their sauce down there.
Oh boy, am I going to be in trouble for these comments.
I wish you a wonderful holiday weekend, stay safe, and when you fire up the grill, I do hope you’re preparing some brisket from the recipe I am providing. And don’t worry, it’s OK to experiment with other cities’ barbecue, as long as you stay loyal to Kansas City.
Now go enjoy some ’Q!!
Butcher Paper Brisket
10 to 12 pounds beef brisket, including the full flat and the point section
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup ground pepper
Post oak wood
To prepare the brisket, pat dry with a paper towel. Mix salt and pepper to create the Dalmatian rub.
Spray meat with apple juice. Rub meat and evenly distribute with salt and pepper rub. You do not need to use all of the rub.
Prepare a fire for indirect heat in your smoker with oak wood. Place a water pan in the smoker. The smoker will be ready when the temperature reads about 225 degrees.
Place brisket on the cool side of the smoker and close the lid. Cook for six hours, adding wood as needed to keep the fire going. Use an instant-read thermometer to check temperature. Remove meat when temperature reaches 165 degrees.
Remove the brisket from the smoker and spray with apple juice. Wrap in brown butcher paper and return to the smoker for two hours or so until the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees. Spray one more time with apple juice and let rest for 15 minutes. Trim off burnt ends and serve separately. Slice brisket as needed. Serve with your favorite BBQ sauce.