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SVQ – 30 Day Dry-Aged Select Brisket to Conventional Finish – Step-by-Step

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    SVQ – 30 Day Dry-Aged Select Brisket to Conventional Finish – Step-by-Step

    For those who have followed most of my brisket cooks, you know that my family and I prefer medium rare finished beef. As my wife likes to say, we don’t want no gray meat!! For chuck and other tough cuts, and especially brisket, the only way to achieve that is via the sous vide process. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a low and slow finish on a well smoked and rendered brisket but in order to keep the peace, sous vide finds its way into my house more than not.

    I’ve probably explored about every way there is to cook brisket using the sous vide process. My initial attempts were done via SVQ, or a long sous vide bath followed by a post smoking to establish some bark and mimic a smoky finish. That then evolved into QVQ or pre-smoking the meat to develop even more bark and take on some smoke, followed by a long bath and finished off with a post smoke to re-set that initial bark somewhat lost in the SV process. Recently I even tried QSV, or reversing the SVQ process by smoking first for an extended period, establishing a bark, then finishing off and tenderizing via sous vide.


    What I have discovered when sous viding to a conventional finish (by conventional I mean to a fully rendered finish usually achieved by regular smoking to an internal temperature of 203*F +/-), is the pre-smoking process really doesn’t add much to the overall end result of the meat. QVQ is necessary when the finishing temperature is generally so low (or 131-135*F) that the post smoking process doesn’t have enough time to establish a good bark and take on any smoke before exceeding those medium rare temperatures during re-heating.

    Therefore, the purpose of this post is to present the basic steps and suggest a few tips that provide the uninitiated with the process of producing a really good, tender and well rendered brisket via the sous vide method without the need for a 12-14-hour conventional smoking. The other reason I’m presenting this now is I will be introducing a few more recipes using SVQ brisket as the main component and will refer back to this post as the way it was ultimately prepared.

    Suggestion #1 - Dry-Aging

    Most people who barbecue in their back yards don’t have access to Prime or Wagyu brisket locally. That said there usually can be found lessor grades like Choice or Select in most major supermarkets or big box stores. This method is assuming you only have access to select grade so treating this cut requires some added help to achieve full rendering while maintaining moisture and tenderness. The main reason for this is lack of interstitial fat within the body of the brisket. There are ways to deal with this and amp up those desirable components. Dry aging your meat is one of them.

    Dry aging is the process of allowing meat to be kept uncooked for a prolonged period of time in special temperature and humidity conditions. This process allows the natural enzymes within the meat to begin to break down the proteins to achieve tenderness while simultaneously allowing moisture to escape achieving a densification of the meat resulting in enhanced flavor. Think of aging cheese, it’s a very similar process. The longer you go the funkier and more intense the flavor gets.

    For most home cooks, special aging meat lockers are simply not practical. As a very good alternative a company by the name of Umai has developed a special bag that acts via an osmotic process letting out the moisture and protecting the meat from anything entering to cause it to decay. It also allows the natural enzymes to do their thing. Kept in your refrigerator for an extended period, they produce a very close approximation of meat locker aging.

    For this brisket I chose to cut off 5.5# of the point end of a select brisket (the flat was used to make pastrami) and placed it into an Umai bag for a 30-day period of dry aging. I wanted to get a head start on tenderizing my meat and allowing it to densify.

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    In doing so a hard, leathery pellicle covers the entire brisket. Although theoretically edible, it’s got the consistency of shoe leather (it actually makes great dog treats), so it has to be removed. The downside of removing it is a loss of yield so that has to be taken into account.
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    My 5.5# brisket after 30 days lost about 1.5# of mostly escaped moisture. After aging we're left with a little over 4# of product which after trimming yielded about 3# to work with (an unfortunate 45% overall loss of product). However, it was just about right for what I have in store for my future recipes. Again, planning is key when deciding to use this method.

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    Suggestion #2 – Injecting

    Whenever injecting brisket is brought up there is always a 2-hour discussion about the pros and cons of how to do it, with what to inject or even if it’s worth doing at all. Remember in our case I have chosen a select brisket. I find these less fatty, tougher cuts need all the help they can get. So in this case I have gone ahead and injected just to give it a little extra boost.

    Injecting can come in the form of many things. The idea behind injection is to try and introduce more moisture back into the meat using products as simple as beef broth. One of the ideas floating around YouTube of late is injecting liquefied beef tallow back into a brisket. The concoctions are as endless as one can dream up.

    A product that a lot of competition pit masters use that's readily available on the market basically contains similar types of pre-measured ingredients. First, the use of phosphates that help capture moisture within the protein structures is a main component. Second is soy which is a natural tenderizing agent. Third is MSG which adds that umami flavor component so popular in Asian cooking. My go to for select grade brisket is Butcher’s BBQ blend. There are a ton of YouTube videos on how best to inject so I won’t go into it here. I just suggest you give this a try, anything that adds moisture and flavor is certainly heading you in the right direction for a tough select cut.

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    The Sous Vide Bath

    I trust most everyone is at least familiar with the sous vide process. It’s a process that’s been used for years in high end restaurants to pre-cook and hold all types of foods. They seal the food in plastic bags and submerge in circulating water at the temperatures the food needs to be heated to. At some point of equilibrium that food will come to that temperature evenly throughout for a perfect finish. Unfortunately, what’s lacking in meat is the final finish commonly known as the sear achieved by the Maillard Reaction. Thus the need for the post smoking process.


    First things first however, we need to cook our brisket and get it tender. Remember it’s been dry aged so it’s already on its way. It’s also been injected so those components will help keep it moist. I chose a bath temp of 160*F and a time in the bath of 30 hours. A piece of meat this small actually could be fully rendered in about 25 hours but I wanted to be sure. Prior to sealing I went ahead and salt brined overnight and applied some seasoning with an extra dose of black pepper.


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    Suggestion #3 – The Purge

    During the SV bath a certain amount of that injection and internal moisture will naturally be drawn out and left in the bag. Mixed with the seasoning, this stuff ends up being liquid gold. I take that purge and dump it into a fat separator, microwave it for about 30 seconds and separate the liquid from the fatty layer. During the final re-heat and smoking stage, instead of spritzing I actually pour the liquid over the brisket slowly at the various cooking intervals. It soaks it up like a sponge and re-introduces what would have been normally lost back into the brisket. Bottom line, capture that purge and use it to your advantage.


    The Final Smoking Finish

    Now that the brisket is fully cooked, I plunged it into an ice bath for about 30 minutes. This stops the cooking process and gets the meat down to a safe temperature for refrigerated storage until I was ready to post smoke it.

    When ready I fired up my smoker, re-coated the outside with my seasoning, threw on some wood chunks and set the temperature in the smoker to 275-300*F. I monitored the internal temperature but more importantly I observed the color and finish on the outside. Remember, the meat is fully cooked at this point, we’re just trying to get a sear and establish some bark similar to what we would have had in conventional cooking. The internal temperature is really not that important as long as you try to get it to a safe overall re-heat or about 140*F. Theoretically you could go longer to achieve even more bark but I would not suggest too long for fear of drying out the meat you have worked so hard to protect and keep moist. In my case it took a little over an hour and I was satisfied.



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    The Result – Pros and Cons

    I won’t go into the actual result of this cook until I use the meat in some upcoming recipes I plan to post. Needless to say it was incredibly juicy and completely tenderized. The end result, in appearance, was just like I had smoked it for 12 hours on an offset smoker.

    So what are the benefits and what is the downside to this process?

    Pros
    1. Although several steps over a long period of time, most of the work happens in the sous vide bath or waiting on the dry aging process. You go about your life while the meat is being processed for you.
    2. Dry aging achieves amazing flavor and tenderness.
    3. You can use a less expensive grade of meat. Injecting that tougher grade assures added moisture retention.
    4. The end result is a perfectly rendered brisket made in a controlled manner. Conventional cooking has a lot of variables that affect the outcome which are all but eliminated here.
    5. Other than letting the meat cool down before slicing, no need for an extended rest and ramp down period before serving.
    Cons
    1. Long periods of time waiting on aging and the sous vide process. A lot of planning and timing need to be taken into account.
    2. A larger than normal sous vide setup may be required.
    3. If dry aging, a significant loss in overall yield is to be expected and accounted for.
    4. The overall end result, although seemingly the same, lacks the depth of flavor and smokiness of a conventionally cooked brisket. But that’s subjective.
    5. Fat rendering does occur, but again the flavor of that fat is not as pronounced or rendered quite as complete as in conventional cooking.
    All in all, this process makes cooking a brisket, especially a cheaper grade, a lot easier with the end result being more predictable. Tender, juicy and able to compete with its conventional big brother, this process can be done almost completely within the home with only the final smoking left for the last couple of hours.

    Yet for some this process may seem too long and involved, I get that. My goal was to present as many suggestions and options to better the quality of a lessor grade of brisket. I also wanted to demonstrate and use that result in varying non-conventional ways (but more on that in upcoming posts). Also as mentioned, one can choose to go full QVQ and get medium rare results on briskets that are only achievable via this method.

    I hope this answers questions, encourages you to try it and gives you a few suggested tricks to successfully cook a brisket using the SVQ methodology. This has been my method and experience, as always your mileage may vary !!

    The Troutman has now completed the brisket cooking cycle !! I’m outta here !!

    #2
    Great write up Troutman! I've yet to use sous-vide on a brisket, but may try it at some point this winter.

    One question - you mention that one of your goals of this process was to have meat that wasn't grey, but you run it at 160F for 30 hours. Doesn't that result in grey throughout, i.e. well done?

    Comment


    • Troutman
      Troutman commented
      Editing a comment
      Yes this is a conventional finish to get burnt ends. The wife didn't eat any of the tacos I made but she did like the little burnt ends by themselves, she ate about half a dozen !! Go figure.

    • jfmorris
      jfmorris commented
      Editing a comment
      Troutman I can't believe she wouldn't eat your tacos! You are the MASTER of all things taco!

    #3
    Thinking about trying something similar, but skipping the dry aging by starting with prime grade.

    Comment


      #4
      Okay

      Comment


        #5
        As always well presented and very informative. Did you perhaps get a weight of the end product.

        Comment


        • Troutman
          Troutman commented
          Editing a comment
          The brisket weights are given. Not sure what else you're looking for? The injection amount is about a cup of water to a scoop and a half of the Butcher's.

        • holehogg
          holehogg commented
          Editing a comment
          Was looking for the cooked weight. Final end weight.
          Was interested in a comparison in overall loss difference of SVQ method vs Convection. I know I generally get a 40 - 45% weight loss when smoking. I'm guessing it wouldn't be as significant this way.

        • Troutman
          Troutman commented
          Editing a comment
          holehogg As you can see I lost 45% just in the dry aging process. I'm sure after I you account for the loss of moisture in the purge that I lost even more. Unfortunately I didn't weigh the meat after it came out of the bath. I would guesstimate a loss of maybe another half pound. That's a total lose of over 50%. But hey, what was left was pure gold !!!!

        #6
        This is awesome and perfect timing for me. Following your technique, can I hold the roast for a few hours after smoking? Ideally, I’d like to use the smoker for a few other things while the roast rests. Foil, paper or just a foil tray?

        Comment


        • Troutman
          Troutman commented
          Editing a comment
          Sure, just keep it wrapped in foil or in a warm oven. Don't let it get dried out is all.

        #7
        First, let me say thank you for taking the time to write up this detailed post with the included pictures! I look forward to seeing the follow up posts on how you used this, although you may have dropped a hint up above .

        I love the idea of this for 2 reasons. It has been a while since I have made pastrami and I am looking forward to doing it again soon, and too the got some Umai bags for my birthday and now have a reason to play with them!

        Would you do anything different with a USDA or CAB brisket?

        Comment


        • Troutman
          Troutman commented
          Editing a comment
          Our CAB quality is high Choice or low Prime so no, I would not do much of anything to those. I have tried dry aging Prime before and it really does do wonders but you give up time and yield so I tend to shy away.

        #8
        Good stuff..........The Pit at it's best, and not a paper plate promo in sight.

        But........where's the butcher paper/wagyu tallow pour part of the process fit in? Ya missed the band wagon............................
        Last edited by Uncle Bob; September 8, 2021, 12:15 PM.

        Comment


        • Troutman
          Troutman commented
          Editing a comment
          I mentioned it in passing in the text but it's not for me. I've tried and didn't like it.

        #9
        Thanks for the teaching effort, Troutman I have cut & pasted this into my meat/beef/brisket notes as 'Troutman's SVQ Treatise.'

        Now, I await Ernest rebuttal, in favor of QVQ. A good old fashioned Texas showdown. Let me go get a bowl of popcorn first. (And, no-one has to mention KBQ, right?)

        Comment


        • Troutman
          Troutman commented
          Editing a comment
          Along with several others, we actually collaborated on the QVQ method a few years back. As I mentioned, I use it routinely for medium rare type cooks. For conventional brisket or chucks to pulling, not necessary imho.

        • Ernest
          Ernest commented
          Editing a comment
          I still stand by QVQ because I have found that the Q up until internal temp is close to the Stall does tend to produce a pronounced delicate smoke flavor during the V session. The last Q is really just reheating and tightening with Black pepper before serving. I have done SVQ, I find it to work better for small cuts like ribs. Either way, results are quite superior

        #10
        As luck would have it, Costco had NO briskets today. They might get some in, they aren’t sure. I’m looking now at alternatives (done pork butt every other time) Thinking beef chuck roast might be a possibility. Would you cook the same technique as brisket?

        Comment


        • Troutman
          Troutman commented
          Editing a comment
          I generally make QVQ, medium rare chuck. Chuck, unlike a select brisket flat, has tons of fat generally speaking so injecting or dry aging is not necessary. I have several examples of chuckie QVQ cooks in the beef section if interested.

        #11
        I wanted to emphasize (and failed to do so in my write up) how amazing beef ends up tasting after dry aging. The net result was so tender and flavorful after cooking it literally melted in my mouth. And that was select grade meat. I encourage everyone to try those Umai bags. Yes they are $10 each and you have to wait for some period of time but with a little planning ahead that's really no problem for me. The net result is really worth the wait, I can't emphasize that more.

        Comment


        • Dr. Pepper
          Dr. Pepper commented
          Editing a comment
          I don't disagree with you, but my wife does 😟. She doesn't like the funkiness. I've used the Umai on primal NY Strips, and bone-in rib roasts (both from Costco) a few different times. Most of the guests liked the steaks, but a couple objected to the flavors.
          An additional problem for me is her irritation at my occupying huge amounts of refrigerator territory for 4-6 weeks at a go.

        • Troutman
          Troutman commented
          Editing a comment
          Two responses. First, less time dry aging. When I first started using the bags, I thought the longer the better and went something like 60 days. That was very offputting for me, not to mention that it made the meat way to dense. 21 days is my sweet spot.

          Second thought, garage refrigerator 👍👌

        #12
        Troutman I seem to suck at searching the forums, been trying for 1/2 hour. Could you possibly point me to your method for Sous vide Chuck?

        Comment


          #13
          SierraBBQGuy Here's the simple recipe for QVQ medium rare chuckie**;

          1. Dry brine 24 hours in advance (or at least 2-3 hours prior to cooking)
          2. Season your meat with your favorite beef seasoning (like BBBR)
          3. Pre-smoke at 275*F until about 130F IT OR until your seasoning is set and desired color is achieved
          4. Bag and vacuum seal your meat and drop into a SV bath at 135*F for 28-30 hours
          5. Afterwards, plunge into an ice bath for 30 minutes and refrigerate until ready for final smoking
          6. On serving day, unbag and save all the purge for making a gravy or sauce. Can also be poured back onto the meat.
          7. Fire up your smoker once more. Pat the meat dry, re-season it and either re-smoke at 300*F + or alternatively sear it directly over screaming hot coals to establish some bark.
          8. Serve and enjoy, it's easy and darn near failproof !!

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          **Should you want conventional well done, follow the same method only go 160*F on the bath and drop your time to 20-24 hours.
          Last edited by Troutman; September 9, 2021, 01:21 PM.

          Comment


          • Polarbear777
            Polarbear777 commented
            Editing a comment
            And if you want to pull it, stretch the V to 72 hours. Good stuff any way you slice or pull it.

          #14
          Awesome, thanks much. If I don’t do smoke first, just omit, everything else is same?

          Comment


          • Troutman
            Troutman commented
            Editing a comment
            Yep. first smoke is for flavor more than anything.

          #15
          Troutman Did you pour the purge off the meat after you removed it from the sous vide, or did you let it chill along with the meat in the fridge until ready. I ask because I'm tempted for my next SVQ brisket to pour it off into the fat separator right away so I don't have to end up scraping the gelatinous stuff off the cold meat. I can't decide if this is a good idea or not.

          I'm also thinking that the chilled meat, on a rack in the fridge for a few hours may have a chance to harden the surface for a better bark.

          Your thoughts?

          TIA,

          Kathryn
          Last edited by fzxdoc; December 7, 2021, 07:15 AM.

          Comment


          • Troutman
            Troutman commented
            Editing a comment
            I take the purge from the bag and pour it into a fat separator. I then zap it in the microwave to further cause separation just prior to slicing. It helps with keeping the meat moist and avoid oxidation.

          • fzxdoc
            fzxdoc commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks. I'm going to pour the purge off as well before plunging the meat bag into the ice. Seems like it will work well.
            Troutman

            Kathryn
            Last edited by fzxdoc; December 7, 2021, 07:55 AM.

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