Cooking brisket in a smoker is a time-consuming, but rewarding, process. It requires many hours and vigilant babysitting, and although I love the leisurely pace that Slow Cooked on Sundays recipes allow for, I wanted a brisket version that was a little more self-sufficient.
American Test Kitchen came up with a great one, which included an ingenious trick - elevating the brisket above the liquid so that it mirrors the dry cooking that brings out the best in brisket. After all, the brisket cut is not the cheapest out there, so if I'm going to end up with a braised roast instead of smoky brisket, I might as well use a cheaper cut.
Scoring the fat on the brisket at ½-inch intervals allowed the rub to penetrate the meat. The original recipe called for a metal loaf pan, but for my smaller crockpot, I used a small round baking dish.
SPICE RUB AND BRISKET
•1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
•2 tablespoons minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
•1 tablespoon ground cumin
•1 tablespoon paprika
•1 teaspoon salt
•2 teaspoons pepper
•1 (4- to 5-pound) brisket roast, fat trimmed to 1/4 inch thick and scored lightly
AROMATICS AND SAUCE
•3 tablespoons vegetable oil
•1 onion, chopped fine
•2 tablespoons tomato paste
•1 tablespoon chili powder
•1 tablespoon minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
•2 garlic cloves, minced
•1/2 cup water
•1/4 cup ketchup
•1 tablespoon cider vinegar
•1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
Combine sugar, chipotle, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper in bowl. Rub sugar mixture all over brisket. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook until beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Stir in chili powder, chipotle, and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Following photos at left, mound onion mixture in center of slow cooker, arrange inverted metal loaf pan over onion mixture, and place brisket, fat-side up, on top of loaf pan. Add water to slow cooker, cover, and cook on high until fork inserted into brisket can be removed with no resistance, 7 to 8 hours (or cook on low for 10 to 12 hours).
Transfer brisket to 13- by 9-inch baking dish, cover with foil, and let rest 30 minutes.
Carefully remove loaf pan from slow cooker. Pour onion mixture and accumulated juices into large bowl and skim fat. (You should have about 2 cups defatted juices; if you have less, supplement with water.)
Transfer brisket to cutting board, slice thinly across grain, and return to baking dish. Pour 1 cup reserved defatted juices over sliced brisket. Whisk ketchup, vinegar, and liquid smoke into remaining juices. Season with salt and pepper.
MAKE AHEAD In step 3, wrap brisket tightly in foil and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (Refrigerate juices separately in airtight container.) To serve, transfer foil-wrapped brisket to baking dish and heat in 350-degree oven and cook until brisket is heated through, about 1 hour. Reheat juices in microwave or saucepan set over medium heat. Continue with recipe as directed.
NOTE: We used leftover brisket to make Brisket Eggrolls!