Bear Brisket Recipe
Around my house, bear brisket is considered a delicacy. I haven’t heard of anyone else preparing bear brisket in any way other than grinding it up and throwing it in sausage. So, when I posted this picture of a bear brisket that I had cooked, I got a lot of messages asking for my recipe! This recipe has converted a lot of non-bear eaters to fully believe in the value of this meat. It is regarded as highly as deer or elk in my house! I even had a vegetarian break almost a decade of meat free eating with my bear brisket... true story!
Here is my recipe; it is a guaranteed showstopper.
- Getting the brisket from the bear
This part is super easy, you just need to keep a couple of things in mind and be careful!
I always start caping a bear with it laying on its back (unless it has a great white patch on its chest that I don’t want to cut through). As soon as the chest is exposed, you will see that the brisket sits under a thick layer of fat. I will trim this fat around the edges of the brisket so I can see where my cuts need to start, but I like to leave the rest of the fat cap on until I am ready to cook it. I believe it adds flavor and keeps the meat fresh and clean.
You will see that the brisket forms a triangle on the bear's chest which extends into each arm pit, and down to the sternum. Those are your cutting points, and from there you will simply peel the brisket from the chest. I will clean it up and split it right down the middle to get two brisket cooks out of one bear. I recommend doing this even if you plan on cooking it all at once, because the grain meets up at an awkward angle where that center line is.
When I am ready to cook it, I will trim most of the fat cap off and season it up! I use an even 1:1:1 mix of coarse salt, black pepper, and ground coffee. This is an Albertan take on Texas style BBQ which is traditionally just salt and pepper. The coffee adds great flavour and color to the bark and reduces the carcinogens in the meat from the smoke. It’s a win win!
You can season it however you would like but the salt is a must. Typically in BBQ, I have found that less it more. Keep it simple with 2-4 ingredients and let the meat and smoke flavour do the talking.
You will also want to pay attention to the direction of the grain at this point. You won’t be able to see it when it is cooked because it will be covered in a delicious bark, so pay attention to which way you will need to cut it later!
- Smoking the brisket!
You will want to run your smoker between 200 and 225 degrees for the length of the cook. Lower and slower is always better for breaking down the meat and getting a tender brisket. Since a bear brisket is so small, you can afford to go extra low and slow. I am for 200 in my cooks, and if it falls slightly below that I am okay with it.
Since the flavour of bear is quite strong, I like to use a lighter hardwood for this cook. Apple, or pecan have always been great choices for me. I love the flavour of mesquite, but it can be a touch overwhelming when paired with the strength of the bear.
There are a few important things to cover at this point:
- Make sure your smoker is preheated and not billowing smoke when you put the meat on. You want a thin, blueish smoke that is barely visible to the naked eye. If your smoke is billowing, just give it some time to calm down.
- Make sure the meat is cold and wet when you put it on. This is crucial for getting a good smoke ring like in my photo above. I keep the brisket in the fridge until it is ready to go on, and then take a spray bottle of water to it to soak it after placing on the smoker. You can also spray it with beer, coffee, maple syrup water, or any other flavour enhancing concoction you want. I like to stick with water, because I want to taste the bear and the smoke first!
- You will want to leave the brisket on smoke for no more than three hours, regardless of internal temperature. The bear brisket is lean and thin, and leaving it on smoke for any longer will dry it out. It is not like a beef brisket. Also, smoke ring formation ends around the three-hour mark, so you won’t gain much by leaving it on.
- The Texas Crutch
The Texas Crutch is a method used throughout the BBQ world to speed up cooks and increase moisture and tenderness.
Once your brisket has been smoked, you will wrap it up very tightly in 2-4 layers of tin foil. In the tin foil, I will add some whisky, maple syrup, and some apple cider vinegar. I will then add a square of butter on top of the brisket. You will then wrap the brisket up tightly in the foil, making sure that there are no leaks and that there is nowhere for the liquid to come out. The vinegar, whisky, and syrup will create a delicious steam that cuts through the meat and breaks it down.
You can put this back on your smoker at the same temperature, or in the oven if you don’t feel like monitoring temperature. It will make no difference, since no smoke can penetrate the foil anyways.
Stick a meat thermometer in the center of the brisket, and let it go until the internal temperature reaches 203 degrees. That temperature is crucial to getting a tender brisket!
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