Joe's Kansas City-Style Brisket

In a city as barbecue-obsessed as Kansas City, there are many styles of brisket. None is quite as distinctive as the brisket at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, founded by Jeff Stehney, head pit master of the much-decorated Slaughterhouse Five championship barbecue team and a 2017 inductee in the Barbecue Hall of Fame. Stehney starts not with whole packers, as is the practice in Texas, but with brisket flats. He gives them the usual rub and smoke treatment, but what really sets them apart is the way they are carved—into paper-thin slices on a deli-style meat slicer. This gives you a sandwich with a shaved beef texture that may remind you of Chicago’s Italian beef.

Excerpted from The Brisket Chronicles by Steven Raichlen, photographs by Matthew Benson. Workman Publishing © 2019.

Ingredients

For the brisket

  • 1 large brisket flat (6 to 7 pounds)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup Slaughterhouse 2.0 Championship BBQ Rub (below)
  • 1 cup apple juice or apple cider, in a spray bottle, for spritzing
  • 12 hamburger buns, brushed with 3 tablespoons melted butter and grilled or toasted, for serving
  • Your favorite sweet-smoky barbecue sauce (I’m partial to my bottled Project Smoke Lemon Brown Sugar or Spicy Apple Barbecue Sauce), for serving
  • Sweet pickle chips, for serving

Slaughterhouse 2.0 Championship BBQ Rub

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons dry mustard powder, such as Colman’s
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons granulated garlic
  • 2 tablespoons granulated onion
  • 2 tablespoons dried granulated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

Steps

Step 1

Make the rub: Combine the salt, sugar, chili powder, dry mustard, paprika, granulated garlic, onion, lemon peel, and black and white and cayenne peppers in a bowl and stir to mix, breaking up any lumps with your fingers.

Step 2

Slaughterhouse 2.0 Championship BBQ Rub will keep, in a sealed container at room temperature away from heat and light, for several weeks.

Step 3

Make the brisket sandwiches: Using a sharp knife, trim the brisket, leaving a layer of fat at least 1/4 inch thick. Be careful not to over-trim. It’s better to err on the side of too much fat than too little.

Step 4

Place the brisket fat side up in the aluminum foil pan. Sprinkle the rub to coat the brisket on all sides, rubbing it into the meat with your fingertips.

Step 5

Fire up your smoker following the manufacturer’s instructions and heat to 250F. Add the wood as specified by the manufacturer. Place a metal bowl or aluminum foil pan with 1 quart of warm water in the smoker—this creates a humid environment that will help the smoke adhere to the meat and keep your brisket moist.

Step 6

Place the brisket in its pan fat side down in the smoker. Smoke the brisket for 1 hour, then turn it fat side up. Continue cooking the brisket until the outside is darkly browned and the internal temperature registers about 155F on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 6 hours, rotating the brisket 180 degrees halfway through so it cooks evenly. Spritz the brisket every hour with apple juice. Refuel your cooker as needed, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 7

Wrap the brisket tightly in heavy-duty aluminum foil, crimping the edges to make a tight seal. Insert the probe of a digital thermometer into the meat (it’s best to pierce the foil only once). Return the wrapped brisket to the smoker and cook to an internal temperature of 185°F, 2 to 3 hours more.

Step 8

Transfer the wrapped brisket to an insulated cooler and let it rest for 1 to 2 hours. (This allows the meat to relax and its juices to redistribute.)

Step 9

Unwrap the brisket, working over a rimmed sheet pan to collect the juices. Slice the brisket paper-thin on a meat slicer or transfer it to a welled cutting board and slice it with an electric knife.

Step 10

To serve, pile the sliced brisket onto the prepared buns. Spoon on the reserved brisket juices. Add barbecue sauce and sweet pickles.

Cook Notes

What you'll need: A large (13-by-9-inch) aluminum foil pan; wood logs, chunks, or soaked, drained hardwood chips; a metal bowl or aluminum foil pan (for the smoker); a digital instant-read thermometer (preferably remote); spray bottle; heavy-duty aluminum foil; an insulated cooler; a rimmed sheet pan; a deli-style meat slicer or electric knife.

photo by Matthew Benson