Brisket is a large, tough cut that takes hours of cooking over a low, slow fire to reach tenderness. The extended grilling time—a perfect project for a Sunday afternoon—allows incredible flavor to permeate deep into the meat. Here, we start by massaging the beef with a rub of hot chile and dark-roasted coffee. We enhance the rub with a savory beer-infused mop to help soften its tough fibers. The finished brisket is sliced and served with a bittersweet barbecue sauce. The recipe makes more barbecue sauce than you will need, but the leftovers will keep, refrigerated, for about a month.
Brisket with Ancho Chocolate Barbecue Sauce
For the ancho chile rub:
- 2 Tbs. ancho chile powder
- 1 Tbs. guajillo chile powder
- 1 Tbs. hot paprika
- 1 Tbs. dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1 Tbs. coarse sea salt
- 1 Tbs. coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. sugar
For the beer mop:
- 3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml) dark beer
- 3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml) strong brewed coffee, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) canola oil or other mild vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) malt vinegar
- 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) apple cider
- 2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 flat or center-cut beef brisket, 3 to 4 lb. (1.5 to 2 kg), trimmed, with 1/4-inch (6-mm) fat layer on one side
For the barbecue sauce:
- 3 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
- 2 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
- 2 large, ripe plum tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 1/2 oz. (15 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup (1 1/2 oz./45 g) raisins
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) beef broth
- 1/4 cup (2 f. oz./ 60 ml) sherry vinegar
- 1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1. To make the ancho chili rub, in a small bowl, stir together all of the rub ingredients, mixing well.
2. To make the beer mop, in a bowl, whisk together all of the mop ingredients, mixing well.
3. Add 1 Tbs. of the rub to the beer mop and stir to combine. Set aside.
4. Rub the remaining ancho chile rub evenly over the brisket. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to a day.
5. Remove the meat from the refrigerator about 1 hour before grilling. Prepare a medium-low fire for indirect heat grilling in a grill (about 250°F/120°C), placing a drip pan under the grill grate away from the fire.
6. Brush the grill grate and coat with oil. Put the brisket, fatty side up, on the grate away from the fire (over the drip pan) and cover the grill. As the brisket cooks, mop or drizzle it with the mop on both sides whenever the surface looks dry, roughly every 45 minutes for the entire cooking time. After 2 hours of cooking, put the brisket in an aluminum foil pan, place the pan on the grate away from the fire, and then re-cover the grill and continue cooking. The pan helps to retain moisture in the brisket and keep it from drying out. Once the brisket is in the pan, you will need to mop only the top, fatty side. If your grill has a temperature gauge, it should stay around 250°F (120°C) during the entire cooking time. If you are using charcoal, you will need to replenish the coals about once an hour during the cooking. Cook until well browned and even blackened in spots (about 190°F/88°C on an instant-read thermometer), 4 to 6 hours total. The brisket should be very well-done and tender.
7. While the brisket is cooking, make the barbecue sauce: One at a time, grasp the chiles with tongs, hold directly over the high flame of a gas burner of a grill, and toast for about 30 seconds per side. Char the skins of the tomatoes the same way and then the garlic clove. Put the chiles in a bowl, add hot water to cover, and set aside to soak until soft, about 20 minutes.
8. When the tomatoes and garlic are cool enough to handle, peel them with your fingers and place in a blender. Pluck the chiles from their soaking liquid and add to the blender along with the chocolate, raisins, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, pepper, broth, vinegar, sugar and 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) of the chile soaking liquid. Blend until completely smooth.
9. Pour the sauce in a frying pan, place over high heat, and bring to a boil. Boil vigorously until the sauce thickens to the consistency of tomato ketchup. Let cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
10. Remove the brisket in the pan from the grill and let the brisket rest for 20 minutes.
11. Trim any excess fat from the brisket. Don’t trim too much fat, however, as the crispy bits taste great. Slice the brisket against the grain. Serve with the barbecue sauce. Serves 6.
For this recipe and other secrets on how to make fabulous food
on the grill, check out our essential guide to cooking on fire,
Grill School, by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim.