Game Day is here, and you know what that means. Cheering, friends, excitement, competition, victory, and glory. In other words: Nachos. Nachos for the Big Game are as American as hotwings for the Big Game, or chili for the Big Game, or…do people eat apple pie for football? Besides the point.
The point is that you want epic nachos and there is no better way to make your nachos epic than to make brisket nachos. Smoky, barky, fatty brisket is amazing as a nacho topping, especially if you mix it on a chip with melty-gooey homemade nacho cheese sauce.
Your nachos can be as easy or as complex to make as you want. Jarred salsa or freshly-diced pico de gallo? store-bought guac or freshly made? Plain sour cream or sour cream that has been zhuzhed up with a bit of cilantro and lime juice? There are no wrong answers, but if you’re going all out, then you may as well go all out.
Of course, the main feat is to cook the brisket, after that and whatever dips you care to create, it’s all about assembly. Read on to learn more….
Cook your brisket
On this blog, we’ve talked about how to cook a brisket before, and we’ll talk about it again, by golly! But in case you need a refresher course, here we go:
For one mighty plate of nachos, all you need is the flat of a brisket. You can cook a whole brisket, like we did, then cut off the point to use for other purposes, like burnt ends or just eating as delicious BBQ (or even freeze it and save it for later).
Trim the brisket
Excess fat will slow the cooking. And though we love a good fatty brisket, no one is looking to eat a whole deckel-full of fat. At least, no one I know.
Season the brisket
Though I usually advocate for simple salt and pepper seasoning on a brisket, for this application I say go ahead and use a nice spicy rub—maybe one with a good portion of cumin in it.
Start the brisket
Cook the brisket in a smoker that is set somewhere in the 225–250°F (107–121°C) range. Cook it until the stall kicks in at about 160°F (71°C). A leave-in probe thermometer is essential here, and something like the two-channel Smoke™ (currently on sale) or four-channel Signals™ is really perfect for the job. Monitor your air temps with an air probe and your meat temps with a penetration probe, setting your alarm to let you know when you get near the stall.
Wrap and monitor the brisket
Once your brisket reaches the stall, it’s time to wrap it. Whether you use the full Texas Crutch (wrapping the meat in a double layer of aluminum foil) or the now-more-popular butcher paper wrap, covering your brisket well will help it cook faster and decrease the risk of drying it out. Wrap it and stick the probe back in through the wrapping, setting the high-temp alarm for 203°F (95°F). Almost there…just several more hours until nacho time.
Rest the brisket
Finally…the brisket is at 203°F (95°F) and when you stick it with your Thermapen® it feels like it’s made of hot butter. Unwrap it and let it sit in the smoker for a half hour or so to re-firm up the bark.
Get it off the heat and let it rest for at least a half-hour to reabsorb juices into the muscle fiber structure and to allow it to cool enough for handling. Make your cheese sauce now and have your friends mash up some guac and chop some tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños for pico (see below). Don’t forget the limes.
Chop the brisket
Cut the point off by finding the natural seam between the point and flat and cutting through it. You will encounter little to no resistance on this cut. Save the point tightly wrapped in the fridge or freezer for later use. Don’t tell your friends what happened to it if you ever want to see it again.
Slice the flat much thicker than you usually would and chop those pieces into rough, fall-aparty cubes. Do you need a large, heavy cleaver for this operation? No. The brisket is tender enough to pull it apart by hand without difficulty. But you can use one.
Make your toppings and homemade nacho cheese sauce
You can make nachos by melting actual cheese onto your chips. If you do, be sure to layer chips/cheese/chips/cheese before baking the whole thing off, otherwise, you just get one layer of cheese on the top of the chips. Bad.
But if you’re like me, you don’t want plain cheese on your nachos. You want gooey, yummy, slightly spicy nacho cheese sauce. Lucky you! We made cheese sauce for chili cheese fries a few years ago and that recipe from SeriousEats.com seemed like the perfect way to nacho this brisket. Because it’s a “Mexican” dish (it isn’t), we doubled the jalapeño and added a pinch of cumin to the mix. Also, you’ll want extra sauce for dipping, so this is a larger batch than the version we published previously.
- 16 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated on large holes of a box grater
- 2 tablespoon corn starch
- 2 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
- 4 teaspoons Franks Red Hot or other hot sauce
- 1 fresh jalapeño pepper, finely diced (don’t devein it too much, spice is fun in this dish!)
- 1/8 tsp ground cumin
Toss the cheese with the starch and place it in a saucepan. Add 2 cups of the evaporated milk and cumin and bring to a bubbly simmer over low heat. (Add more milk if the sauce is too thick.) It will thicken as it stands. Stir in the hot sauce and the diced jalapeño. Rejoice.
Assemble the nachos
Pour a bag or two of good quality tortilla chips onto a large tray and drizzle on some hot, melty nacho cheese. Pile the brisket on top, then dot all over with fresh or pickled jalapeño slices, sour cream, pico de gallo, guacamole, cotija cheese, cilantro, and more cheese sauce.
Watch them disappear and collect your championship ring
Stand back, because the crowd will come. In fact, don’t be surprised if a certain sporting event is momentarily forgotten! These nachos, loaded to the brim with amazing toppings, will vanish before you can say “halftime show,” mostly because of that huge pile of perfectly temped, tender, smoky beef on top. No matter which team wins the game, you’ll have won the party.
For another take on melting cheese into gooey sauce, take a look at this other post about nachos.