WILLIAMSBURG — The humble slab of brisket has gotten the short shrift in New York City, says barbecue lover Daniel Delaney — and he’s got just the solution.
Inspired by the buy-a-share model of the Community Supported Agriculture movement, Delaney is searching for hundreds of hungry New Yorkers willing to sign up for a share of hundreds of pounds of beef every week, prepared to perfection inside an $6,000 18-foot-long smoker he drove up from Texas.
“It’s expensive to do what’s in Texas, but I want to honor that tradition,” said Delaney, who lives in Williamsburg, but spent several months recently traveling through Texas and fell in love with their barbecue brisket. So he went straight to the source for good brisket — and brought back the smoker and a truckload of special post oak wood.
Delaney, 26, believes that barbecue restaurants in New York simply don’t have enough outdoor space for the gigantic smoker required to make true Texas brisket, so he started Brisketlab, a sort of underground smoked meat club where members can share the cost of cooking hundreds of pounds of brisket a week.
“I want to try to make a brisket that’s better than what you get in Texas. Brisketlab is what I’m going to use to get me there,” Delaney said.
Within the next few weeks, wannabe "brisketeers" will be able to register online for a share of meat from Brisketlab at a cost of $25 a pound. After a six day registration period, Delaney will set dates for 10 to 15 "brisket parties" throughout the summer where members can cash in purchases for beefy goodness.
For each party, Delaney plans to cook his smoker’s maximum beef capacity — 200 pounds — and bring it to carnivorous partygoers, along with live music and drinks at locations around the city. Members can opt to reserve as much or as little of a share of beef as they want at each party and go to as many parties as they have the meat for.
Delaney said he plans to throw 10 - 15 brisket smoking parties each month over the summer, churning out tasty meats with an evolving batch of recipes. He's still figuring out a source for the meat, but has a few ideas of wholesellers he'd like to use.
Through feedback from the brisketeers, Delaney hopes to refine his brisket throughout the summer.
“It’s certainly going to be fun, but it’s also about recipe testing,” he said.
Delaney already has experience in the culinary world, travelling the country for VendrTV, an online show about street food, and hosting frequent dinner parties out of his Williamsburg apartment. The new smoker is the third he’s owned — up until recently, his apartment’s patio was taken up entirely by his old one.
Delaney said he decided to focus on brisket because in his opinion, it’s the hardest barbecue food to cook.
“Brisket takes so much more TLC. It’s two connected muscles. One devoid of any fat, one chock full of fat, he said. “When it’s done well, the fat is rendered into this velvety silver texture that coats your tongue.”
Brisket-making in a true Texas style involves smoking it on a low heat, slowly. The overall cooking time is roughly 20 hours, Delaney said.
Since Delaney's website went online last week, it has exploded — drawing hundreds more interested customers to its pre-registration page than Delaney expected — and eliciting glowing praise from meat-loving webheads.
“Brisket is the centerpiece of Texas barbecue, and easily one of the tastiest meats out there — especially when smoked,” said Ben Kessler, 26, who plans to buy a five pound share.
“When you have a chance to indulge in different varieties of a delicious food, wouldn't you jump at it?”
Carson Krabbe, 32, also planned to purchase a share.
“At $25 a pound and the rest included, I would definitely be willing to invest in a couple pounds, then bring a friend, give it a go,” Krabbe said.
Delaney is keeping his prized smoker in a top-secret location for now, but his eventual goal is to find some relatively affordable outer-borough real estate — possibly in Bushwick or Crown Heights — for a restaurant with enough outdoor space for it.
Unlike many Manhattan barbecue joints, which rely on foot traffic, Delaney is putting his focus on finding outdoor smoker space. In the modern foodie landscape, he argues, it isn't unusual for Manhattanites to travel far to get good food, so Delaney said he can finally have the space to sell true Texas barbecue.
“I just don’t think that an indoor smoker produces the best barbecue,” he said. “In Texas, you would be skinned for doing that.”