When Dan Delaney, a food video blogger, brought an 18-foot barrel smoker from Texas back home to Brooklyn, he had a notion that he’d do something big with it. But little did he know how big the appetites would be for the work he’s doing in Brooklyn. In April he launched Brisketlab, a series of feasts throughout New York City, in order to practice the art of smoking brisket, Texas-style. He pre-sold the meat before the parties began, selling out in 48 hours of all 2,500 pounds allotted for the events, and the venture was featured in The New York Times.
This time, Delaney is going bigger with Briskettown, which he describes as “the next phase of the company.” Ultimately, he wants to open a true barbecue restaurant. For Briskettown, a pop-up barbecue shop in a brick-and-mortar location, the meat is also being sold in advance to the scheduled dates. “This time we did 4,000 lbs in about 24 hours,” said Delaney of the initial public response.
What drives everyone in town so crazy for brisket? For one thing, there is a lot of food to go around; the idea of noshing with the whole neighborhood is nothing new to a food festival-crazed environment here in New York City. But on another level, Brisketlabs has invited the public to participate in what is normally the top-secret, inner workings before opening a restaurant. It’s also not proclaiming to be the “best barbecue in town,” which seems to be the tired moniker for just about every barbecue restaurant in the country. And the collaborative spirit of the labs series has led to guest participants preparing side dishes. I even contributed, with a miso-inflected coleslaw at a recent lab at Van Brunt Stillhouse in Red Hook.
Now about two-thirds of the way through with the labs, Delaney says he’s made some significant milestones in honing the craft of smoking brisket. “Making anything, you have to start out with broad strokes, and then go back and continually refine them,” he said. “What most people don’t realize is that it takes about one and a half hours to serve [brisket at the labs], but it takes 33 hours to cook the meat for each event. It’s very laborious.” Delaney says that he and a small handful of friends and co-cooks are smoking brisket constantly this summer, whilst transporting finished batches to events and slicing them up for attendees. “It’s not new in the tradition of barbecue, but in the old-school way, how we do it, there is someone at the pit all the time, so it’s definitely not automated.” With a steady location in the fall, Delaney can focus more on perfecting the meat for Briskettown. That location has yet to be revealed, but Delaney shares that he’s been eyeing some spots “in North Brooklyn or Manhattan.” Sorry, South Brooklynites.
Those looking to get their barbecue fix at Briskettown can still pre-order meat at Briskettown.com, and await the details.