The Great Smoked Brisket Experiment!
My culinary endeavors have been slacking as of late. Outside of devising a decent recipe for Garlic-Cheddar Biscuits, I haven’t really expanded my repertoire. The one thing I’ve always wanted to try, but never thought I had the skill for, was cooking Smoked Barbeque meat. I know when one makes a first go of it they should start small and work their way up the more experience they get. An example would be say chicken thighs or even a game hen or two. I’ve never been one to start small. I decided to just get the big hunk of meat out of the way first, so I started with a brisket. Now brisket is probably the trickiest cuts of meat to try for any amateur smoker/griller but I was tired of watching Travel Channel and seeing Anthony Bourdain get off gastronomically every time he visits a a BBQ joint1.
So this article is dedicated to “The First Attempt” at smoking a brisket. It goes without saying that if the “First Attempt” would fail, the odds of their being a second attempt would be slim. To prepare for this endeavor I turned to that vast repository of free knowledge on all subjects, The Internet. I read as much as I could on what the best way to prepare a brisket for smoking was. There were many articles that contradicted one another on minute details and others that were less than specific about proper procedure. Luckily, for me, I am a long-time poster on The Death Valley Driver Video Review Message Board, a resource of knowledge on a wide range of subjects. What started as a message board for wrestling fans morphed into something so much grander and fun. In this case the DVDVRMB provided me with an incredible guide to smoking meats2. So let’s get to the listing of said equipment, followed by the methods I used to make this brisket my bitch.
1 Basic Shallow BBQ Grill bought at Kroger’s for $5. High quality it is not.
1 Cup Brown Sugar
½ tbsp of Paprika
½ tbsp of Garlic Salt
½ tbsp Ground Black Pepper
1 Pair Long Handled Grilling Tongs
1 Roll of Aluminum Foil
1 Bottle of Yellow Mustard
10:30PM – The brisket was purchased the day before and has been resting in the refrigerator since then. I start by taking my bottle of mustard and spraying it liberally on the meat (i.e. non-fat side) of the brisket. I massage the mustard all over the meat and even on the fatty side. I then proceed to do the same thing with my seasonings. I do this for around 5 minutes, making sure the brisket is thoroughly covered in the rub. It is then wrapped in foil and returned to the refrigerator overnight.
7:30AM – I wake up after a fitful sleep. I was plagued with bad dreams and wake up groggy and not in the best of moods. I determine that waking up now would be a tragic idea and opt for 30 more minutes of bed.
8AM – I wake up again, feeling only slightly better. I trudge to the bathroom and get my morning routine out of the way3. I had recruited my roommate Lindy4 to give me a hand since I actually suck at lighting fires and we needed to get our coals going posthaste. Now this was not the ideal day for any type of outdoor cooking, as it had rained the night before and it was very windy. We were concerned about more rain and since our back porch doesn’t have an overhang or canopy we moved he grill to the front porch. It took us quite a while to get the fire going once the grill was moved but once we did it was game on.
9:30AM – Our coals were now burning embers so it was time to add our wood fuel. I had decided to go with Hickory woodchips that Lindy had helped to acquire at Lowes. I had soaked the chips in Apple Cider for a half hour before draining them and then sealing them in a foil pouch. The pouch was thrown in to the burning embers. I had taken the brisket out of the fridge at around 8:45AM so it could get to room temperature and then placed the meat on the rack, fat side up5, over the heat and smoke and shut the lid on our shitty little grill. We leave the top vent on the grill slightly cracked so the smoke can vent out. The plan was to add more coals and wood once every 90 minutes.
11AM – Lindy and I check the meat. The smoke had slowly died out over the time so we hadded more lit coals to replenish our fire and smoke. I keep the old woodsmoke in there for the time being. Once the fire calmed again and we go a good smoke going the grill was re-sealed for another 90 minutes.
12:30PM – More coals, to replenish our fire and smoke, are added. I also swap out the old foil pouch of cider soaked chips for a new one that I had prepared. The first pouch had reached critical mass i.e. some of the wood had burned out and the packet was smoking black. Lindy and I agreed that from this point forward we’d change the foil pack once every hour to ninety minutes.
1:30PM – The smoke is out, which means out fire died. We add fresh new coals and even mix in some wood chips right on the fire. I also add a small pan of apple cider to further flavor the meat6. Lindy I confer and agree that we will now check on the fire/smoke every hour instead of every hour and half to make sure everything doesn’t go out. This is made more complicated because the wind is really picking up.
3PM – The smoke is going. We add the last of our coals and one last foil pack of cider soaked chips. The Brisket looked beautiful as the smoke and seasonings have given it an amazing caramel apple red color. The entire front porch and front room of the house had this incredible sweet smoky smell.
4:30PM -The Brisket looks incredible, the smoke is getting weaker. The first of our guests for the upcoming dinner arrives. It’s my buddy Zac, one of oldest pals and a man who likes a good brisket. He sits on the front porch with me as Lindy and I agree to let the brisket keep smoking until the smoke stops coming through the vent.
5:30PM – The smoke has stopped. We remove the lid on our ghetto smoker and Zac, Lindy and I ooo and aaah at the gorgeous hunk of meat. Lindy’s husband Paul had woken up around 4ish and the smell of the brisket was driving him crazy. Lindy grabs me a serving latter to move the brisket to and carry it through the house, specifically so Paul can see the meat. His mouth waters as I tell him he has to wait. Our second guest for the evening arrives, the lovely Nicole. The lovely Nicole, the ideal woman to eat brisket and drink beer with. The plan is to let the Brisket rest for 20 minutes so any excess juice and fat can settle.
5:45PM – Dinner is served and when dinner is served our buddy Mike tends to show up7. While the meat was resting, I cut off small bits of teh ends and gave everyone a taste and not a bad reaction was to be had. We all had a good dinner of Brisket and French Fries. After about 2 hours Nicole had to leave to go see her Mother but luckily our good friends Brenda and Eric showed up and took part in our repast and we reveled in each others company
The end result was a house full of happy, well-fed people. Everyone enjoyed the hell out of the Brisket. I personally felt it came out a little too rare for my liking but my roommates and friends were all happy so what more could I ask for?
So the “First Attempt” was a success. This only means more “Attempts” in the future. I’m already thinking whole chickens smoked with the seasonings for wedding chicken could be amazing, or maybe just bust out a good old pork butt for smoking and chopped BBQ pork sandwiches. Hell after this, there is nothing I won’t want to smoke and eat!
1Don’t construe that to mean that I m not a fan or do not have deep respect for Anthony Bourdain. He is, by far, my favorite culinary TV personality. He is honest and blunt and I, like so many others, wish I had his job.
2Mr. Mike Naimark gets a huge “Thank You” from me. His multi-page thread on BBQ/Smoking was the guideline I relied on and while I didn’t follow his instructions step by step exactly, I got a very acceptable outcome and also know what NOT to do next time.
3The standard 3 things that begin with the letter “S”.
4Lindy is married to one of my best friends, Paul. Together they form Th Flying Malotkes.
5His is done so the meat doesn’t try out. As the fat renders from the heat and smoke, it drips down over the meat that is exposed to the flame, thus keeping he meat moist even while it chars.
6My thinking was that the Apple Cider steamed off would mingle with the flavor of the smoke, giving a nicer, sweet flavor.
7In all fairness, the same thing happens when NFL games are played. So since this was a Sunday, he was due to appear.