Several years ago, my girlfriend cemented her position in my life by giving me a Brinkmann vertical smoker. I’m not sure how she knew I wanted one. Maybe it was all the times I sat transfixed in front of the TV with the Food Network on watching guys pull huge hunks of meat from smoking metal contraptions whispering, “man I’d love to try that.” Or maybe it was her deep, in-tune womanly psyche which in touch with the basic needs of her man. Nah, it was probably the whispering.
Well of course I dove right in. I read everything I could on the internet. Subscribed to a couple of Enewsletters. Even bought a couple of books. Soon I was smoking chickens, sausage and pork shoulders (more on that in a later post) but the mountain I kept hearing I had to climb was brisket. Brisket is a piece of meat from the belly region, and it can not be cooked anyway but low and slow in order to break down all the fat and connective tissue. If you try to cook this like a steak, well you might as well dine on your dog’s favorite rubber chew toy. So I dove in one day and tried it, I think I did fairly well but obviously I still have things to learn.
First it all starts with the rub – the dry rub. Even if you’re a casual Food TV watcher you’re probably aware the roll that this spice blend has in BBQ. Spice shelves at supermarkets are full of them, but part of the fun of BBQ is coming up with your own blends of rubs and sauces. Mine started as basic creole type blend that I got from a famous Food Network chef. You can find it here. Over the years though I’ve changed things either to suit my taste or simply because I found something neat I wanted to add to it. My recipe this year is below. I make a big batch every spring and if it lasts the season, I’m lucky. I started with a 4-5lb brisket, liberally applied the rub, wrapped it in plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours. My rub recipe:
- 1 part Smoked Paprika
- 1 1/2 parts Spanish Paprika
- 2 parts Kosher Salt
- 1 part Roasted Garlic Powder
- 1 part Garlic Powder
- 1 part Black Pepper
- 1 part Onion Powder
- 1 part Dry Chipolte Powder
- 1 part Dry Oregano
- 1 part Dry Thyme
Because you have to cook it low and slow, brisket is not something you can just pop in the smoker at noon and eat at 6. So I planned to cook it by starting it early in the morning and keeping it warm in the oven until my guests arrived. Since I like to multi-task when I’m smoking I figured I’d take this opportunity to rack up some Untappd badges that I normally wouldn’t get. I normally (read rarely) drink the same beer twice in a row, and I count on one hand the number of times I buy a case of something in a year – and most of them are Guinness at St Patty’s day. So I bought a case of cheap beer (cheap beer is essential when you’re BBQing, it can be used in brines, marinades, sauces) and set the alarm clock to 2am!
I had already set up my smoker so that it was ready to go when the alarm went off. The water tray was filled, and my charcoal starter was set up with a combination of briquets and lump charcoal. All I had to do when I walked out on the deck was light a match. When the coals were ready I poured them into firebox and waited for the internal temp of the smoker to hit 225. When it was ready I unwrapped the brisket and placed it in the smoker box and added some water soaked hickory chunks to my fire. Then I cracked a beer. Yeah, at 2am – I’m a professional, don’t try this at home.
Let me just take a moment to editorialize here – sunrise, with the smoker going is heaven. Ok, back to it…
At 7:30 the temperature of the brisket was 135. At 140 meat doesn’t take a lot of smoke any more so I let it creep up to 145, removed it from the smoker, wrapped in aluminum foil and placed it in the oven which was set at 225 – and took a power nap.
When the digital thermometer read 195, I turned the oven off and left the brisket in it until it was time to serve. When I sliced the meat it was moist and tender, but not as moist as I’ve had at some smoke houses. The flavor was amazing and a friend of mine who does BBQ parties on the side really liked it. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have any experience with brisket so he couldn’t help with why it was a little drier that I’ve had from other places.
So BBQ fanatics, what am I missing in my brisket prep? Do I need to mop on occasion? Put some liquid in when I wrap it in the foil? What’s you’re trick for making that amazingly moist brisket?
Oh the beers? I won’t say how many I had throughout the day but here’s a list of Untappd badges I got :
Take it Easy, The Usual, Power Month, Six Pack, Drinking your Paycheck and Brewery Loyalist. I wanted the Top of the Morning (5 beers before noon), but I didn’t get it. But I did the next weekend. Time for another beer – something different.