26 Letters Arranged Into Words About Brisket That Will Make You Click This Link

I’ve been reading way too much BuzzFeed lately.

I hate those headlines, but damned if they don’t work. I’ve been considering doing one for Hoperatives called “10 Inane Facts about Beer That Will Make You Click This Link” but I haven’t done it yet. Maybe this will get it out of my system. The reality is that I couldn’t care less if anyone reads this or not. I do this to amuse myself, and I’m easily amused.

Anyway…

One of the reasons I bought The Egg is because you can’t get good brisket in this town. There are lot of fundamental problems with Cincinnati, but I actually don’t consider this one of them. This is a pork barbecue town, and there’s nothing in the world wrong with that. The only time that turns into an issue is when brisket gets treated like pork. The basic issue is one of target temperature. If you’re doing pulled pork you want to make sure the internal temps are at least 190 (and really higher is OK) so it’s easy to pull. Pulled pork is what most people around here think of as barbecue. That’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that. I like pulled pork. But brisket isn’t pulled pork. Brisket is done at 180. It’s overdone at 181. If you’re going to miss, miss to the low side. Pull it at 175, wrap it in foil and stick it in a cooler with towels. It’ll stay hot for a long time and not get overdone. I think that’s where folks go wrong. They pull it at the right time, but let the temps rise up into the 190 range when holding it for serving.

The other mistake I think people make is somehow thinking that time and not temperature is what makes a brisket worthwhile. “I smoked this for 20 hours.” “We smoke our brisket for 12 hours.” “Our briskets get smoked overnight.” Gee. Congratulations. When was it done? If you have a whole packer brisket — one that contains both the point and the flat — you might easily hit the 20 hour mark in order to get it done. I hope to get enough experience doing long smokes on the Egg that I can put on a packer in the evening and get up the next day and finish it out. I know there are a lot of guys that have this whole stay-up-all-night-and-watch-the-pit thing they like to do. I’m getting too old for that crap. To tell the truth, I think I’ve always been too old for that crap. I’ve had an issue where I can get six good hours with a fire before it starts acting wonky. I want to understand that a little more before I attempt to do an overnight.

Today I’m doing a basic brisket flat that was just under 7-lbs fresh. I’m taking a very less-is-more approach. I rubbed it with some salt and pepper on the non-fat side. I did rub some oil on the non-fat side because I read somewhere that helps with smoke absorption. I didn’t bother with the fat side because it’s just going to melt anyway. I put it fat-side-down. The fibers of a brisket are too tightly packed for any melting fat to self-baste the meat if it were fat-side-up. I’d rather use the fat as a thermal buffer. I don’t plan to flip it and I don’t plan to use a mop. I remember when I was growing up we made the best damned briskets on a simple box grill that I think my mom found at a garage sale. We’d build a fire on one end, let it bank down to coals and stick the brisket on the other end. Sometimes we flipped it. Sometimes we didn’t. My dad never used a thermometer, but he had a good sense of how the meat should be when it was done. They were always great.

I’m kind of taking that approach today and trying to be relaxed about this. Part of the reason I’m writing this post is to distract me from messing with the Egg too much. I got a good fire going about 7:30 this morning. I made sure a lot of the lump was fully lit when I had the lid open. When I saw some ashed-over chunks, I stuck the the plate-setter in, dropped the grate on and closed the lid. I went ahead and left the dampers wide open so the fire could settle into a lower-oxygen mode. It got real smokey as the amount of air wasn’t able sustain the high combustion, but after about 20 minutes or so the smoke had thinned out. I dropped the dampers to about 1/4-inch and went about putting in the meat and arranging the thermometers. I closed the lid around 8:15 AM and it hasn’t been opened since. The grid temp had gotten up to 340 or so immediately after I put on the meat, but over the next 45-minutes or so the temp slid back to around 220-225. I opened the dampers an eighth-inch when it threatened to slide below 220. It picked up to to about 240 after about an hour and I just dropped it back that same eighth-inch and the temp is dropping back again. Not a lot. 237 and holding. I don’t plan to mess with it again unless I drop to 215 or so (and I’m not expecting that to happen, quite frankly). I’m 3.5 hours into the cooking and I’m reasonably confident that I’m going in the stall at 153 on the meat temp. I’m not even going to try to guess when it’s going to come off.

It’ll be done when it’s done.

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I’ll add pictures to the gallery as warranted.

UPDATE: So I took it off just a little over 8 hours after putting it on. I managed to actually fall asleep and take a little screw-it-it’s-a-day-off nap and, by the time I woke up, the temp had creeped up to 264 and the meat was at 177. The patient is currently resting in foil inside a foam H-E-B cooler for at least the next hour or so. I’ve added a picture of the final product on the Egg and I’ll post up slicing pictures in a separate post tomorrow.

2 Replies to “26 Letters Arranged Into Words About Brisket That Will Make You Click This Link”

  1. Aaron Franklin has a good 3 part YouTube series on how to prepare and smoke a whole packer brisket: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmTzdMHu5KU. While its geared more towards offset smokers, there are definitely some good tips there no matter what kind of smoker you’re using.

    And yean, Cincinnati does not have good brisket. Really not many places outside of Texas do. And don’t get me started on the mess that is competition style brisket.

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