I survived my first (and second) brisket, with lots of help from the SMF archives.
This summer we moved to Seattle, and I decided we should get a grill. We chose the Brinkmann dual-function (gas on left, charcoal on right), and a few weeks ago I added the offset smoker. I started out by grilling two sirloins, then smoked a flank steak for 1.5 hours. I couldn't believe the almost-bacon taste of the flank steak.
Here's our grill (as the brisket was almost done):
Some friends of ours have a restaurant/wine bar, and were doing a second birthday hoedown. I offered to smoke the brisket for them, as their Traeger smoker is broken and the parts are too expensive for them to fix at this point. They provided the meat, two 13lb briskets from Painted Hills Natural Beef, a local premium meats supplier. Brad prepared a rub that included dijon mustard and horseradish, and who knows what else.
As an aside, my wife got me an iGrill, a bluetooth digital thermometer with a companion iPhone/iPad app to monitor your cooking from remote. I added the ambient probe just hours before the Big Smoke, and I'm so glad I did, because YOU get to see my cooking activities right here!
Here's the chronology of the smoke:
I loaded a charcoal chimney with the first batch of fuel around 9:05pm. I started the iGrill app in my iPad (lesson learned: probe 1 appears in the upper left, probe 2 appears in the lower left: put the ambient probe into probe 1, as it has a higher temp, so that its readout is "above" the meat, which corresponds better to the graph). Here's what I was seeing on the iPad:
Meat alarm set for 195, ambient alarm set for range 210-230.
The chimney was dumped into the smoker around 9:20, and you can see the "meat" temp rise a bit as the warming charcoal side helped warm the gas side a bit (I stored the iGrill in the gas side).
I put the meat on the grill around 9:40pm. Around 1:00am, I inserted the meat probe into the meat. Apparently I chose a bad spot, as it hit 195 around 5:30am but none of my other thermometers were showing the same anywhere else. I relocated the probe, and saw 160 degrees and the smoking continued. Around 11:30am, with the meat at 190, it stalled, and slowly crept its way toward 195.
At 1:15pm, my wife was about to head to the restaurant, so I transferred the meat to a pan for delivery. But first, time for pics:
At 5:15, I finally got to experience my creation:
Yum!!! The chef planned for each person to get a 4oz portion, but I don't think that quite worked out. The brisket was gone before the ribs were 20% gone...guess what was more popular?
I used a mix of Kingsford Charcoal with Hickory, Kingsford Charcoal with Mesquite, and the little bit of Stubbs charcoal I had left. I tossed in some Maple smoking chips here and there, along with some Jack Daniels smoking chips. I didn't do a good prep with the smoking chips, so next time I need to work on that.
I learned a lot about guessing the amount of charcoal left vs. when to add more. I did a fair amount of scooping out ash to help the charcoal breathe/burn better, and I need to find a better scooper/scraper to facilitate that. I experimented with loading charcoal into the chimney and storing it right beneath the smoker box, so it was warmer when I'd toss it in and allow it to light from the adjacent "old" charcoal. I think next time when the charcoal is near the end of its burn, I'll light a new batch in the chimney, and meanwhile open up the ash door to increase the airflow to keep the temps in range as the old batch finishes out.
Thanks, SMF, for all of the great forum posts that led me to this success.