A month ago I smoked a brisket and two pork butts for my daughter's 2nd birthday. Because I have a Landmann vertical box type smokier I placed the brisket on top, foil pan on the grate below it to keep it's juices separate from the pork, and two butts below that. At 6 hours I foiled the butts. For the brisket I just put it in the pan that was gathering all it's juice and covered that with foil. Pulled the brisket off at 190 degF and butts at 205 degF. Party was the following day so I drained all the juices into jars for use during the reheating process. Next day I put the jelled juices back into the brisket and pulled pork (separate) and reheated in the oven. Results were some of my best, especially for the brisket which was moist, tender, and flavorful. Having everything come together perfect for 30 people is just fantastic, leftovers are even better.
So I decided to smoke a brisket this weekend because, well do we really need a reason? Did the same precooking steps as last time. Because I had some thermometer problems with the smoker which I caught before putting the meat on I was running an hour behind for dinner. To account for this I ran at 240 instead of 225 degF. Only other difference was that for the first 6 hours I didn't have a pan on the grate below the brisket. Instead I just let it drip into the smoker's water pan. After 6 hours I simply wrapped it in foil and let it finish to 190 degF. Let it rest in a cooler for 1.5 hours wrapped in blankets, sliced, and ate. Problem is this go round the meat wasn't as tender or juicy. It's still good but not as good. Really I am splitting hairs here because this is still better than I can get at most any restaurant and our friends had thirds last night so they obviously liked it.
Here's the question: Was the difference caused by 20 degF of cooking temperature or not having the foil pan with a little juice already in it? I am leaning towards the second but wanted your opinions. Either is easy to reintroduce.
On a side note, I smoked with a combination of apple and cherry with a lump of walnut thrown in. Walnut gave a nice smoke hit complemented by the sweeter side of the fruit woods.