Hey everyone!!! I hadn't smoked a brisket since preparing for my daughters wedding back in April, and had a family meal planned for Saturday (yesterday). I must say, I had the learning curve bite me a little on this one, as I had to either get my packer into the smoke at round 1 or 2 am, or, start it early and run lower chamber temps after start-up to smoke it slower. I opted for the latter...it didn't smoke slow enough, so changed my plans on how to finish the packer, and this is the result...
I make burnt ends from packers whenever possible, and the whole family looks forward to them, as well as myself. Unfortunately, timing and I/T rise was too fast for me to make burnt ends the way I preferred, or, to slice the flat without having to reheat it (which I didn't want to do because of the texture change and interior natural moisture loss) so I had to come up with plan B.
I stayed up until 3:00 am after starting the smoke at 7:00 pm, planning for a 6:00 pm dinner. That all flew right out the window when I got up at 8:00 am to find an I/T of 176*. I like to separate the point from the flat in the upper 150's to lower 160's range to rest before cubing into burnt ends, so I knew my normal BEs were not going to come together...pulled point is the next step. What about the flat? It was already pushing 180* and dinner was not to be for another 10 hours......OK, I've done it before and I can do it again...pull it...all of it...so that's what I did. Conditions must have been right for it again, from the leaner trim to the wet-to-dry smoke chamber, and it worked out rather well.
I didn't take prep of mid-smoke pics, as I didn't even plan on posting about this, until the whole plan changed about an hour after got out of bed, but nothing special...just a relatively lean trimmed packer. We did contact the kids and let them know that dinner got pushed ahead from 6:00 pm to 4:00 pm, so everyone could be here for the feast.
Rub was very simple:
4 Tbsp minced garlic
3 Tbsp ground black pepepr
2 Tbsp Morton's Lite Salt (I'm working in some sodium reduction where I can)
(that's it, no onion)
Simple blend, but heavy application...went straight from the board to the grate as smoke was coming on and temps were still on the rise.
Smoke provided by cherry and hickory chunks and chips (chips for faster onset and heavier smoke up front, chunks to keep it rolling for longer) @ 205-210* after a 225* start-up in my Smoke Vault 24 for about 45 minutes to pasteurize the surface. I had a heavy smoke for nearly 3 hours, then tapered off over the next several hours, giving about 7 hours+ of smoke. Pea gravel in the water pan and double-layer foil liner on the gravel,. filled with 2 qts of water...water evaporated dry sometime during the night after about 10 hours, judging by the remains before I went to bed @ 3:00 am. So, with a 17-hr total cooking time, I reached a wet-to-dry smoke chamber humidity ratio of 10:7, if that makes sense. Maybe a bit longer on wet than I would prefer, as I like to see closer to 1:1, but close enough.
17 hours in and time for a double-foiled towel-wrapped rest...I/T had hit 2 high-temp stalls by this time, and had peaked @ 196* before 2:00 pm, then settled in @ 195* for ovber 45 minutes when I decide to rest after poking around a bit to check tenderness...not super-tender, but enough for a nice pulled beef without any grainy texture from over-cooking:
Just hitting the foil...2 layers of heavy-duty, 18" wide, with staggered top seams. The rub and small amounts of fat, combined with wet-to-dry chamber humidity, formed a nice bark. This brisket had a soak in the mid 170's to mid 190's I/T temp range for close to 7 hours, and, was not dried out except in a couple spots where the flat muscle was thin around the edges. No complaints from me. Oh, as you can see by the reflection on the foil, it was a beautiful day to pull a beef brisket from the smoker, with clear blue skies, and, not even a breeze to chill you...winter's coming Sunday night, though:
2 hours resting, and still very hot to handle for pulling:
I didn't even separate the point/'flat before pulling...just started breaking off chunks from the point and processing by hand into smaller pieces and removing what little fat there was from the seam, working my way to the end of the taper, then scraped the small amount of remaining fat off the flat. I cut the flat into about 2" slices to reduce the muscle fiber length to more desirable size, and finished the break-down into chunks by hand. The flat was tender enough to pull, but the fiber lengthy just needed to be reduce for a better presentation and ease in serving on sandwich rolls. It all worked out rather well, and the finishing process was fast...maybe 6-7 minutes...I spent more time cooling my fingers than pulling the meat...LOL!!!.
Point and Flat are pulled and tossed together to disperse and mix each muscle type evenly...no finishing sauce or any other enhancing, just meat, rub and smoke. Bark was softened slightly from the foiled resting, but I didn't want a hard, crisp bark like I do with pulled pork. If I do want a hard bark, I use an elevated grate in a roasting/baking pan and towel-covered resting method so it can breathe, instead of foiling, which traps the steam inside:
So, all said and done, I managed to still have a very good eating smoked packer brisket, with little fuss or extra time involved. Sure, we didn't get to enjoy the coveted burnt ends as I originally planned, but it was a nice change of pace from the same old sliced brisket flat, and by combining the pulled point and flat, the overall texture was much more uniform and gave a great bite and chew in sandwiches. Moisture when finished was not super-juicy like you could wring it out, but not dried-out at all...very good balance of moisture and overall tenderness, IMHO. Nobody even asked for, or was looking for, sauce...not one word about it...that told me the rest of the story, because I knew it wasn't just me thinking the moisture content was acceptable. So, I knew all was well and good...
So, don't ever let anyone tell that you can't pull all of your packer, or that it won't be any good. My previous experience indicates that your results will very likely differ from mine if you use a vertical smoker with water in the pan the entire cooking time, so I can't vouch for this finishing method without using a wet-to-dry smoke chamber and no-foiling as well. A dryer finished product and a more difficult pulling being the main concerns I would have with conventional smoking methods, but if you're interested in the wet-to-dry method, go to the article, HERE.
Wet-to-dry smoke chamber probably saved my dinner this time around, as I doubt the pulled meats would have had nearly as much retained moisture if I had used a humid smoke chamber all the way through the smoke, unless I left a full fat-cap on the packer...even then, I'd be hesitant to try it, knowing what I know today. Just because of the fact that I started this smoke with a wet-to-dry method, likely kept me from really having to pull some tricks to bring it all together in the end...the tricks were already implemented, so I just trusted my instincts and went for it. I did pull the flat once, several years ago, before I knew anything about what humidity does during open-grate cooking, and the retained moisture and tenderness was nothing like it was with this brisket.
Thanks for peekin'!!!
Great smokes to all!