For my 3/8/14 weekend smoke I decided to try Aaron Franklin’s (Austin, TX) salt & pepper rub method for a 13-lb packer brisket. Here are the spec’s:
· Smoker: 18.5” WSM
· Fuel: Kingsford Blue Bag briquettes
· Smoke wood: 5 Hickory chunks plus a handful of cherry chips scattered around in the charcoal
· Water in the water pan; foil on the underside of the pan to keep it a little cleaner.
· Packer Brisket from Sam’s Club, 13.3-lbs (before trimming), $2.78/lb
· Rub: equal parts Kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper (I used Tone’s Restaurant Style), about ¼ cup total
4:00 p.m. on 3/7: Took the brisket out of the cryovac and spent about 15 minutes trimming. I estimate that I took about 2-3 lbs of fat off of this brisket. I left about 1/8-in. thick fat cap, and took quite a bit of the bulky fat from the point end (like the deckle area). In hindsight I took a little too much off of some areas. When I was done trimming I mixed up about ¼ cup of equal parts Kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper. I dusted the brisket with the salt & pepper, being careful not to have it caked on (don’t want to end up with a mouthful of black pepper later). I left the brisket out on the counter for about the next 45 minutes while I set up and warmed up the smoker. I use a version of the minion method to manage fuel through the cook and it works well in the WSM. Cooker got to 252 deg. at about 5:00 p.m.
(You can't see the hickory chunks in the picture above - they're buried in the briquettes. After dumping the lit coals, I spread them out and brought the wood closer to the surface.)
...and rubbed. When sprinkling the rub on the brisket, use your other hand to kind of cup the brisket to make sure the rub gets on the edges too.
This little piece of plywood sure helps keep my concrete deck clean :-)
5:00 p.m.: I put the brisket on, then started closing the lower vents to my normal settings (2 vents closed, 1 vent about ½ open initially). Since it was windy I opened the downwind vent and left the upwind vents completely closed. By the way, the packer cut brisket was a little longer (raw) than the width of the top grate, but the handles come in really handy for this. I just wedged the ends between the handles to hold it until the meat shrunk.
6:00 p.m.: the cooker had settled into a steady 230 degrees and the meat IT was already up to 102 degrees. My wife and I went out for a bite. It was 63 degrees outside with a 14 mph wind.
8:00 p.m.: We came back from dinner and the smoker temp was right where we left it. The meat IT was at 151, and there it would remain until midnight in the stall.
10:00 p.m.: I topped off the water pan with a quart or so of hot water before starting to doze a bit. (outside temp. was 56 deg. with 11 mph wind)
Midnight: Happened to wake up, cooker temp was down to about 210, so I rattled the coal basket to knock off some ash and cracked open the vent to generate a little more heat. (outside temp was 54 deg w/10 mph wind)
4:00 a.m. I rattled the charcoal basket again to knock more ash off of the coals. I also adjusted vents to bring the smoker back up to 225 or so (it had gone down to about 210 – not a big deal). Meat IT was 187. (54 degrees outside, 11 mph wind)
6 a.m. (13 hours into the smoke) the fuel seemed to be getting a little weak, so I lit a dozen or so fresh briquettes in the chimney and carefully loaded them in the basket with tongs. While I had the door off, I added another ½ gallon of hot water to the pan. The temp came up quickly from the fresh charcoal, and I pinched the vent back down to about where it had been early in the smoke. Meat IT was still 187. It probably would have finished OK without the extra charcoal, but I wanted a little insurance...
8:00 a.m. (15 hours into the smoke): Smoker temp was holding steady at 225 and the meat IT reached 198. I took the brisket off the smoker (by the way, this was the first time the dome lid was removed since the smoke started), wrapped it in foil and a couple of towels, and put in insulated container for a couple of hours while I went for a run. (Gotta burn those calories somehow.)
I knew the brisket was about right when I slid the temperature probe out - like butter.
10:00 a.m. 3/8/14: Sliced the brisket and it was absolutely gorgeous. I have never entered a competition but have seen the “pull test”, and slices from the flat and the point passed the pull test. Ended up with a decent smoke ring. The salt & pepper rub is fantastic - creates a good bark. It gives a good, sharp spice from the pepper, and the salt brings out the meat flavor. You might try this and see if you like it as much as I do.
Served with sauce I made from the recipe I bought from Jeff – fantastic sauce! Get the recipe! You will never buy "store-bought" sauce again.
I have to tell you how well the WSM does on smokes like this one. I forgot to close down the vents to smother it when I took the brisket off at 8:00 a.m., and when I remembered at about 1:30 p.m., the smoker temp was still holding 240 degrees. That was more than 20 hours after lighting it, and I only added a dozen or so briquettes in the meantime. Not bad.