Hi Nathan! I'll answer these in order with my take on brisket. Understand that there is more than one way to skin a cat, so you'll have to play with it and find the method that best works for you
1. I have a 13-14lb brisket; do I cut it in half so that it cooks quicker? If so, presumably the chunk nearest the heat in my horizontal smoker will cook quicker; do you swap them over? I have a horizontal offset, and I leave it whole, with the point facing the heat source. I find this gives me the best burnt ends.
2. Last time round, I foiled it but didn't get much bark. How do I get my bark on? In my experience, foil can stop the caramelization process associated with bark. There is some debate over the science behind it, but my belief is that foil stops the evaporative cooling process that results from moisture leaving the surface of the meat. This same "reduction" process is what leaves behind the sugars from the juices that wick out of the meat during cooking. Foil retains the moisture (ergo retaining heat), but it's my experience that it softens your bark or stops the process altogether. For some people, this is OK, but I usually unfoil it for the last 15 or 20 minutes to solidify the bark a bit. Personally, I try to avoid the "Texas crutch" altogether, if I can help it.
3. I read in the beef sticky that some use a spray mop; doesn't that disrupt the bark formation? I mopped my first couple of briskets and butts. I haven't really done it since, unless I am glazing something. I would say the answer to your question is "It depends". Your spray will have the effect of cooling the meat. Remember, part of the process that creates the bark is letting the sugars (naturally from the meat, from your rub, or from your spritz) caramelize on the outside. If you disrupt the reduction of the moisture (evaporation) or cool the meat beyond the point that is caramelizes, your impede the bark process. However, on the flip side, if your spritz has a fruit juice or other sugar component, it may also enhance it. It's an art, not as much a science.
4. Lastly, is it possible to "overcook" it? Can I leave it on the smoker for too long? Absolutely. The same process that breaks down the connecting fibers of the meat to make it tender also liquefy components of it. At some point, the moisture runs out, wicked to the surface. The sticky that Al linked above will include discussions over temperature, with the internal temperature (or IT) of the meat being where you should target for doneness. Remember, meat will continue to cook after you remove it from the heat, a product of the outside temperature reaching some manner of equilibrium with the IT. You'll want to pull it off 5 to 10 degrees lower than your target IT and give the meat an opportunity to rest while it finds that balance.
Best of luck with it! Be sure and come back with some pics and tell us how it goes!
Originally Posted by nathanjwtx
We're having a cookout this 4th for the family and a few neighbours. Grandpa is doing ribs and I'm doing brisket. I've only smoked brisket once and whilst it was ok, it didn't hold a torch to my pulled pork; mainly becauise I didn't cook it long enough I think. That was a 7-8lb brisket. I've never cooked for this many people and I'm a wee bit nervous. So, a few questions:
1. I have a 13-14lb brisket; do I cut it in half so that it cooks quicker? If so, presumably the chunk nearest the heat in my horizontal smoker will cook quicker; do you swap them over?
2. Last time round, I foiled it but didn't get much bark. How do I get my bark on?
3. I read in the beef sticky that some use a spray mop; doesn't that disrupt the bark formation?
4. Lastly, is it possible to "overcook" it? Can I leave it on the smoker for too long?
Any other tips "grate"-fully received!