Smoking newb; first brisket ever

Discussion in 'Beef' started by dreamwarrior, Sep 23, 2015.

  1. dreamwarrior

    dreamwarrior Newbie

    So, I've smoked some ribs and chicken in my older analog electric smoker and they've come out pretty good.  Sometimes I seem to dry out the chicken, but I've decided to get serious with this brisket and bought a Maverick ET-733 to make sure my temps are not getting out of control.

    Anyway, being a complete newb, I'm not ever sure what I've got here.  It seems like it's just a flat, and it's only about 7 lbs, so I figure it must be.  But, I figured I'd post a few pics of the meat before it gets any treatment and see if anyone has some advice.  I've read the brisket threads around here and I think I'm going to go with just a salt and pepper (don't know how much to use, figure half and half mix, but...don't want to overdo it) and maybe put a bit (what's a bit with a 7lb piece of meat, lol) of cayenne or smoked paprika.  I thought I might use some extra virgin olive oil (again, what's a good amount?  A few tablespoons??) to help stick it all.

    For wood, I'm thinking a mix of hickory and mesquite, with a bit of cherry (or would pecan be better?).  Probably keep the smoke going until the meat hits the "stall" (around 165 so says the threads) then mop (maybe I'll try and use a little beer?) and wrap in foil or the butcher paper it came in and toss it back in.  Another dumb question though...some people say to use the butcher paper over foil, for lack of a better term, because it "breathes" better.  But, the paper this came in is a bit waxy.  Is that ok?  Or should I just go with foil?  Too much I don't know, lol.

    Anyway...sorry for the stream of conscious.  I'm sure I'll probably screw it up somewhat, but I'll do my best to be patient and start it really early the morning before.  I'll going to try and keep the smoker around 225 if possible and start pricking it for the "probe through butter test" around 195 internal temp.  But, since it's an electric, I really don't want to be pricking it much because I'm sure it'll lose quite a bit of heat every time I open it up.

    It's for my mother-in-law's 50th birthday party, so I'd love for it to come out good...but I've got clams and burgers and dogs if I screw it up royally, lol.  We'll see.  I'll post back whatever happens....  Any advice y'all can give, I'd love to hear.  Like I said, I've read most of the threads, but there's so much info it's hard to absorb it all.

    Here's the meat I got from a local butcher:

    I guess what's left of the fat-cap:

    from the thicker side:

    Here's the flip side:

    And it folds in half pretty nicely, so that's "good", I suppose....

    I wasn't planning to trim it down anymore.  Hopefully it'll fit on the smoker just like this.  If not, I guess I'll probably cut it in half, but that'll stink because I only have the two probes and want to use one in the smoker chamber itself.

    Wish me luck, lol.
  2. Your plan sounds good so far.  Can't answer the question about the butcher paper as I used foil for my one and only brisket.   I also didn't start probing mine for tenderness til 195.    And by then everything is hot enough that opening and closing every 30 min or so was just fine.   Mine was not probe tender until about 203.   But I had a packer.    I think you are right about just having a flat.

    If it was me, I might go with foil over butcher since many report dry flats.    But even if its a bit dry you could chop it and I'm sure it would be tasty as heck.

    Just make sure to catch all the drippings.    That;s what I served mine with and it was perfect.
  3. mfreel

    mfreel Smoking Fanatic

    You left yourself open for comments, so here goes:

    The second pic, in my opinion, looks like the brisket got partially cut through the point and flat.  It looks to me like you've got a partial point there.  No worries.  It won't change your process, just know that you can remove that part separate from the flat.

    I like the salt and pepper idea, but I also recommend you add some ground mustard seed, ground coriander seed, garlic powder and onion powder.  For a piece of meat this big, I think you're looking at 1/3 to 1/2 cup of seasoning. I will usually lather up the brisket with yellow mustard to help the seasoning stick.  It cooks out and you won't taste the mustard.  Be liberal with your seasoning.

    I like to cook mine at 225-235.  For a 7 lb hunk, figure APPROXIMATELY 1.5 hrs per pound is going to be around 10.5 hours.  But don't be surprised that it goes longer.  DON'T GET IN A RUSH!!!!  It'll get done when it's done.  Just let it go.

    Do an initial probe around the 8 hour mark to check.  I don't wrap mine and they are excellent.  Never heard of the butcher paper thing.  You can wrap with foil if you want.  Keeps the juices in, but I don't do it.  They stay moist.

    I personally don't like mesquite.  Too harsh, IMHO.  Stick with the hickory and cherry.

    I recommend that after it hits temp that you wrap it with foil and then with a few towels and put it in a cooler to rest for a couple hours...if you have time.  Believe me, after 2 hours in the cooler, you still won't be able to handle it with your bare hands.

    Can I comment some more?  Someone tell me to shut up.  This poor guy's going to need a therapist.
  4. dreamwarrior

    dreamwarrior Newbie

    Thanks for the comments, and no worries about the therapist, unless you want the bill, haha!

    So, my absorption so far:

    1)  Foil's fine

    2)  Catch the drippings -- yum, gravy!

    3)  It's probably a flat only, with maybe a bit of the point....  Still not sure here, it seems (and I'm no expert so, maybe I'm not looking at it right) that all the meat grain is going the same direction.  I thought I read that the grain changes direction in the point....  That's why I didn't think there was a point.  Still wondering about the meat quality, guess we'll find out.  Got it from a local butcher who I've had luck with before -- they slaughter their own grass fed cows, so...hopefully it's good stuff.

    4)  Recommend mustard over olive oil.  I'll see what I can get away with, I'll have to do it when my wife's not looking.  She hates mustard and even if it can't be tasted in the finished product, if she sees it go on, her brain will tell her it is there, lol.

    5)  I'll adjust my ratios of wood.  I was thinking to use equal portions mesquite and hickory and half as much cherry -- maybe I'll bump up the cherry and down the mesquite so the flavors aren't as strong.  I was worried about using cherry because I'm not sure it's a good beef wood, but it seems many do on this cut, so...I think I'm going to go for it.

    6)  I'll think about getting a little crazy with my spice mix.  But, I may just keep it simple and do half pepper half salt and go for a 1/3rd cup like was mentioned.  Then I'll see about making a BBQ sauce to slather it with after it's done.

    7)  Thanks for the reminders on the cooler technique, already verified we had one that's not too big and not too small to hold it.

    Any comments on the beer mop?  There seems to be debate on whether the mop is even useful.  If I do it, I don't want to open the smoker a lot, so I'll probably just do it right before I foil it.

    Also, this is probably a really dumb question, but if I just run the probe wires out of the door of my smoker, I assume it won't harm them, but won't it make it leak a bit more?  I was going to try to run them out the small little smoke hole in the back, but I don't think they'll fit and even if they both fit through, it'll pretty much clog that hole, and I don't know if I want that either....  I'm probably over-thinking this, lol, it's not atypical behavior for me, lol.

    Thanks for the comments so far!  I'll take anything else, too (including recommendations on a therapist, [​IMG]).
  5. I used olive oil instead of mustard on all sorts of things and it turns out just fine.    No need to deal with mustard if its gonna set anyone off.   My hubby hates it too.  :)   Its true that you can't taste it after, but it also makes no difference.   Oil works great.  Mustard s just a few less calories.  ;)

    I don't bother to mop anything and my results have been great.  I also have an electric smoker and you are not wrong about opening it frequently.   In the first half of a long smoke it can really play havoc with the temps.   But if you do foil it at a certain temp, you can actually pop the brisket into the dripping pan (or even start it there), and add some beer to the drippings if you wanted the flavor.   Then just cover over with foil and re-poke your temp probe through the top.

    And yes, the probe wires are just fine out of the door.    I have watched carefully on mine and there is no visible smoke leakage through the door seal with them in.   So its all good.    
  6. dreamwarrior

    dreamwarrior Newbie

    Calories shmalories, lol.  I'll probably end up using oil just for her sanity, lol.  How liberally do I coat it?  On other meats, I tend to just put a tablespoon on and then rub my hands all over it, lol.  Then I sprinkle the seasonings and massage it in.  Guess this should be no different, but I don't know if getting that great bark has anything to do with how much I use.

    edit:  and thanks for confirmation regarding the probe wires.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2015
  7. Nope, no special amount needed.    As long as it spread all over that's enough.    Your technique sounds perfect.

    As for'll get a nice dark crust, but the foiling will make it soft.  You won't get a crisp exterior with a foil and then a foil rest.   I think that's why some people don't foil it.   But then they do say they foil it to rest, which to me softens the bark anyways.

    Can't wait to hear how it comes out.  :)
  8. mfreel

    mfreel Smoking Fanatic

    Don't ruin a perfectly good brisket with BBQ sauce!  Geez!  Put it on the side for people if they want to use it.  

    I'd go heavy on the spice, IMO.  Think of it like a pork butt and how much you'd add to that.  It's the same kinda thing IMHO.

    Did I mention not to get in a hurry?

    When is this party getting started?
  9. greg1

    greg1 Fire Starter

    Dreamwarrior thanks for starting this thread I am cooking my first brisket flat next weekend for a family gathering.  I have done, lots of pork butts and shoulders, ribs and chicken.  But this brisket has me a little bit nervous.  I have a plan in place not so much different then yours.  My question for the group is this I plan on foiling around 160 degrees when I foil I was thinking about adding some beer to the pack to maybe help maintain moisture.  Is this something that will work or will the alcohol in the beer pull moisture out of the meat?  If any of you have tried this and it worked what beer worked?  I have bud light and coors light in the fridge but if something works better or a certain style like a dark beer I can certainly pick that up without any problem.  Probably be more nervous questions between now and next Saturday.  I appreciate any and all advice anyone has.
  10. I've seen several posts here where folks have added beer to the pan and then foiled, so you should be all good there.    My only advice there is quantity.   With it foiled it will not reduce.    And you will continue to get liquid from the meat, so don't overfill your pan.    And since the intensity of the drippings is super delicious, you don't want to dilute too much.    Beer is good, but meat drippings are fantastic.    

    As for the type of beer, I'd have a couple kinds during the early stages of your smoke, and really close your eyes and imagine that taste paired with your beef drippings.   Light beer will be innocuous, dark will impart a lot of flavor.    :)    Its a good system, and lets you have a couple of beers early in your smoke.   So win/win.   :)
  11. dreamwarrior

    dreamwarrior Newbie

    LOL...well, if I dry the thing out, they are going to want so BBQ sauce.  So, hopefully they don't want it.

    The party is probably going to be getting started early, but I'm hoping the brisket will be ready around 2 or 3pm, so I'll be up tomorrow at 2am to start the smoker, alone, in the dark, lol.  Hopefully the lower temps we're hitting lately don't have the Maverick waking me up every few hours to crank the heat, though.  And more hopefully it doesn't hasn't in a few weeks and it wouldn't ya know it, they're predicting it for this weekend...ARGH!
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2015
  12. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Wrapping in foil holds in steam.  Butcher paper lets most of the steam out, but still protects the outside of the brisket from getting crispy.   I slather my briskets with oil.  Don't bother measuring, just pour a bit on and coat the brisket.  it's kind of like greasing a pan with oil or butter.  Just use your judgement as to what is "enough".  Season liberally with kosher salt and pepper.   It's a big hunk of meat and will take a lot of seasoning.  Also, realize that each slice will only be about as thick as a pencil meaning that it has very little seasoned exterior surface area.  I'm not saying that it should be encrusted, but do more than sprinkle a little bit of S&P. 

    The second photo shows that you have a flat with a bit of the point still attached as mfreel stated.  

    I'd start probe testing a bit earlier, like around 180 or 185 just to be safe as sometimes, the brisket might be ready at those temps.   Don't worry about the part with the point.  Probe the thickest part of the flat only. 

    Try and judge the progress of the cook.   If you are 4 hours away from dinner time and it's not even close to being probe tender, crank up the heat.    I do my briskets at 300+ and they come out just fine.
  13. smokingearl

    smokingearl Meat Mopper

    I've done mustard and olive oil, but my favorite and will be all I use now is Lea and Perrins Bold Steak Sauce.  Used A1 bold as well, but prefer the Lea and Perrins. 
  14. dreamwarrior

    dreamwarrior Newbie

    So, I prep'd the brisket earlier and my wife decided to wait a bit, so it'll go on around 5am.  It'll end up sitting for about 10 hours, I do hope the salt doesn't pull out the liquid and contribute to it drying it.

    I decided to get a little more crazy with the spices.  I cracked a little over 1/8 cup of pepper and then another 1/8 cup of normal black pepper, so about 1/4 cup of salt.  Probably about 1/8 cup total of garlic and onion powder plus a splash a cayenne pepper, then a final 1/4 cup of salt.  All-in-all about 5/8 cup of seasoning, a bit over a half cup.  Here are the seasonings:

    I cross-hatch cut the little bit of the fat cap that was left...just...because I saw others do it and felt like doing it, lol.  Then seasoned one side, flipped it over on some saran wrap and seasoned the other side and wrapped it all up.  It's been in the fridge since 7:30pm awaiting its fate, lol.

    Here's some pics of the seasoning:

    and wrapping (I folded it back up and wrapped it some more in the second pic):

    And then I started to soak my wood chips, and because I'm anal retentive I divided it up to keep the hickory from the cherry and a little less mesquite in the center, lol.

    Now to try and get a few hours of sleep before I kick on the smoker.
  15. dreamwarrior

    dreamwarrior Newbie

    Yeah, I was inspecting the grain a little more today, thinking about putting toothpicks in like I saw in another thread to mark the grain pattern for cutting.  I noticed that it did flip direction, so I guess y'all were right, it does appear there's some of the point.  Hopefully that helps it keep moist.

    I'll probably foil it at the stall just to speed things up, and I don't know if I really need a really crispy bark, and I'll probably un-foil it for a bit after anyway.  But, thanks for the advice, I'll start probing it earlier so I don't dry it out, since it does appear a bit lean and I don't want to dry it out.
    Yeah, I thought about using something like that, or maybe a reduction using Worcestershire sauce or something.  Maybe next time I'll get a little more brave, if I don't screw this one up horribly, lol.  It was over $7 a pound for this brisket, so I don't fancy messing 'em up often, lol.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2015
  16. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    A trick that Foamheart brought up (in another thread) for finding the grain later is to find it now and cut a corner off going against the grain.  Will be easy to spot after cooking.  With regards to the bark, I definitely don't like it to be crispy, but there's kind of an inbetween stage where it begins to look burnt/charred, but it really isn't.  

    As to the moisture, that comes from the breaking down and rendering of the connective tissues between the muscle fibers.   Just want to be clear on this.  The brisket will start "drying out" as it passes 140-150 degrees.   It will get dryer and dryer as the internal temp increases.  The muscle fibers tighten up and squeeze out the moisture.   But then the magic begins to happen.  The connective tissue breaks down and renders out into a gelatin that gives the brisket plenty of moisture.      It seems strange, but a brisket can be dry because it's undercooked.    It will be dry and somewhat tough.   If it's dry and crumbling / falling apart, that means it was overcooked.

    Good luck with the cook !!
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2015
  17. nursewizzle

    nursewizzle Fire Starter

    This is how I do it as well.
  18. dreamwarrior

    dreamwarrior Newbie

    Well brisket went on at 6:00AM, or so.  Wife figured we'd have plenty of food so the brisket could be done closer to dinner around 6.  Hopefully it's an 11 hour cook or less and 1 hour rest (or more).  We'll see.

    Tough dialing in the smoker temp.  I lost way too much heat getting the brisket in there and now it's sitting at 165 and coming up slowly again.  Oh well, I have the element on high to quickly heat it and once it gets to around 235 or so I'll dial the element down until it goes off.  Then watch and see what happens.  I'm aiming to keep the smoker box between 235 and 250.  But, I suppose I really wasted the electricity for the pre-heat, lol.

    And so it begins....
  19. dreamwarrior

    dreamwarrior Newbie

    Well...this thing is not quite working to plan,[​IMG].  It's about an hour in and the smoker probe (which I tested already for accuracy in boiling water) is only reading 208.  The thermo on the smoker says 250 and the meat is up to 145.  But, at this point I'm not sure what to believe.  I have the meat in the center of the chamber and the probe sitting just below it.  Maybe the little electric just doesn't have the guts to get the chamber up to temp until the meat starts to come up.  I don't know.  I expected it to be back up long before now.  I just hope it isn't because of where I put the chamber probe and it's actually a lot hotter.  At least the 250 degree reading on the unit itself is somewhat of a sanity check.

    Oh well, guess I'll just let it go.

    edit:  well, I did a "bad, bad, thing"...I opened it up early.  I just couldn't believe the temps of the bottom probe and thought maybe it was too close to the meat.  Don't know, but I had a spare probe and I tossed that in the smoker hanging down from the top rack a few inches above the meat.  Let a lot of heat out again, but at least this probe, within a half hour or so, was reading in the mid-to-high 230's.  I switched to the other probe and it still reads 216, so there's about a 20 degree difference between them.  I only worry that I may have started things out hotter than desired in the smoker box, but at least it would only have been for a few hours.  Oh well, it is what it use in fretting over it.
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2015
  20. Don't worry. This will be fine but just a note that my last six pound brisket took over twelve hours. So don't rush it.

    I've had similar probe results before and it was all placement. A fat pocket, a crooked entry. No big deal. It will level out now that you've hit it in a better place. Moving it was a fine idea.

    Just chill and let it keep going.

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