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First Time Smoking A Brisket!!

swirv

Newbie
22
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Joined Oct 23, 2013
Hey everyone!

I have my 9lb brisket and will be starting my process tomorrow morning and will be smoking it early Sunday morning. Here's the plan:

1. Marinade in DR. pepper for 12 hrs
2. Pull meat out of marinade. Rub veg oil on the meat then my actual "rub". Inject apple juice in a few parts. Wrap in Saran Wrap and refrigerate overnight.
3. Wake up at 3am, pull meat out To reach room temp. Apple juice in the water pan. Toss the brisket in the smoker
4. I plan on flipping it every 3 hrs. At 170 I will wrap in foil and was thinking to use the juices from the water pan to put in the foil wrap. Throw it back in the smoker til the meat reaches 203 and pull it out
5. Wrap in foil again with either apple juice or more juice from water pan. Wrap in a blanket and into a cooler for an hour

Some questions about my process:
1. My brisket is huge...too big to fit in my propane smoker. I could cut a 1/4 chunk off. Is this a bad idea?

2. Is 12 hrs too long to marinade the meat in dr.P? Suggestions?

3. Is it ok to use the juice from the water pan after smoking?

4. How long do I actually "smoke" the brisket? Do I just keep adding wood until the brisket is finished?

This is my first time smoking anything...so any suggestions would be extremely appreciated. I will try to post pics throughout the day!!
 

forluvofsmoke

Smoking Guru
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Joined Aug 27, 2008
Hey everyone!

I have my 9lb brisket and will be starting my process tomorrow morning and will be smoking it early Sunday morning. Here's the plan:

1. Marinade in DR. pepper for 12 hrs
2. Pull meat out of marinade. Rub veg oil on the meat then my actual "rub". Inject apple juice in a few parts. Wrap in Saran Wrap and refrigerate overnight. Skip the injection...injecting turns an intact whole muscle meat into a compromised muscle, which should be treated according to the 40-140*/4-hr "rule" (recommendation for food safety purposes...don't want to get yourself or someone else ill from improper handling on your first smoke)...getting a larger cut such as a whole brisket up to 140* in 4 hours requires quite a bit higher smoke chamber temp than many of us would like to use for brisket...higher chamber temp = less time for smoke reaction, and many will argue that it gives less time for connective tissues to melt, yielding a bit less tender meat when finished, or requiring higher finished temps to achieve a tender brisket. Higher smoke chamber temps also aren't as effective at rendering out fats before the meat reaches finished temps. Judging by the thickness on the end, I'm guessing you'll be looking at ~1.75hrs/lb with foiling to finish and a smoke chamber temp of 225*...1.5hrs/lb @ 250*.
That is one FINE looking whole packer brisket!!!

Be sure to do a boil check on your thermometer probe to verify it's accuracy...you can verify your smoke chamber thermometer with this probe, so you know what your smoke chamber temp is actually running at. Don't submerge your probe to the cable insertion on top, or it may be toast, just dangle into water or rest the probe over the side of the pot in about 2" or wtare for the boil-test.

Here's some info on what your thermometer should be reading per you elevation above sea level, as the boiling-point of water is lower at altitude/elevation:

Boiling Point / Atmospheric Pressure / Altitude

Hope this all helps at least a little...first smoke huh? Brisket? If this comes out even half-way close to your expectations, you'll be hooked on brisket for life!!!!!!!!! Then, we can talk about how you'd like to do your next one...with burnt ends, maybe...

I'll be hangin' with ya for the weekend...have a trimmed whole packer in the smoker as I type, for a Saturday evening dinner...but, I'll be here off and on, so fire away if you need anything else.

Looking forward to seeing your first brisket sliced and plated, and reading about your experience with the smoke, and the dining pleasures when the smoke clears on Sunday!!!

EDIT: Forgot to mention this, but I would also forgo the room temp rest prior to smoking...it brings on possible food safety issues with larger cuts of meat, but mostly if it's injected or otherwise tampered with. This also reduces smoke reaction time, slightly...cold meat takes on more smoke than warm meat will when it first hits the smoker. I go straight from the fridge to the smoke...with larger cuts of meat, they will heat through and cook evenly, unlike thinner cuts like steaks...that's where bringing it up to room temp prior to cooking will help the most...I still don't practice that method very often...benefits have been negligible for me, at best.

Eric
 
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kc5tpy

Master of the Pit
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Joined May 12, 2013
     Hello Swirv.  Thought I'd sign in and offer my humble opinion but as usual Eric has got ya covered.  Just remember patience, patience and MORE patience and keep that door closed ( no peeking ).  I'll also be in and out all weekend so we will help all we can.  GO FOR IT!  Good luck.  Keep Smokin!

Danny
 

webowabo

Master of the Pit
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Joined Dec 25, 2010
Wow... Eric covered ya on that one.. ;) I totally agree with both Eric and Danny...

I cant wait to see your brisket... yum yum!:yahoo:
 

swirv

Newbie
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10
Joined Oct 23, 2013
Thanks everyone for your advice and insight!!!  I greatly appreciate it.  I do have some questions though still:

I planned on keeping the temp around 215-225, preferably at 220.  Would you guys suggest a higher temp?  Is there a such thing as phasing it with the temperatures (i.e.: Starting out at higher temp to ensure the meat reaches 140 within 4 hours, and then turning it down for the remainder?)

Also, I am pretty sure the point muscle was already trimmed off of this brisket.  If I recall correctly, the butcher said it is a "Flat Cut".  Does this change anything with regards to my preparation and/or cooking temps?  

Last question:

I've been reading diff opinions as to foiling vs not foiling.  What is the difference really?  Does foiling yield a juicier and more tender brisket?

Thanks again guys, about to start the marinade and will take more pics here soon!
 

swirv

Newbie
22
10
Joined Oct 23, 2013
More pics before the marinade!! Pics of the fat cap and thickness.



Question: since the point muscle had already been trimmed off. I was considering cutting the brisket in half right at that fat line that you see next to my index finger in pic #2. Think this is a good spot?

Thanks again guys!!

Sherv
 

forluvofsmoke

Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
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Joined Aug 27, 2008
 
Thanks everyone for your advice and insight!!!  I greatly appreciate it.  I do have some questions though still:

I planned on keeping the temp around 215-225, preferably at 220.  Would you guys suggest a higher temp?  Is there a such thing as phasing it with the temperatures (i.e.: Starting out at higher temp to ensure the meat reaches 140 within 4 hours, and then turning it down for the remainder?) If you plan on low & slow @ 220*, most of my briskets have responded well. And yes, you can stage the smoke chamber temps, as I have experimented with that in years gone by. I will  caution you in one respect...be very patient when you drop the chamber temps back, as it will typically force a plateau with internal temps of the meat (the dreaded stall commonly occurring in large cuts of meats). The stall is normal, btw, and you should expect it, if you're going to monitor I/T, but you may experience a greater stall, and most likely I/T temp drops when you stage the smoke chamber temp...been there done that...first time around was quite a ride.

Also, I am pretty sure the point muscle was already trimmed off of this brisket.  If I recall correctly, the butcher said it is a "Flat Cut".  Does this change anything with regards to my preparation and/or cooking temps?  At 9lbs, that would be a massive brisket if the point it completely trimmed away...well above 20lb starting weight...biggest one for me was just over 18lbs, but anything is possible, especially from a butcher shop. If the thickness of the brisket is uniform (not tapered at all), they may have trimmed away part of the point muscle from the under-side (opposite the fat-cap) for more even cooking...nothing wrong with that at all...makes for the first time brisket smoke that mush easier. To identify the two muscles, just look for muscle-grain direction: the point runs across the end (where it would be a heavier section of the brisket) while the flat runs length-wise the brisket.

Last question:

I've been reading diff opinions as to foiling vs not foiling.  What is the difference really?  Does foiling yield a juicier and more tender brisket? Ah, that's a debatable topic, for sure. When smoking lean trimmed meats with a wet-to-dry smoke chamber, I get higher moisture retention without foiling than I do with foiling, but that's another topic altogether. Foiling can help somewhat with moisture retention, and also cuts down on overall cooking time...the earlier you foil (lower I/T) the sooner it will reach your desired finished temp (possibly as a result of the foil reflecting radiant heat back at the meat, or just trapping it inside and causing more steaming to occur...I never really tried to fully understand that one, myself). Many will argue that foiling does yield a more tender brisket...I will just say that foiling is a bit more forgiving when attempting to achieve a very tender brisket. It also reduces the formation of bark on the surface of the meat, where there is no fat cap...this may be desirable for most, while some may like a reasonably well-developed bark on the meat. If the no-foiling method (until resting) is used, expect more bark, harder bark, and unless the proper smoke chamber humidity is used, a risk of dryer meat where there is no fat cap attached...not an issue with a full fat-cap as you have with this beauty, though.

Thanks again guys, about to start the marinade and will take more pics here soon!

You're most welcome for assistance!!! Looking forward to seeing this unfold!!!

BTW, we can discuss the wet-to-dry smoke chamber method another time...it's a great method for those wanting to smoke lean-trimmed meats...maybe you don't like the taste of brisket fat (I've been told by a few here that they don't, either), or just want to eat healthy...but for a beginner, it's best to start with the basics and move forward from there. Take what you learn from this smoke and bring it into the next one, and keep that momentum working in your favor.

Eric
 

forluvofsmoke

Smoking Guru
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Joined Aug 27, 2008
More pics before the marinade!! Pics of the fat cap and thickness.



Question: since the point muscle had already been trimmed off. I was considering cutting the brisket in half right at that fat line that you see next to my index finger in pic #2. Think this is a good spot? Yep, that will work...it will be quite a bit less weight than it's partner, so it could reach finished temp earlier. I noticed what appears to be the muscle grain running across the brisket towards the left of the fat line, and running lengthwise towards the right of the fat-line...that would be the remaining point muscle on the left, after trimming, so it was trimmed back as I suspected earlier. I would probably just cut right down the middle across the piece, myself, just for a bit more uniformity in cooking of the two pieces...just me. But if you follow the fat-line to some extent, you stay with the grain of the meat muscles more for slicing when finished...remember, the point runs across the brisket, flat runs with it...you want to slice across the grain for the most tender chew.  Note that the point muscle has more marbling than the flat, and is a tubular muscle construction compared to a fibrous muscle in the flat. The point has a different texture and chew than the flat, and is great for making burnt ends...we can talk about those another time...best to be prepared well in advance so you know what to do for the burnt ends. The point is also a great candidate for pulled meat, but can be used for slicing as well.

Thanks again guys!!

Sherv
 
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kc5tpy

Master of the Pit
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Joined May 12, 2013
Hello Swirv.  I wish I could say different but as usual Eric is right on point.  He doesn't even differ much from the PM I sent you.  He claims to be from Wyoming but I am convinced he really lives somewhere in south Tx. 
   All kidding aside he gave GREAT advice.  Follow that and you just can't go wrong.  I only differ with Eric in that I love the fat on beef and pork.  I know it ain't healthy but not like I eat it every day.  I will continue to monitor just in case Eric is busy and you need help, but other than that I'll shut up now.  Nothing more I can add.  Waiting to see the final product.  Good luck.  Keep Smokin!


Danny
 

forluvofsmoke

Smoking Guru
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Hello Swirv.  I wish I could say different but as usual Eric is right on point.  He doesn't even differ much from the PM I sent you.  He claims to be from Wyoming but I am convinced he really lives somewhere in south Tx
   All kidding aside he gave GREAT advice.  Follow that and you just can't go wrong.  I only differ with Eric in that I love the fat on beef and pork.  I know it ain't healthy but not like I eat it every day.  I will continue to monitor just in case Eric is busy and you need help, but other than that I'll shut up now.  Nothing more I can add.  Waiting to see the final product.  Good luck.  Keep Smokin!


Danny
...


Thanks Danny. I actually grew up a bit farther north and to to the east a few skips and hops...never been to TX, but know some folks down there...really down to earth, good people.

I really do enjoy smoking and dining on brisket...so does the family, friends and relatives, and quite a few of my co-workers. Everything that it brings along the way is just icing on the cake for me, as every smoke is a new adventure...something always changes the game to keep things interesting. To say brisket is my favorite cut of beef to smoke would be a serious understatement. Sure, I adore a nice 22lb 7-bone whole beef rib...separate the ribs from the eye for a super-meaty rib lunch and prime rib dinner...fantastic entree items!!! But the brisket, oh, the things I can do with brisket...sometimes I even impress myself, and that takes some doing...LOL!!!

And, thanks for coming along for the ride and helping a fellow smoker on his quest!!! Tutoring someone on a solo mission isn't easy, and I often forget some key points that others will be quick to bring into the mix...two or more heads and pairs of eyes and ears are ALWAYS better than just one.

Eric
 

swirv

Newbie
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Joined Oct 23, 2013
I have to say guys, I've been apart of a lot of forums.  This forum offers some of the most helpful and friendly members I have ever encountered!!! Thanks Danny, I am forever grateful for the assistance and support that you and Eric and everyone else has been so kind to offer.  I did a dry run with the Smoker just about 30 minutes ago, let it run for about an hour and half.  Was "seasoning" my makeshift bake pan/wood pan.  I wanted to set everything up and see how difficult it was for me to regulate a consistent heat.  I found a sweet spot that fluctuates from 215-225 give or take a few degrees.  Unfortunately,  its been pretty windy here in MD the past couple of days.  A gust of wind came through and blew out the flame at one point.  I think I am going to make some sort of wall or barrier that will help block any strong gusts, just in case!

Eric, you were spot on about that pan.  It held up perfectly fine, however, the first 10-15 min it put off a pretty bad smell!!  

More pics to come!  Thinking I may be staying up late tonight to get this bad boy in the smoker and going around 3am. Once I get a good consistent temp that I want for about 30 min straight, then i will head to bed for the night and let it smoke. 
 

forluvofsmoke

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Ah, yeah, if you have wind, that's your worst enemy for temp control, so block/shelter as needed. Precipitation will cause temp drops, but not temp fluctuations like wind can. The flame-out, obviously is bad thing, so breaking the wind should greatly reduce the risk of that.

OK, regarding getting stable temps, are you using water in the water pan? Water will help reduce high temp spikes...the down side is that when the water evaporates out and the pan is nearly empty, temps will go on the climb, and you may see 40-60* or higher temp before it settles in again. I'm not entirely familiar with that smoker, but hope it has at least a 4qt water pan capacity...depending on how close to the heat source the water pan is, and how high your burner flame is set at to maintain temps, will determine how fast the water evaporates. If you come back outside and see high chamber temps, suspect a dry water pan...crack the door and have a peek...add cold water to return things back to normal, without adjusting the burner before adding water, or you'll be starting from scratch on lining out temps again.

I'll chat with you later about it, but sand or gravel in the water pan will eliminate the temp spike from a dry water pan after boil-off...part of the wet-to-dry chamber method I use.

Oh, for smoke woods, if you have chunks, you can use therm with chips to extend the smoke output beyond the time your chips will last.

Sounds like you're almost ready for the slow-paced and long-winded brisket race!!!

If anything else comes up in the ol' brain-waves, I'll drop you another note...kick me in the ribs if you have any more questions...happy to be of assistance.

Eric
 

themule69

Epic Pitmaster
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Eric and Danny have you covered. A couple of sheets of plywood or a tarp and a couple of trash cans may help on the wind. I look forward to seeing some smoke.

Happy smoken.

David
 

swirv

Newbie
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Joined Oct 23, 2013
Ok. So I am pretty stoked to begin. I was wondering what you guys do for starting the smoker? Let me explain: do you put your wood in and fire it up? Or so you let the smoker heat up and then toss the wood in?

I plan to wrap the wood pan up in foil and poke holes in the top to release the smoke. I figure this will make clean up fairly easy.

I feel like a kid whose going to Disney tomorrow...steady staring at the clock lol


P.S.: thermometer is calibrated perfectly. I am going to set my min temp alarm at 210 and the max temp at 230. My thermo will sound an alarm if temps deviate too much.
 
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forluvofsmoke

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Ok. So I am pretty stoked to begin. I was wondering what you guys do for starting the smoker? Let me explain: do you put your wood in and fire it up? Or so you let the smoker heat up and then toss the wood in? I light the smoker and add my wood immediately, by the time the smoke chamber temp is up around 200*, I have smoke.

I plan to wrap the wood pan up in foil and poke holes in the top to release the smoke. I figure this will make clean up fairly easy. It will, also, the foil will reduce smoke output from the wood and in turn make it last longer...reducing the oxygen getting to the wood reduces the amount of smoldering/smoke. Just don't leave the holes too small, or smoke output may be very light.

I feel like a kid whose going to Disney tomorrow...steady staring at the clock lol Ha-ha-ha!!! Yeah, first smoke, big hunka meat, lots of learning yet to come before just this smoke is over...but you are armed with some valuable tools in the form of fellow smoke lovers and their knowledge...you're good to go!!!


P.S.: thermometer is calibrated perfectly. I am going to set my min temp alarm at 210 and the max temp at 230. My thermo will sound an alarm if temps deviate too much. You might want to let the limits go 5* or so more (20* is a small window), just so you don't get a lot of alarms due to windy conditions, etc, but in a manner of keeping good temp control, you'll have a little breathing room, yet still be able to catch up with temp issues earlier.
 

swirv

Newbie
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10
Joined Oct 23, 2013
It's 1:30a.m and here's an update. Pulled the brisket out of the marinade at midnight. Cut it in half and rubbed her down good! Smells amazing!!!

Wood is ready, water pan is watered, going to try and stay up as long as I can. I am only going to be able to read the IT of one piece of the brisket.

Should I put the thicker/larger cut on the bottom or top rack? I figure the thicker cut requires longer cooking time.

Should I put the thermometer probe into the thicker/larger brisket or the thinner?
 

forluvofsmoke

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Hey Swirv-

Guess I wasn't thinking far enough ahead before I signed off last night or I could have answered those questions for you ahead of time...I can't read you mind, though, at least not that I know of...LOL!!! As for the thicker piece taking the longest, in theory, that is correct, to a point...depends of total weight as well, and where it is placed in the smoker. This first smoke may have a bit of a learning curve as far as grate temp vs chamber temp. The vertical cabinet smokers I've used typically run a bit hotter on the uppermost grates, while the lowest grate is a bit cooler and also seems to get a higher humidity from the water pan. Also, the water pan acts as a heat baffle, as will any larger pieces of meat. This baffling helps to force more of the heat upwards along the cabinet walls before it travels inward towards the meat, which prevents it from being too hot on bottom and too cool on top. That said, there will be some experimenting involved in finding a happy medium where multiple pieces of meat will be finished close to the same time, and this is very difficult at times to achieve. On thing you can do is cooking rotate grate positions a couple times during the smoke, if timing is an issue.

Where I feel a bit out of my element is that I don't know the characteristics of your particular smoker, as each manufacturer/model will vary somewhat in how the grate temperatures vary from the cabinet temperature. So, that will take a bit of time and a few smokes to find out how your smoker reacts with multiple pieces of meat, where you place them, etc. But don't worry about that too much...it will come. Keep some notes on which grate positions you used, which piece went where, if you rotated grate positions, which piece was finished first, etc...just little tidbits that will tell you what's going on inside the smoker later on down the road.

As far as time estimates per pound for a given chamber temp to push the pieces of meat to a tender state at an approx 180-190* I/T, that will depend on convective efficiency of the smoker...how much heat is actually flowing through the smoke chamber...ventilation and BTUs.

Speaking of ventilation, I forgot to mention this early on, but keep your top (exhaust) vent at least 1/2 way open. This will allow the smoke and heat to flow more freely through the cabinet, which increases convection and prevents stale smoke from accumulating in the cabinet.

Your brisket seems to have had a fair amount of reaction to the marinade, judging by the discoloration on the surface. Looking good so far, rub and all!!!

Eric
 

forluvofsmoke

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I also forgot to mention...don't stick your probe into the meat until after a couple hours into the smoke if you didn't inject it...this will keep from pushing critters from the surface deep into the meat with the probe before the surface is pasteurized with heat. If injected, it won't matter, and you'd want to monitor I/T closely for the 40-140*/4hr rule, but after a couple hours has passed in the smoker, you can stick 'em without worries, but as mentioned earlier, keep the cabinet closed as much as possible. Door opening will loose heat, and then it takes some time for the smoker to recover and return to a stable temp again, as well as the very surface of the meat cooling slightly...it's a domino effect of sorts, and this all adds to overall cooking time.

Eric
 

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