I've smoked plenty of bacon and sausage in my MES30 over the last two years, but I'm still learning and trying to improve my game. I got home from work at 6 AM this morning and threw a butt on before I hit the sack. It was done in 10 hours and I'm fairly happy with the results. My new Auber PID kept the smoker temperature steady as a rock. I guess I should try a brisket next.
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Congrats on the pulled pork success, it looks great!!!
For a brisket just be sure to do your homework on all the quirks. The number 1 issue I see with people doing brisket is they don't estimate the time properly and pull it too early before it is tender and therefore tough and dry.
Lots of people do lots of things with their brisket but honestly there is a specific list of things that are necessary and some are super important to ensure success:
- Use a whole packer brisket and don't split it up
- Trim off any thin portion of the flat so what is left is about uniform thickness in the flat (cut in oval shape, square corners dry out and burn up) . Trim off any very very very thick portions of fat and remove the deckle fat. I don't cut much fat off mine because most of it renders down anyhow and is a waste of time to try and methodically trim something that mostly melts away.
- Get a good ballpark estimate on how much time it will need to cook. This includes temp you will be cooking at and size of brisket.
At a steady 275F smoker temp I find my briskets going about 1hr 5-10min per pound of meat in the smoker. In the ballpark of this this time it is usually probing tender.
IMPORTANT: Estimate the cook time and then add 4 hours to it. The 4 hours will give you more time to finish if it hasn't and/or give you a good rest time if it finishes with 4-6 hours left.
- IMPORTANT: Plan to put in the brisket so that you are slicing and eating it (lunch or dinner time) once the cook time + 4 hours has finished
- Put your temp probe in the thickest yet center most portion of the FLAT muscle. Not the POINT muscle, it will lie to you as it finishes way faster than the FLAT.
It is hard to nail the perfect spot in the flat so I put 3 probes from 3 different directions aiming for that spot and 1 of the 3 usually finds the mark. It will be the probe that lakes the longest to get up to temp :)
- IMPORTANT: Brisket is never done by time or temp, ONLY by tenderness feel. At an Internal Temp (IT) of the meat around 198F or so start stabbing ALL OVER with something like a wooden kabob skewer. It should go in with no resistance or like peanut butter as another member says. If you find a spot that is giving resistance then you let the IT rise another 2 degrees and check again, repeat until it is tender. THEN you pull the brisket because it is done!
- Wrap vs No-Wrap. I personally never wrap, flavor is superior to me. I don't care that it takes longer I care for the best flavor so I just plan the time to take longer and I'm good.
IMPORTANT: If you wrap a brisket too early it will come out tasting like roast beef instead of smoked beef brisket. This is a severe disappointment.
People often wrap around 160F simply to speed up and beat the stall. Again I don't care about the time I care about the flavor.
If you are going to wrap I suggest you wait until the brisket at least reaches 180F IT. That should give you good flavor. How do I know this? I wrap chuck roasts in foil at 180-190F with about 2 fl.oz. of water because they are flat and like to dry out if I don't wrap them. I learned from experience that if I want the flavor I have to wait wrap it at those temps while still keeping it from drying out.
- Once you pull your brisket wrap in 2 layers of foil and I wrap in 3 bath towels and set on the table/counter and it holds easily up to 6 hours. Some use both towels and coolers, etc. I find the simplicity of the towels to be enough and if any leaks happen, boom towel does it's job :)
Additional things to consider but are up to you and not nearly as important as the items above:
- Seasoning: Do as you like but simpler is better. I go Salt, Pepper, Onion, Garlic (SPOG). Many do just Salt and Pepper "Texas" style. I live in Texas and prefer SPOG though salt and pepper is fine as well. NO SUGAR! Sugar on a brisket smoke is pretty much blasphemy here in Texas hahaha. Plus sugar may burn up and turn bitter if cooked at 275F+ temps.
This is why BBQ sauce is added after the fact if someone wants some sweetness :D
- Smoke: Hands down 100% Mesquite is the best flavor IMO. Mesquite with beef is the best meat smoke flavor combo of any I've had with anything/everything I've ever eaten smoked.
If you don't have any Mesquite of any kind then use what you like. In Texas a ton of Oak is used to make bbq gut Oak is so played out to me it's not even funny. If that is not the case for you then Oak is a great 2nd option for you.
Third option.... no idea, I would probably do a blend at like 75% Cherry, 25% Hickory I guess. Maple/Cherry/Hickory would also be ok I guess if your blend isn't too weak.
I'm sure I could list off a few more items but the important ones are there.
As you read you will see a ton of people saying much different things but if you boil it down you will get to that the most common things you see are in the numbered list above.
I find people do a lot more than those things and guess what, the brisket comes out fine but to me it's because they incorporated just about all of the numbered items above. To me the numbered list above is the minimal amount that nails it every single time.
If you made it this far congrats. I should probably turn this into a guide to ensure a successful brisket smoke since this info gets dolled out a lot and so other's can fill in any gaps and/or debate their ideas and methods, etc. :D