Hello everyone, I'm totally new to smoking meat and would like some tips and or advice with smoking brisket. I bought a Brinkmann Split-Door Smoker at Wal-Mart for $69.00 (Clearance) along with some Mesquite chunks. I read about modifying the coal pan with holes, which I plan on doing tomorrow morning before I cure my smoker. I bought a small brisket (7lbs) to start and just need to pick up some charcoal and lighter fluid. I bought a bag of pre treated charcoal, but the instructions don't recommend using it. I have also read about the thermometers being faulty, should I replace it before even using it or wait and see? What rubs do you guys like? I just want a traditional kind. I'll experiment later. I am originally from Houston, TX, but live in Idaho. Not much Bar-B-Que here. Not very good, anyway. There's a Famous Dave's, but I've had better. So please send me some replies. And thanks in advance, I'll be reading the forums tomorrow to get educated on this art. Here's to playoffs tomorrow!!!
Welcome to SMF!
I have a few suggestions for you in general, for the smoker and the brisket:
Mesquite is a heavy, earthy smoke, so I'd use it sparingly even with the stronger flavor of the beef brisket. Chunks are best for charcoal smokers, but I have used chips with good results as well...I just have to add smoke wood more often and use tactics which reduce the heat/air getting to the smoke wood so it doesn't catch fire and burn up right away.
I would stay away from pre-treated (matchlight), charcoal and lighter fluids all together. Try to find yourself a charcoal chimney
instead. Lighter fluid can leave you with a nasty taste in your food, as it may not always burn off completely before you start cooking over it.
The door thermometer will need to be verified, and if possible, calibrated. I would suggest buying an oven rack thermometer at the very least, and placing it on the grate a few inches from the front of the grate to compare readings. Bear in mind that oven rack therms have a very slow response, so they need about 10-15 minutes for the reading stabilize.
A digital probe meat thermometer would be a great addition for larger cuts as well. I don't spent alot on the one's I've had ($22.50 Acurite) and they worked fine...my trouble has been that I occassionally damage them from moving things around while the probe is plugged into the head, either dropping the head and breaking the plug-in port or otherwise breaking it. Oh, and keep the head dry...got one wet from dripping rain and it's toast.
I've used quite a few of my own recipes over the past couple years, but if you really want to start with the basics, I'd suggect just garlic, cracked black pepper and a bit of salt...I've found that in many cases, less is more especially with seasonings.
Oh, I think the 10lb should fit into the split-door just fine, but you may have to lay it on the grate diagonally to keep from getting too close to the cabinet (hot areas).
Trim the brisket it up a bit leaving some of the fat cap on, score the cap, rub and smoke fat cap up for self basting, or fat cap down if temp spikes are a worry as the fat will then protect the meat from scorching...it's a coin toss, but, fat cap up for me most of the time. 190* for slicing and over 200* for pulled beef (in case you didn't know how that's done). If temps don't want to come up for you, there's always foil to get it the rest of the way after hitting the 160* mark. Of course, if bark is your thing, then foiling too early will soften the bark.
Be sure you have a good plan on how to keep that smoker running on this smoke, 'cause it will likely take 12-15 hours. The ash build-up in these smaller smokers tends to be a problem on long runs. I have a Brinkmann Gourmet which has been heavily modded, and I can run for upwards of 18 hours now if need be without ash being a problem.
Oh, when adding fuel, I like to add pre-heated charcoal just to stay away from the coal smoke...it can give off a pretty heavy taste. This is another reason for getting a charcoal chimney
. And, I use a propane gas burner to start my coals. Don't start a smoke without at least a 20lb bag on hand, and having mor ethan that for a long smoke would be a good idea, as you may find yourself adding a 1/2 chimney every couple hours, which is about 2lbs.
Adding fuel or smoke wood, be carefull not to agitate the existing coal-bed to much, as the resulting airborn ashes will find their way to your meat.