[Q-view] First smoke: Beef brisket and short ribs!

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Original poster
Oct 19, 2014
Hi. First off, I have to say I would have never mustered the courage to try smoking meat at home if it weren't for this website. It really is one hick of a resource, and the community is amazing. I have been reading SMF for months now, and after having spent a considerable amount of time researching smokers, bbq methods, recipes and what not, I finally did my first ever smoke at home today, and if it weren't for the level of detailed info one finds here, I would have never done this. So thank you to the people behind SMF and the community as well!

Now, I don't live in the US any more, but the US is where I fell in love with bbq Thumbs Up. Where I live today, and until very recently (maybe a year or two ago), you couldn't find places that sell smokers or the famous smoking cuts like brisket and beef ribs (we're kosher here, so it's very rare to find pork). So I had to do a ton of research, and last month I finally ended up building a backwoods clone that I posted about here: http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/171165/backwoods-clone#post_1420855

Today, I finally had ago at it and did my first ever bbq at home, and call me crazy, but I went ahead and tried going a brisket (9 lbs) and some beef short ribs! For my first ever smoke, the results were better than I expected (I was fully prepared for rubber :biggrin:), and the people I served the food to were happy :yahoo:

It's getting late here, so I will post pictures for now, and come back later to update with details. [UPDATE] I added the details below.

I prepped the meat the night before. There is only one place in town I know of that sells these types of cuts. It's a fancy butcher shop that sources meat from abroad and they occasionally have CAB and sometimes even USDA beef. It's expensive stuff, but this is the price of eating beef in a country (Jordan) where lamb is more easily available. These were New Zealand grass fed beef for the brisket and Australian short ribs.

For the brisket, they told me the brisket was chilled and never frozen, and it said its packing date was mid May (60 days!!), with sell by date being first week of August. I got worried when I opened it because the fat was almost slimy, but the meat didn't smell foul, and at that point it was too late to do anything but cook it and hope for the best. It turned out great, and it may be that the texture of the fat was just because it just wasn't cold enough. Maybe it also happens when the meat cures for that long in the cryovac? I have no idea really. Any how, the meat looked like it was already trimmed, as the fat cap was only about 1/4" thick, but it didn't cover the whole surface area of the meat (see the folded piece in the first picture below compared to the second unfolded pic).

The meat on the ribs looked more firm and had a thick cap on top that I completely got rid of.

I rubbed them with sea salt from the grinder, let rest in the fridge for a couple of hours, then rubbed them with a spice rub I made using mostly onion/garlic/chilli powder from a recipe I got of the internet. I kept the sale and black pepper out of the rub, because I wanted to salt before rubbing, and then add coarse black pepper right before smoking. I used the same spice mix (with salt and ground pepper this time) to make my own bbq sauce that turned out delicious with a nice kick to it :biggrin:

1. You can see the folded part on the brisket in this picture:
2. Here it is not folded:

At this stage, I really got confused and wasn't sure what I was dealing with. The label on the brisket said it was the "point end", but I had thought the fat cap comes on the flat, and I did see a thick layer of fat running down the middle which I thought was the fat between point and flat, and I also could detect two different grain directions. :33:

3. Close up of the short ribs after they were rubbed with the spice rub:

4. A close up of the brisket rubbed with the spice rub:

At this stage I put the meat in the fridge to stay until the morning, and then prepped the smoker by adding the water to the pan and placing it on the base of my smoking chamber over a thick layer of foil (in case fat goes all over the place), and then went to bed. Woke up at 7 in the morning, started a chimney fire (used lump charcoal), and used the time to finish the brisket with another very light layer of dry rub and coarse black pepper.

5. The brisket ready to go in the smoker.

6. We don't have wood chunks here, but a few stores sell wood chips, so I made these pouches which have a mix of hickory and cherry wood:

Once the coals in the chimney were ready, I put them in my charcoal basket in the back, filled the remainder with unlit coals, and put it in the smoker to get it up to temp. It took a full hour to get to 250 F on a 95 F summer morning (the full size water pan definitely played a role here I think).

7. 9:30 am - Brisket went in fat side down with a couple of the smoke pouches. I put one on the lit coals, and one on the unlit coals right next to it. I think I should have put the pouches earlier to let the smoke hit the brisket immediately. I put the fat side down because I wasn't sure how well I'll be able to control the temperature and thought in case of bad temp spikes, maybe the fat will protect the brisket from the heat, maybe.

At 9:45 am - Noticed smoke wasn't coming out. I took my charcoal basket out (which doesn't require opening the smoking chamber on my smoker) and gave the coals a good shake (my basket is not a mesh, so ash stays until you have to shake it off through holes in the bottom - will fix that in the future), and I figured that I hadn't made big enough holes in the pouches to let smoke come out, so I punched 3 more holes with a screwdriver, and that immediately worked, and I started getting a thin layer of smoke that I think you can see in the picture below.

8. We have smoke Thumbs Up

At 10:45 am - The temp rose to 260. I moved the smoker to a shaded area, and shut the two bottom vents completely (they still leak some air in on my smoker). I also noticed that there wasn't much smoke at this stage, so I added the 3rd smoker pouch and started smoking again.

At 11:20 am - The temp was still at 260, so I tried to block the vents more, on the one side with the wall and on the other side with my toolbox, just to make sure they're completely shut. After 20 minutes the temp had gone down to 255, and by noon it was 253.

9. At 12:00 pm - Based on my research, I had estimated that ribs should go on the smoker 2.5-3 hours after the brisket, so I put them on at noon. Here they are after being peppered and ready to go in:

10. The ribs went into the rack above the brisket, which actually runs hotter:

Now at this stage, the temp on the bottom rack dipped to 235 coz I opened the door, and the temp on the top rack was 265. I added another smoke pouch to hit the ribs with fresh smoke, and opened the vents again.

At 12:40 pm - The temperature on the top rack was 270, and on the bottom was 240, and I was getting nice thin blue smoke again. I closed the bottom vents again, and closed the smoker's chimney 1/2 way.

At 1:30 pm - The temperature in the smoker had continued to rise, with 278 on the top rack and 250 on the bottom. I closed the chimney 1/4 way, made sure the vents were closed, and the temp went down only on the top rack to 270. Bottom stayed at 250.

At 2:00 pm - I hit the 4.5 hr mark on the brisket, so I checked the color and it looked like it was ready to get wrapped (I didn't measure it at this stage, I think I should have). I wrapped it in foil, and put it back on but this time fat side up (I figured I'd switch it a bit). The smoker lost heat in the process, so I shook the coal basket again to clear the ash and opened the vents.

At this stage I was exhausted :biggrin: I'd been checking the smoker every half hour, so I had a quick nap and woke up ...
At 3:00 pm - the temperature had spiked to 290 F on the top rack and 270 on the bottom one. The vents had been left open, so I shut them down again, and I also went in and switched the brisket and ribs, putting the wrapped brisket on the top rack and the ribs on the bottom one. I also shift the racks on notch down to stay away from the heat at the top of the smoker.

3:30 pm to 5:00 pm the temperate around the rack with the wrapped brisket floated between 260 and 270, and on the ribs rack floated between 235 and 250. I checked the ribs internal temperature at this stage and it was 174.

At 5:20 pm - The brisket was done. I checked the internal temp and it read 203 F throughout. I think I had checked it too late, as I had read that you're supposed to take it out when it hits 190. So I took it out, and checked the ribs which were at 167!

11. Here's a picture of the brisket after taking it out:

At 6:10 pm - people were calling to find out if they were going to have to order pizza instead of trying my food :biggrin: so I checked the internal temp on the ribs and it was 180, so I decided to take them out. I put them in the big pan, along with the brisket which had been resting (I had drained the juices into a plastic ziploc bag), and drove to my in-laws house were hungry people were anxiously waiting to find out what this food that this crazy guy had been going on about for a while now :biggrin:

12. Picture of the ribs served:

13. Picture of the brisket sliced. I got some smoke ring yay :sausage:

A couple of things I will consider next time:

a- I think I may need to get a better charcoal basket, and I will seriously look into doing a snake for the coals to control the way they burn and avoid having the temperature go up to 290 next time. I'd rather keep it in the 240-260 range.
b- I will start probing internal temperature earlier.
c- I noticed that fat had dripped into the water pan, and I think that had prevented water from evaporating much throughout the cook. When I had done a meat-dry run of the smoker with the water pan, I could easily detect moisture in the air coming out of the smoker's chimney. This time I couldn't, and I think it's the layer of fat in the water pan that contributed to less moister in the smoking chamber.
d- I might decide to wrap the ribs next time too.

Finally, here's a picture of my lunch today. It really was great. I heated it with the fat that I drained from the wrapped brisket :biggrin:
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Your first smoke looks like a successful one!! Nice bark and smoke ring on your brisky there...

Looking forward to the details!

Looks good.

Where in the world are you located and did you have trouble getting a brisket from your local butcher?
Thanks guys, I really want to stress that I could have never even dreamed of trying this if it weren't for the information I found on this site, so really thanks to the community for this!

I just added a lot of detail about the cook. I kept a detailed log so that next time I can come back and check it.
Looks good.

Where in the world are you located and did you have trouble getting a brisket from your local butcher?
Thanks JCBigler. I'm in Jordan, and the only locally sourced beef meat we get is veal. There is one fancy butchery that imports high quality meat like the USDA stuff, the CAB, Nea Zealand and Australian beef, Wagyu and Kobe beef (some of the meat there is ridiculously pricey), and that's where i bought the meat from. The place actually has a smoker and they cater too, but you pay an arm and a leg to have them smoke a brisket for you.
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