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Typical Newbie Brisket Questions

alexhortdog95

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Okay, all,

I'm not so much a TOTAL newbie to smoking, as i've successfully smoked Ribs, chicken, and have done about five pork butts (doing two next week).  I've even smoked a couple of turkeys (still want to perfect that, tried it one time thus far).

I know pork butts are a very forgiving piece of meat, but this is the one I've actually served to my co-workers, inlaws, etc.  They seem to like it - they keep asking me to smoke stuff for them and when I'm going to smoke more, LOL!

I've got some mods to make to my smoker yet (some of which will be practiced next week when I do the pork butts).  Those include:
  • Baffle Plate for redirecting heat
  • Addition of two thermometers
  • Creation of a charcoal basket
  • Using a food safe sealant to seal the cooking chamber
I already have one mod completed, which is the addition of aluminum tubing on the chimney inside to get the heat down to grate level.  That has worked wonders thust far.

Okay, so these are all fine and dandy, and up to this point, I've smoked without any of these mods.  But smoking a brisket scares the BEJESUS outta me (just because it's such an expensive piece of meat, and I had a go years ago). 

I tried to smoke a brisket YEARS ago when I got my first BBQ grill (it was an upright Brinkmann smoker/grill).  I was young, dumb, newly married, and un-informed, LOL.  I sure as heck didn't know what I was getting myself into.

Since then, I've upgraded to a Char-Griller with a side box (and a couple of kids, too, LOL).  I've been reading up on smoking brisket, and have had my own horror story to tell.  I know that smoking it is pretty subjective, each piece of meat is different, and each smoker is different as well.

My questions are on the critical things about a brisket that I need to do.  For example:
  • Dry Rub or Marinade?  I think the last time I attempted this feat, I soaked the brisket in a marinade.  Years later, I'm seriously partial to Dry Rubs (KC Style, to be exact).  I read some even inject marinades into the meat.  IS THIS NECESSARY?!?
  • Internal temperature for most 'melt-in-yo-mouth' tenderness?  I also see there's a huge debate on this subject as well.  I've seen people pull their meat off the smoker after reaching an internal temp of 180, some 190, some even 200.  What's the most common one that everybody uses?
  • Foil or no foil?  When I do my pork butts, I don't foil anything until it comes off the smoker (in which I foil it for like an hour, then pull it with a fork).  The same for the ribs.  But with a Brisket, I've seen where people pull it off, put it in foil, put it back on, put it in a cooler, some of everything.  What the heck?!?
Please let me know your thoughts, and also know that this information that may be provided to me is going to help a friend of mine out as well - he's got a pellet smoker, and has gotten into smoking meat as well.

Thanks All!

P.S. - The brisket is my wife's final test of her 'pitmasta' medal for me.  She figures that if I smoke a brisket successfully, I'm a 'pitmasta' in her eyes and will supplant her father as the BBQ master in the family, LOL.  So obviously there's a lot riding on this for me!
 
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SmokinAl

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My questions are on the critical things about a brisket that I need to do.  For example:
  • Dry Rub or Marinade?  I think the last time I attempted this feat, I soaked the brisket in a marinade.  Years later, I'm seriously partial to Dry Rubs (KC Style, to be exact).  I read some even inject marinades into the meat.  IS THIS NECESSARY?!? No it's not necessary to inject your brisket, some of us do, I inject with beef broth, onion powder, garlic powder, & CBP.
  • Internal temperature for most 'melt-in-yo-mouth' tenderness?  I also see there's a huge debate on this subject as well.  I've seen people pull their meat off the smoker after reaching an internal temp of 180, some 190, some even 200.  What's the most common one that everybody uses? I pull mine at 205. Brisket is a tough cut of meat & really benefits from low & slow.
  • Foil or no foil?  When I do my pork butts, I don't foil anything until it comes off the smoker (in which I foil it for like an hour, then pull it with a fork).  The same for the ribs.  But with a Brisket, I've seen where people pull it off, put it in foil, put it back on, put it in a cooler, some of everything.  What the heck?!? Like I mentioned above, brisket is a very tough cut of meat. I have done them both ways foil & no foil. I prefer the no foil method, but you MUST keep the smoker temp. around 220-225. If you let it get much above that it will dry the brisket out or you have to mop or spritz it to keep it moist. The method that most of the guys use is smoke until 165, foil & take to 200-205. Put in a dry cooler for a couple of hours wrapped in towels & slice. Hope this helps.
 
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chris_harper

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My opinions: 

I smoke mine fat side down.

I use Jeff's rib rub on my briskets. Slather some yellow mustard on it and put the rub all over it. I have never marinated or injected a brisket.

You can foil or not. If you foil it once it hits 160° it finishes quicker. I usually put mine in an aluminum roasting pan at 160° and cover it with foil. Sometimes I don't, and just put it in the pan to catch some juices. I like a lot of smoke flavor in it.

Take it to 185° if you want to slice it and 200° if you want to shred it. Measure the temp in the flat. I take mine to 200° because I like to shred it. I do slice some of the flat into thick slices.

Some put it in a cooler when they pull it off the smoker to rest. I just put mine on top of the stove to rest. Let it rest an hour or two and then slice it/pull it. It will be juicy that way.

I spray mine with apple juice mixed with a bit of EVOO or worcestershire every hour or so after the first two hours pass. Sometimes add a bit of whiskey.
 

Bearcarver

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Al gave you good info:

I'm one of those guys he mentioned at the end---Foiling at about 165˚/170˚, and then taking it to about 195˚/200˚ for slicing.

The only other thing I'll mention is that I used to inject briskets sometimes, and then insert a meat probe at the start of my smokes.

Then I would sweat out getting the meat through the danger zone (40˚ to 140˚ in less than 4 hours).

I had a few that just barely made it.

Then I found out if I didn't inject, and if I wait until the meat has been in my smoker at 225˚ for 2 or 3 hours before I stuck a probe in it (intact muscle rule), I don't have to worry about the danger zone.

I haven't injected since, and I usually don't probe until 3 hours in. It's so much more relaxing.

I'm not telling anyone to do it that way, but until someone knows how long it takes their smoker to get various meats from 40˚ to 140˚, it might be a good idea.

Bear
 

alexhortdog95

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So, when I stick in the temperature probe I have, I put it into the flat ONLY?  Am I supposed to put the probe anywhere into the point through the flat?
 

i is a moose

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You want the probe in the thicket part of the brisket, because that's where it's going to matter the most. Often folks will separate the point from the flat to make for more even distribution of heat in cooking, so they all smoke at about the same pace, and that will guarantee what you see in the probe will be close enought to the rest of the brisky.

If leaving it whole, I advocate both a probe, and a trusty instant-read, like the Therma-pen, so you can still "examine" other areas to acsertain their progress. However, temp-checking must be regulated, so you don't end up letting the heat out and poking your brisket full of holes!

I also really like Bear's idea: don't bother with the probe for the first 3 hours. In any long smoke, this will always be true, taking a reading will be frivilous until significat heat has gotten into the meat, which takes time. Anytime before three hours on a brisket or a really big shoulder cut, the answer's always gonna be "not done".
 
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alelover

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alexhortdog95

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The brisket I have is a packer - it's about 11 lbs, I think.  I know it's going to take me FOREVER to smoke this piece of meat, so I'm waiting until I get all my ducks in a row before I put this humongous slab of beef in my smoker.

I just want my brisket to be nice and tender.  My goal, however, is to throw it in the smoker and not have to use anything but an occasional mop and some additional fuel if needed.

I figure, my ancestors didn't have tinfoil back in the day, LOL

One other thing - since keeping my heat constant is a worry for me (I have a partially modded smoker, more on the way), when you use the Minion method, how much fuel do you add to keep it at your target 225 temps?
 
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alelover

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If you cut it into smaller pieces it will smoke faster. A whole 11 pounder could take a whole day to smoke. Of course after you trim some fat it may be in the 7-8 lb. range. Could still be a 16 hour smoke.
 

alexhortdog95

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Hmm, never thought of cutting it up.  Always thought that was a bad thing, LOL.  I see how you did yours, though, by putting it into a freezer bag.

Your brisket looks reaaaaaal good, btw.
 

alelover

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I still haven't mastered cutting one of these things but it tasted good.
 

alexhortdog95

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I have a Char Griller Smokin Pro with SFB.  My worry is keeping the heat in my SFB - as of right now, I have to babysit it too much (as I don't have a coal basket).  That will soon change, hopefully, LOL.

How did the 2nd half of the brisket turn out? 
 

i is a moose

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It's tricky because the two muscles meet an angle. I could never get it 100% right when I was apprenticing. I read through your thread, and I think how you approached it is just fine: just cut it geographically in half, and let the smoke decide.

I also agree with the OP, your brisket thread was awesome! I'm also interested in your brews, too.

But that's not a part of this thread.
 
I still haven't mastered cutting one of these things but it tasted good.
 

alelover

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Once you pull it all apart after smoking no one will know how you cut it anyway.
 

alexhortdog95

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chef willie

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All great advice above....my added 2 cents would be to allow yourself plenty of time for the process on that large a cut. You don't wanna be ordering pizza when you should be eating brisket....lol....that would probably be instant FAIL in wifeys eyes and you could kiss reigning pitmaster goodbye. On the other hand, her daddy might get a good chuckle outta it. Good luck, do your best.
 

alexhortdog95

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All great advice above....my added 2 cents would be to allow yourself plenty of time for the process on that large a cut. You don't wanna be ordering pizza when you should be eating brisket....lol....that would probably be instant FAIL in wifeys eyes and you could kiss reigning pitmaster goodbye. On the other hand, her daddy might get a good chuckle outta it. Good luck, do your best.
ROFLOL

Oh, no, he's goin down.  He doesn't currently smoke any meats, but he thinks his is still better than mine, LOL.  I don't think the wife has the heart to tell him mine is better (cause she knows it is, LOL).

So, you guys see nothing wrong with cutting the brisket into two pieces and smoking half one day?  I never really thought of doing it that way, LOL.

I appreciate all the advice.  Keep it coming!
 

chef willie

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ROFLOL

Oh, no, he's goin down.  He doesn't currently smoke any meats, but he thinks his is still better than mine, LOL.  I don't think the wife has the heart to tell him mine is better (cause she knows it is, LOL).

So, you guys see nothing wrong with cutting the brisket into two pieces and smoking half one day?  I never really thought of doing it that way, LOL.

I appreciate all the advice.  Keep it coming!
Coupla good links on this older thread might help you make a decision on that......http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/forum/thread/86621/separating-a-flat-from-the-point  
 

alexhortdog95

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Coupla good links on this older thread might help you make a decision on that......http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/forum/thread/86621/separating-a-flat-from-the-point  
Wow.  That's a bunch more info I wanted to see.  Thanks a bunch for that.

Well, at this point, I'm probably a bit more comfortable (as well as informed, LOL) at doing a brisket.  I can do it next week - I have a couple of dial thermometers coming now that I got off of eBay, and I have my eyes on an old cookie sheet of the wife's (promised her I'd get her a new one, lol) to make a baffle with.

I searched on Minion method at the Dude Ables post, and it's very informative as well.  My question, though, is once you've burned through any fuel from your first batch (while doing the Minion method), how do you properly ADD fuel?
 

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