I Tried Smoking My First Brisket and It Was Terrible

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Gavin Cleaver
The smoker of dreams.
Looking back, I think I had been scared to try smoking a brisket. Having never seen chunks of meat that size back home, it's a scary commitment for two reasons. One, you can't eat a brisket by yourself. That means you have to invite people round for brisket. This has to be done in advance, and that means the promise of edible brisket. What you've done there is set yourself up for a fall when, actually, the brisket turns out to be terrible. Your guests will go hungry, probably destroy your property in a fit of rage, and eat anything they can find, even that expensive cheese you were keeping for an occasion more special than your house being ransacked by former friends.

See Also: An Englishman in BBQ Sauce Archives

Two, it takes so long to do it right that you need to block off two days of your time. In this busy merry-go-round world we all live in, where demands on our time are everywhere and anywhere, who can actually spend sixteen hours or so doing one thing? Unless that thing is video games, obviously. No one's relying on you to complete Fallout 3, though.

That said, the purchase of a grill/smoker type-thing for my housemate's 30th birthday, and the fact that said smoker was purchased three days in advance of the party at our house, could mean only one thing. It was time to sacrifice our brisket virginity at the altar of meat and friendship. Cobbling together all of our combined knowledge from living in Texas, me and my brave housemate (who is from Virginia, of course) braved Costco to purchase the largest piece of meat I had ever even tried lifting.

The smoker we had bought, which was only purchased because it's one of those cool oil-drum with a chimney-type ones you see behind dozens of little barbecue places all over Texas, was barely big enough to accommodate the meat. While I was preparing a rub from a recipe I was completely inventing while trying to remember what Tim from Lockhart Smokehouse told me to do, and remembering that a bunch of his ingredients were secret, my housemate was trying to maintain a constant temperature on a brand-new smoker he'd only assembled the day before. We were either brave pioneers, taking back brisket for areas of the world traditionally not associated with slow-smoked beef, or idiots who were about to receive their comeuppance.

My rub was one part kosher salt to three parts brown sugar, with a completely random amount of paprika, garlic salt, and chili powder in. My stepson was watching me the whole time, so I had to appear completely professional, lest I shake his confidence in me. We didn't have a deep pan big enough to fit the whole brisket in, so I arranged a terrible set-up with bowls underneath either end of the brisket, which I caked in a layer of randomly-compiled rub that I now realize was ruinously thick, more of an earth's crust than a gentle bark.

Once it had sat there for a couple of hours, with the salt in the rub hopefully doing salt-type things, we had the smoker up to a consistent-ish 180 degrees or so. It didn't have a separate fire-box (or at least it did, but that was an extra $70, so, whatever) so we'd arranged the coals on one side, placing on top of the coals a metal box with water-soaked woodchips inside and holes in the top. As you can imagine, we were taking this, and ourselves, very seriously.


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72 comments
kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

Boy this story lost it's wind mid ocean, huh? We were well on our way to 100.......what happened?  Speaking of fiery pits, can you imagine the the St Pats Day parade with a bubbling cauldron of angry rappin', drunker frat boys, and sunny 70 degree weather?  I may have to bring my Viking shield on Saturday.

pak152
pak152

er-uh your "smoker" is missing the firebox

JustSaying
JustSaying

I can grill like a champ but I have never tried smoking a brisket. I have what is probably a very stupid question for those of you that have. Where do you get the wood? Are there places where you can just walk in and buy pecan, apple, or oak for your smoker?

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

Probably would of had more success using a easy bake oven.

Charcoal?

ChangingF8
ChangingF8

Better stick to a Pot Noodle or maybe try your hand at a Vindaloo.


Stoke me clipper, I will be back before breakfast.

Joshstruckoutagain
Joshstruckoutagain

I think I've located your problem (just the bbq one, can't get to all of them matey!)  I saw not one word about beera?  While smoking brisket, massive amounts of cold beera are a must.  Stupid thermometer, bad weather, 32 dollar "smoker/grill", grumpy guests, too many roommates...all those issues can be washed away friendo, just pour some beer on it.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

The best way to smoke a brisket is to set it in the pit, and come back 2 days later......and most people can't do that; they have the need to "fiddle" with said product.  And I definitely fall under this category!  I've found, the best way for me to smoke a brisket is to stick in a campfire pit while camping, and just come back to it later....A LOT later.


Tips:

-Charcoal doesn't work; use wood, reduce the coals-utilize the "low and slow" method. 


-fat side down


-cover with a lid to retain smoke, and keep the raccoon's out. 


-don't waste anything on the brisket; even the fat will make an excellent sauce!


That's it!

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Don't worry Gavin, it is an art to be able to smoke a brisket and it takes a while to learn to do it right.


You definitely need the firebox that goes on the side.


Try learning to smoke with something a little easier to do.  Try whole chickens, pork ribs, whole beef short ribs (you may need to go to a butcher to get them, think Fred Flintstone at the drive in after the movie), pork tenderloins, leg of lamb, etc., ...


It takes a lot of attention to maintaining an even fire.  I would even suggest that you just start a fire in your smoker and sit around drinking some beer while you try to maintain an even fire.


The type of wood that you use is very important.  I personally prefer oak (neutral flavor) and adding a bit of pecan or mesquite for flavor.  Also oak burns cooler than mesquite.


PS:  When it smells done, it usually is.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Soldier on man, it cant get worse.  Or maybe it can, you could be deported back to England bc of an expired visa just in time to watch Watford get relegated and have never learned how to properly smoke meat

Greg820
Greg820

I believe I am obligated at this point to bring up the subject of Ranch Dressing with Smoked Brisket. . . . . . 

Oxtail
Oxtail

The other thing missing from the picture is a Colt.45 and a bottle of Lone Star.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Did somebody put out an APB for Kergo, yet?

kyndbrah
kyndbrah

thats not a good smoker for a beginner.   a cheap offset like that is going to be very hard to keep the temperature consistent.   shoulda gone with the weber smokey mountain.

NewsDog
NewsDog

It takes smoking three or four briskets before the smoker (and you have a grill, not a smoker, a smoker has a separate firebox) begins to get seasoned.  

buddyguy.guy
buddyguy.guy

Maybe next time start with a pork shoulder (skin side up), It's almost impossible to mess it up. The key is use only salt and pepper(Good BBQ doesn't need sauce on it.) And cook it Low and slow , Any thing above 250 degrees you're cooking it too fast. I mostly use Pecan wood Chunks (mesquite burns too hot and Hickory burns too fast). Soak them in water for a couple hours before you start the cooker. And always let the meat reach room temperature before putting it on.
You don't need a fancy smoker. I often use my Webber 22" kettle and it comes out BETTER than most of the restaurants in DFW (most of them use a Southern Pride cooker that is completely automated).

elluckydog
elluckydog

Next time I suggest you try Mac's BBQ. But I think the are only open for lunch, or maybe dinner.


Joshstruckoutagain
Joshstruckoutagain

@JustSaying In front of most supermarkets (Kroger/HEB/Minyards) they'll have oak, pecan and mesquite usually. It's about 12 bucks a bag, and a bag would be enough to smoke ribs prolly 4-5 times, maybe more.

There are dealers for wood too, I go to place off of 377 in Whiskey Flats...Big Johns.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@JustSaying  

There's a guy out Hwy 78 towards Wiley that sells smoking wood from the road-side.

Firewood & Christmas trees, too, in season.

(This is probably heresy, but in a pinch, I've "smoked" some pretty fine brisket on my Weber with Kingsford mesquite charcoal. Hard to beat manufactured briquettes for burn control.)

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@Sharon_Moreanus  


he's a Brit; he "don't" know.......my brother considers BBQ grilling a burger; you just gotta love "them" Brits and Yanks!

The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley
The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley

@kergo1spaceship You can use charcoal for BBQ, so long as it's good quality without a bunch of chemicals (not Kingsford).  Charcoal for heat + wood chunks for smoke = Badass BBQ.       

Greg820
Greg820

@TheCredibleHulk  Everyone knows Kergo is just Scott Reitz when he is all hopped up on his "cough syrup."

1dailyreader
1dailyreader

@kyndbrah  Maybe not, but it's a great grill.  It's the one I use and I have two of them for cookouts.  Large size and medium.  They're both going and full of ribs, sausage, burgers, hot dogs, chicken and best of all...pork loin.   A bunch of corn with husk on is added later.  Comes out perfect when the constant temp is 225-250.

gavin.cleaver
gavin.cleaver moderator

@kyndbrah  Journalists can't afford good smokers. You'd think with all this liberal Obama media business, he'd give us more money to buy smokers.

Twinwillow
Twinwillow

@buddyguy.guy . Try using Post Oak for your wood. That's what the best BBQ in Austin and Central Texas is smoked with. I agree with your comment on Mesquite.

It's too acrid for BBQ! My only complaint with Pecan Lodge is that they use Mesquite and I find their brisket's bark much too smoky. And, not in a good way.

gavin.cleaver
gavin.cleaver moderator

@elluckydog  I wasn't smoking a jalapeño sausage, but if I had been, it would have been out of "this world."

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley @kergo1spaceship  


I respectfully disagree sir. Now iff'n I'm trying to save time and cook a small ham, hell yeah I'll do coals and wood chunks.....it definitely has it place. 


Cheapest way to smoke something fast is to burn wood shavings, and stick said shavings in a cooler with product-viole, magic!  Great way to smoke pasta and shrimp; the indirect heat doesn't dry out the product.  

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@everlastingphelps @kergo1spaceship  


You certainly have to secure said product.....I've had two whole smoked turkeys pilfered from fires sir. That, and last week I had a guy ask me while I was grilling in the driveway if he could have a piece of chicken. 

xdarkridex
xdarkridex

@gavin.cleaver @ScottsMerkin  Look at it this way: you could be deported today, and immediately be the finest BBQ chef in the whole of the UK.


Unless any native Texans or Kansas Citians live there, in which case you're hosed.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@kergo1spaceship  

I have an old quilted-steel "Schlitz" cooler, circa 1965 that I inherited from my pop that works perfectly for that method of cooking.

Also, your wife must be all kinds of special if you decided to stay with her after the "pit-filling incident".


kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@kyndbrah @kergo1spaceship @The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley  


bbq pitmsters is a tv show; it has nothing to do with reality.  I love it, now everyone that watches Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch think they can drive a big rig, and captain a ship!  yay.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@TheCredibleHulk @kergo1spaceship @The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley  


desperate times call for desperate measures......I've smoked product in old grills, 55 gallon drums, old appliances, heck once I even dug a pit in the yard; and then the wife made me fill it up. 

kyndbrah
kyndbrah

@kergo1spaceship @The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley  Well, that's just like your opinion, man.  Go watch bbq pitmasters sometime or go to any bbq competition.  They start their fires with charcoal then add wood.  You dont use lighter fluid, though.  

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