I Tried Smoking My First Brisket and It Was Terrible
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.
Gavin Cleaver The smoker of dreams.
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.