1st time brisket (long)
Hi everyone - this is my first time posting here. I've been doing a lot of reading the last few weeks trying to get myself prepared for my first major smoking project. My wife and I just moved from our tiny city apartment into a nice house in the 'burbs. In less than 2 weeks, I am having about 15-20 family members over for a house warming/bbq. I've been itching to start smoking for years now and this is my big break.
Here's the deal: I have been wanting to by a wSM for a while, but the wife for some reason thinks that buying shades and lightbulbs for our new house is more important. Hmmm. The good news is that I already owned a Weber 22" kettle, with the side lifting grates and chimney starter. So this is the equipment I have to work with.
Now my pie in the sky goal for this party is to smoke a *gasp* brisket. After doing a lot of reading this seemed like a huge undertaking for a first time smoke, so I figured I should do some kind of smoking test run beforehand. Based on a lot of recommendations, I picked up Steve Raichlen's "How to Grill" book and tried making his beef ribs recipe. I was pretty amazed at myself, but I was able to keep the temp pretty consistently to the 350 degrees he recommends (for "medium" heat). Took them out after 2-2 1/2 hours and was very pleased with the flavor and smokiness. I just wasn't crazy about the ribs themselves - kind of tendon-y and not that much meat. But anyway, this experience boosted my confidence to try going for the brisket.
First, if anyone wants to talk me out of this please feel free! I just have a few questions for the experts out there - some of which will help me decide if I do this at all or just stick with burgers and dogs.
- I think I'd like to try just buying a flat somewhere rather than a whole packer. From what it seems, the point is kind of a strange piece of meat. I once tried braising it and it came out kind of nasty. What do people do with this other than make burnt ends? Am I going to be able to find a flat large enough to feed my party? I'm planning on also serving a number of sides and some wings as well.
- My main question is around the topic of timing. Guests are coming over around 12 and I'd like to serve the food asap. I know the ideal would be to stay up all night and smoke, but it seems like I'll have to be checking this thing every 60 minutes, adding coal, wood, etc. I will be a zombie the next day. How do you guys recommend I attack this? Can I start smoking aroudn 12pm the day before and then hold it overnight somehow? How could I reheat/serve it then?
- I have a digital internal temp thermometer, and for the smoker temp, I used a candy thermometer stuck through the top exhaust vent. Is this an acceptable way to monitor the temp? I imagine the probe reaches about 1/3 of the way down from the top.
- Raichlen recommends putting the brisket in a pan and smoking it that way (uncovered). That way it protects the bottom from the heat and also keeps the juices around. Is this a good method? Has anyone made the brisket recipe from that book?
- As far as rubs, his recipe calls for all kinds of things - garlic powder, paprika, brown sugar, salt, pepper, cumin, etc. Part of me wants to follow the recipe but the other part is telling me to just use this salt and pepper mix I have from the Salt Lick which is great on its own. What say the experts?
- Coal type: On my ribs I used lump charcoal. I'm not sure that was the right choice. For one thing it was sparking around a lot, and little pieces kept falling through my chimney which was kind of disconcerting. Should I just stick with briquettes? Could the minion method work better with one or the other? When doing the ribs with the lumb, when I noticed the temp starting to drop, I put a few pieces of unlit lump on the pile and 10-15 min later the temp was rising again. Is this the right way to control it?
Phew - I'm sorry for such a long post. I've just had all this stuff bottle up in my head for the last 2 weeks. I need to decide by this weekend if I'm going for this or not. Like I said, the main determinator may be if I can work out the timing issues. Thanks everyone!