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Old 07-13-2010, 08:58 PM   #1
On the road to being a farker
Join Date: 07-12-10
Location: New York
Default 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!
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Old 07-13-2010, 09:54 PM   #2
Is lookin for wood to cook with.
Join Date: 07-09-10
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i did mine overnight..
i used charcoal briquettes to get the smoker up to temp.. than i added lump coal to keep the heat consistent,,, and used a variety of chips,logs,chunks for the smoke,, (pecan,apple,hickory,oak)
i started at 9pm... after 6hrs of smoke i wrapped it in foil and continued to cook for another 6hrs... after that i placed it in a cooler (still wrapped) and placed bath towels over it for another 6hrs... the brisket was still hot after all that.. 18hrs... and yes i was a zombie but it was worth it

my next brisket will be done the same way.. during the rest period i was able to smoke 3 spare ribs and they were done at the time i pulled out th brisket.. ,,,

i saved the brisket juice and added it to bbq sauce ,, something that i saw on foodnetwork at some bbq joint in texas... everything turned out great including the sauce...
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Old 07-13-2010, 10:12 PM   #3
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Location: Menomonie, WI

If you are only doing the flat you could get up early that day and get it on and off before everyone gets there. Then you could do the burgers and whatnot for show in front of your guests. As for rubs keep it simple for your first then after a few briskets try experimenting. Fuel... I use lump, wood chunks or chips with some charcoal in my smoker (it is actually becoming less briqs as of late) but in my kettle I mainly use charcoal and wood chips...
Here is a good link for some tips!
Hope I helped... Best of luck!
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Old 07-13-2010, 10:18 PM   #4
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Join Date: 07-11-10
Location: Houston, Texas

I agree - just do the flat and serve some burgers, brats, etc. on the side. This way, your guests get a choice, you get to sleep, and there's also insurance against any problem with the brisket. Everybody wins!
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Old 07-13-2010, 10:25 PM   #5
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skip the brisket... practice it when you have the time to do it right without the risk of dissappointing yourself or your guests...

use the kettle to grill like a king and maybe get a bit creative with some easy but unique things.
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Old 07-13-2010, 10:57 PM   #6
Midnight Smoke
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I agree with Vinny, 1st rule of BBQ, never try a 1st when guests are involved. Do something you know you can pull off. Grill some Steaks or chicken or even Burgers.

Practice on the other stuff a few times then knock them dead with some good Q. A brisket can turn out like eating a leather Flip-Flop if done wrong.

A Weber kettle is a good grilling machine but like you said up every 60 minutes to tend is a lot of work for any long cook.

You could try a Pork Shoulder if you wanted, it is pretty forgiving and can turn out well without being perfect.

FWIW, Holding is going to limited to about 5 hours.

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Old 07-13-2010, 11:08 PM   #7
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Location: sAn leAnDRo, CA

I agree with what Vinny and Terry said. Skip the brisket this time and go for what you know.

If you just can't do that...I would do a packer, the point is what I cook brisket for. I do not do burnt ends all the time, I like the point sliced. I can get 4 to 5 hours of burn out of my 22.5" kettle with one load of coals, I often do brisket and pork butts at high temps (275F to 300F) within that time, sometimes I need to add coals, it varies on day, weather etc...I do no pan or foil, fat cap down, 275F to 300F, no flipping. Then again, I would not do it for the first time in front of guests, it could lead to embarassment.
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Old 07-13-2010, 11:52 PM   #8
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Join Date: 05-30-10
Location: Redding, CA

I'm with everyone else .. Skip the brisket and do something else. If I was in your position I'd likely do some enough tri-tips and ABT's to keep everyone fed. Plus if you were to screw up a 1st time Brisket your wife would probably never let you get a WSM
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Old 07-14-2010, 12:25 AM   #9
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Join Date: 01-24-10
Location: St Paul, TX

IMHO, and probally a majority of people on here, briskett is the hardest thing to BBQ right... But if you must you can cheat by putting it on the kettle and smoke it for a couple hours on low heat.. Stick it in a baking pan, add some water to the bottom, place foilover it and finish it in the oven at about 275-300 until it is about 190-200 Internal temp at the thickest part... Take it out the oven, let it rest maybe 15 minutes, slice put in a container and stick in the fridge.. reheat in the same container (I use conrning ware) the next day... I used to do all my brisketts this way for family GTG, and always impressed everyone.. Most of your guests will be none the wiser..
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Old 07-14-2010, 12:59 AM   #10
On the road to being a farker
Join Date: 01-12-10
Location: Arlington, VA

I also agree with everyone. My first attempt at brisket was for a Super Bowl party I hosted a few years back and long before I joined this informative site. I was up at the crack of dawn attempting to cook said brisket with coals on either side. Fire control was a PITA. The brisket was served into the 4th quarter (East Coast Time) where I had intended to have it before halftime. Turned out good, not great, but final temps were much later than anticipated.
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Old 07-14-2010, 07:53 AM   #11
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Make up some Fatties and Abt's. Smoke the fatties, cooler them and then throw on ABt's as guest show up. Serve slices of fatties and ABt's as you start to grill burgers and dogs. People will love the fatties and ABt's and probably only hit burgers as filler. Then when wife is happy with the "smoked" food you can use this as a selling feature to get the WSM. Show her the cost of a pork butt vs. the cost of burgers and dogs. Show her the meals you can make out of the leftovers during the week.
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Old 07-14-2010, 08:28 AM   #12
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Well said Norco!!!!
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Old 07-14-2010, 08:53 AM   #13
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Also, instead of a brisket, consider doing a pork butt for some pulled pork. I found them to be much more forgiving. Besides, who doesnt like some pulled pork?
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Old 07-14-2010, 07:03 PM   #14
On the road to being a farker
Join Date: 07-12-10
Location: New York

Thanks everyone for the replies. I know all the people who say not to do it are probably right. I still might go for it though :)

If for argument's sake, I did it the day before ending some time early evening the night before, what is the best way to hold/save/reheat the meat the next day? If it comes out good I can serve it the next day. If not, then I just wasted my money and a whole day (not really a waste because its a great learrrrning experience). I can always do burgers or something as a backup.

Pork is my favorite meat and ribs are maybe my favorite food. Unfortunately some of the guests coming have dietary restrictions, so I'm stuck with beef/poultry/seafood for this one.

Thanks everyone for the great tips. If I do go for it, I will document the experience here.

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Old 07-14-2010, 11:16 PM   #15
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Join Date: 06-26-09
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Well, if I was heck bent on doing it, then I would do it right. I would also buy some insurance in the form of burgers, hot dogs, chicken thighs, kabobs etc...

I would plan on doing the brisket hot-n-fast, allow for 5 hours cook time, 2 hours holding time. I would cook a 12-14 lb packer (because I really believe them to be easier to cook). I would shoot for cooking at 280F to 300F, offset heat. I would go with a simple rub of salt, pepper, granulated garlic and chile powder held on with Worcestershire sauce and allowed to cure for 1 hour at room temperature. (this means you are going to fire the cooker 9 hours before you plan to eat. I would cook to somewhere around 200F and poke with a steel skewer or ice pick until probe goes in like butter. You would want to have a preheated cooler (boiling water to heat, then drain and dry just before adding brisket) or an oven set to 160F. Brisket will hold fine at this temperature. If you use cooler, you need to wrap in foil and then a towel.

Remember that only feel can really tell you it is done, that means probe and feel for a really easy poke. Oh, poke across the grain, not into the grain. Poke the flat and not the point. Point is almost always done first.
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