My wife bought me a smoker for Christmas, and a couple of weeks ago, I made my first smoked brisket.
Not quite sure what we were doing, we purchased a 5 lb brisket from the Butcher Block. They asked if we wanted an end cut or a center cut, and we chose an end cut because, honestly, I panicked. I don’t know if a center cut would have been any different, but I’m sure I will find out sooner rather than later.
I did some research online to figure out how to cook the thing. I had read that it should take in the neighborhood of an hour and fifteen minutes per pound to cook it, so we figured that if we wanted to have dinner when my wife got home from work at 6:30, I should start cooking it at noon that day.
About an hour before cooking—as per some of the advice I read online—I took it out of the fridge and trimmed some of the fat off. I then coated it in a commercial rub we also purchased at the store. In the future, I plan on trying to make my own rubs, but I’m just learning how to smoke things. I wanted to make it easy on myself.
I heated the smoker up to 225, and at noon, I put in a half cup of mesquite chips and the brisket, with a thermometer inserted. It heated up to 100 degrees even before my wife left for work, and I started to get a bit anxious. I had read that I should let it cook to 185 degrees, and then rested until the temperature was 200 degrees.
At this rate, I was sure it would be done well before my wife left for work. However, at this point, we were committed, so we agreed that if it was done early, we could always just reheat it. At five pounds of beef, most of it would be eaten reheated or cold anyway.
I had read to expect the “barbecue stall,” where the thermometer shows that the temperature of the meat stops rising. I have linked to a detailed explanation, but essentially, this is the point at which the moisture evaporating from the meat starts to actually cool it. I had read that it tends to happen at around 165 degrees, but for me, it happened at 154 degrees.
Fortunately, I was prepared, otherwise I probably would have freaked out. I wrapped the brisket in foil, and it started to heat again, although a bit more slowly. (Probably, had I wrapped it when the stall actually started, I would have been okay.) Regardless, the cooking time had been severely slowed down, to the point that it was still cooking by the time my wife got home.
I had read to take the meat out of the smoker anywhere between 170 and 185 degrees. Because we were hungry, I split the difference at 177, expecting it to heat up more while it rested. We let it rest for about half an hour, but did not see the temperature increase. In fact, it started to go down.
Since it didn’t look like this particular brisket was going to hit 200 degrees, and because at 177 degrees we knew it was cooked, we decided to go ahead and cut into it. As you can see from the photo, it was cooked just fine, and tasted tender and smokily delicious. We accompanied it with some instant cheddar mashed potatoes (because we’d devoted all our energy to cooking the meat). We also topped it with Daddy Sam’s Wine ‘Cue Sauce, since red wine goes well with red meat. The sauce went with the meat very well.
Overall, I consider this first brisket a success, but I’m looking forward to trying again and doing an even better job. Any tips?