Secondhand Smoke

Guest Post  – Smoked Brisket

Earlier this summer, I procured a smoker from a friend for the very reasonable price of $30. It was older and well-loved, but still in decent shape. My friend was trying to sell it on Craig’s List but I was willing to take it off his hands after tasting some of is smoked meats. I had no prior experience with smoking but I was quite eager to step into the game. Throughout the summer I’ve used it three times: first  with beef brisket, then pork ribs, then brisket again. I chose brisket again because of the success on the first go-round and the fact I knew it would be a crowd pleaser. (We’ll ignore the ribs for now; still got some tinkering to do there.)

I researched what type of rub to lather on the delicious cut of meat. There seems to be quite a variety so I won’t lie to you and pretend I looked extensively; I just randomly picked one of the first recipes I came across. Hats off to Bobby Flay’s Oklahoma Joe recipe, which served as the basis for my first rub. Of course I didn’t have all the spices on hand, so I made some alterations. Here is how the rub actually shook out:

To note: I didn’t have onion powder so I replaced it with dry mustard. Are these things similar? Well, no, not really. However, I learned through my previous tasting experiences that mustard in BBQ freaking rocks. I also didn’t have white pepper because who the hell keeps white pepper around?

I gave the cut of brisket a good smothering, wrapped it in plastic wrap and placed it in the refrigerator for a few hours. Once I got the coals going, I took out the brisket to let it sit at room temperature for about half an hour. I used hickory wood chips as recommended. The most difficult thing in smoking is regulating the temperature. It flared up a little too hot at times and in my overzealous tempering, it got a little too cool. I was lacking a meat thermometer and the “thermometer” on the smoker only lists “warm, ideal, and hot.” I’ve now learned that you want to stay on the low-end of ideal, closer to warm (at least for the brisket – don’t quote me on other meats yet). As the recipe states, I kept the brisket moist with apple juice throughout the process. It says use a spray bottle, but a turkey baster is a perfect alternative.

With smoking,  the size of the cut of meat is going to heavily play into the time it takes to cook. The recipe calls for around 6 hours of smoking for a 5 to 8 pound cut of brisket. You could probably find that size at a butcher but if you are just heading to the meat aisle at your local grocery store, you’re more likely to find a smaller cut – more on the order of 3 pounds. It took around 3 hours for the approximately 3 pound cut I purchased.

Since I’m a sandwich hound, and have written about my concoctions here and here on this blog before, I should note that I did enjoy a brisket sandwich. I used a medium-sized sub (or a hoagie roll would suffice), and the kicker for me was also smoking some jalapeños and some Gouda cheese to finish off the sandwich.

Everything went over well with the guests and I highly recommend this rub. I still have awhile to go to perfect my smoking skills, but not bad for my first foray. Meanwhile, the house still smells like a campfire…

– posted by Bryan

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