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Now, it's time to cook . . . . .
The thermometer on your barbecue pit should be reading approximately 225 degrees for barbecuing. This 225 degrees should be from a thermometer located at the same level in the pit as the meat. Since many thermometers are located at a higher vertical position than the meat it's self, temperature readings in the 235 - 250 degree range are acceptable since heat rises and with the location of the thermometer being some 8 inches HIGHER than where the meat is situated you will actually be cooking at 225 degrees at the level of the meat. Recap: You know that heat rises....therefore the temperature 8 to 10 inches higher than the location of the meat is hotter. Thirty (30) to 50 degrees hotter is not uncommon. Each pit is different. If possible, place your thermometer at the same height as where the meat and cook at 225 degrees. Judgment about your particular pit is needed here.
OK, once the pit is up and going, it is now time for the brisket to be placed in the barbecue pit. I am assuming you are using the indirect method of cooking. The cooking temperature should be approximately 210 to 225 degrees F. Cooking time? That will vary. Usually a 10 pound brisket will take approximately 8 to 12 hours. It is a matter of practice and experience. I see some teams using a meat thermometer with a brisket. Most do not. The internal temperature is not nearly as important as the length of time required in the cooking process. A brisket cooked 8 to 10 hours at 225 degrees is done!
The meat should be cooked well done .... no pink. Briskets need long and slow cooking times. That provides plenty of time to enjoy your favorite beverage, talk barbecue and enjoy friends and the relatives of choice.
When cooking a brisket, we place the meat as far away from the source of the heat as possible. This provides for even cooking temperatures. If it is too close to the source, then one side will be cooked at higher temperatures than the other and it will not have a consistent tenderness. If you have a smaller pit (i.e. a Weber Kettle) then place the charcoal on one side of the pit and the meat on the other. You will then have to rotate the meat ever 30 minutes or so (preferably when you baste the meat) to keep the cooking temperatures consistent on the meat. If you are using a vertical cooker, then try using some type of pan under the meat to catch the juices (to prevent flaring up) and to act as a diffuser for even temperature cooking. A water pan with about 1/4 inch of water is great for this purpose and will keep the juices from scorching and flavoring the meat with a burned taste.
To baste or not to baste???
Do not baste at first. Allow the "wet rub" to thicken up, become a little dry and be "one with the meat" before basting. Said another way, if you should decide to baste the brisket while using the the dry rub method (as opposed to the marinade method), do not baste the meat until the rub on the brisket has formed a crust (roughly 2 to 4) hours . The reason is that basting prior to this time will result in washing the rub off which defeats the purpose.
Later, you can periodically raising the lid and begin basting the brisket with a liquid marinade or other product in order to intensify flavor is a matter of preference. We are conscious that whenever lifting the lid on any unit, there is a period of time that the meat is not cooking because all of the heat has been released. The pit then needs some time to restore proper cooking temperatures. Another note, if your baste includes some type of sugar product (i.e. sugar, fruit juice, etc.) or some oils like butter, also wait until later in the cooking process to use this type product to keep it from burning.
Basting can be accomplished several different ways......Primarily with the use of a barbecue mop or a hand held spray bottle. The barbecue mop is an approximate 12 inch wooden handle with cotton tassels on the end....just like a household floor mop.....only smaller. It is great for soaking up lots of liquid and quickly and gently "dabbing" the sauce on the meat. Do not rub! It will remove the rub or glaze which you have so carefully tried to create! The other method is to use a small (6 oz or so) spray bottle to spray the meat when applying the baste. The spray bottle can only handle pure liquid, juices without pulp, etc. The mop can handle all types of larger fibers or even chunks of seasonings, crushed garlic, onions, carrots, celery, etc. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER USE TOMATO BASED PRODUCTS TO BASTE THE BRISKET. THEY WILL BURN AND BECOME BITTER LONG BEFORE THE MEAT IS READY TO BE EATEN!
The brisket can be cooked in just about any type of unit as you may have. It is easier to cook in a larger barbecue pit with an offset fire box to supply the heat. That is not to rule out the use of drum, kettle, vertical, spit or any other type of barbecue pit which you may have available. There have been many TONS of brisket cooked in a variety of methods. The offset is, however, the most common pit in the contests.
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